NOTE: William McCracken, owner of BCM Home Improvement in Marlton, N.J., already contributed a story about the first steps in getting a deck installed, in which he discussed the particulars of licensing. See that story here:
In the second part, William talks about the types of material available.
By William McCracken
Decking choices and brands can be overwhelming at first glance, but they fall into a handful of main categories: wood, composite, wrapped composite, metal, and plastic/PVC decking.
Wood decking, such as pressure treated pine, cedar, or exotic hardwoods, need to be stained or sealed to keep their look and for them to last from water damage. Wood decking is high maintenance with pressure washing and sealing/staining usually every couple of years.
Due to the high maintenance of wood decks, composite decking came on the market in the 90's. Composite decking is a wood/plastic mixture. However, composite decks stain and scratch easily. Another major drawback of the composite decking is mold. Many composite decks have serious mold issues and composites are starting to fall out of the market with wrapped composite and PVC decking filling in the void.
Wrapped composite decking (plastic/PVC coating around part or most of the exterior of the deck board ) is much better than composite decking. The wrap protects the composite from mold and stains. The wrap composites look much better than the original composites with realistic colors and surfaces. They are much easier to keep clean with little effort.
Metal decking, usually aluminum, is available in some areas. It comes in many solid colors.
PVC/plastic decking is the newest of the decking options. It can't be hurt by water or bugs. It does not stain or mold. If it does get dirty, simply clean it off. There are many colors and types to pick from to suit your tastes.
The next consideration is your railing choices. You now have the option to build a railing out of wood, vinyl, metal, composite and plastic/PVC in many different colors. And to really make your deck different, they also offer a multitude of different metal and plastic balusters, cable systems, and glass inserts.
Don't use nails on your decking or railings. Nails easily come loose, cause squeaking, pop up and cut your feet or hands. There are specific screws that are rated to be used on decks including stainless steel that won't back out. Many companies also make hidden screw systems (clips or side screws) that can be used on your decking so that you don't have to face screw the decking and can keep its beauty. I highly recommend using a hidden screw system. There are several economical hidden screw systems out there.
Check with your local lumber yard or contractor to see what decking/railing options are available in your area.
Don't forget the finishing touches such as lighting, fire-pits, pergolas, built-in benches, hot tubs, lattice or deck board skirting.
There is no such thing ( in my opinion) as too big of a deck. You will find you will quickly fill it up with tables, chairs, grills, natural walking paths and people. Make sure you take everything into consideration, including your budget, before building your beautiful new deck or remodeling your old deck. Contact a local properly licensed professional contractor for expert advice and building skills. But just remember to get that permit. Enjoy the deck of your dreams.
William McCracken, owner of BCM Home Improvement LLC located in Marlton NJ.