Updated: Feb 21
Decking is an essential part of the structure of the deck rather than just an aesthetic element as it is a load-bearing structure. With rules and regulations stating that each decking must be able to support live loads of 40 lbs and an extra 15 lbs dead load in between each joist in the support. With decking being primarily designed to be installed on 16” center joists. There might be a need for joists that are closer, at 12” exactly for diagonal decks.
The material of choice for many years was mainly wood. With woods such as redwood, cedar, pressure-treated pine, and even exotic hardwoods being used. The main reason wood was used was due to the beautiful natural characteristics of it but with that also comes taking care of the wood as it requires proper treatment and maintenance from time to time. Wood is notorious for warping when it comes in contact with a large amount of water, ruining the look of a deck but it also compromises the structural integrity of a deck as a wooden tile that has warped or weathered away due to water would not be sitting in its place as tightly for the start as joints start coming out of their places and cracks start forming. Wood creates a hazardous environment too if it is not maintained properly. Wood can also splinter and cause injuries which can be septic and can cause health concerns if those injuries are not treated properly.
Today, the market offers several alternatives to wood such as stone deck tiles, composite decking, vinyl decking, and aluminum. These offer low maintenance and a variety of appearances. With stone deck tiles being the obvious choice for low maintenance, great look, and cost-effective alternative to traditional wooden or composite decks.
Wood decking is commonly available in several profiles with the easier to find ones being the 2 by 6, 5/4 by 6. 5/4 by 6 is specifically manufactured and processed wood for decking and is milled properly with a radius edge or a bullnose for a clean appearance and also to be attached to the deck properly. 2 by 6 is the thicker and stronger variant but it is also more expensive. Spacing between such deck boards provides many functions to structural integrity. As with wood and water being a recipe for disaster it is important to allow the water and debris to drain properly so that it is not absorbed by the wood and does not create problems later. Narrow gaps would allow water to drain but they are harder to clean whereas larger gaps would allow more of the debris and water to drain. It depends on the type of look that you want to create as spacing significantly dictates the symmetry of the design and how pleasing it looks. Keep in mind when deciding to consider the environment and how much debris could land on the deck to allow it to be cleaned and maintained easily.
Read more: Replacing Wood Deck Boards With Composite
Lumber decking is more susceptible to the forces of nature and the environment and the moisture content for such installations matters. Green lumber with a moisture content of above 19% does not need gaps to be installed in an arid environment as this wood would shrink to the desired gap size in a few short months. Therefore, we must take into consideration that after drying out such woods would have the desired gaps in between them eventually. Generally, conventional decking profiles should be installed in a way that leaves 1/8 to 1/4 inch gaps. When installing the lumber decks make sure it is bark side up so that it does not cause cupping. Use a 3” pressure treated deck screw instead of nails to hold it in place properly when installed. Nails should be used for each joist to deck board connection. About 3/4" from the edges of the board is where the screws should be placed and fastened. Deck boards should also be installed on the outside first and then worked on the way in. Butt joints should also be placed as far as possible for a nicer look and appearance of the deck. Using a chalk line and a circular saw is also recommended to trim the edges of the decking. For a cleaner look, you can use hidden deck fasteners.
Decks are usually attached to joists with nails or screws. There are a variety of hidden fastening systems available for alternative decking products. Be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions. The choice of the decking material is very important as it is the surface that is the most visible, felt physically, and must be maintained for years to come. Consider alternatives to wood that can be maintained easily such as stone tiles.