If you have decided to beautify your backyard with decking, then first you need to determine what timber you are going to use as the decking material. There are various materials used by deck builders, each having their own set of pros and cons. For example, pine is a kind of softwood which is most cost-effective. On the other hand, there is ironwood, which are durable hardwood and more valuable.
However, before selecting the right timber material, your first step is to do some planning that allows you to choose the perfect wood material for your decking.
Planning your Timber Deck
Table of Contents
Step 1: You need to take the permission of the council.
It is essential to take the permission of the local council before building a deck. Each nation has its own set of rules and regulations for house extensions and decking, which cover things like materials, structural integrity, construction standards, and site setbacks. Also, when you are taking permission, ask the council head about the exemptions for decks that don’t require approval.
Step 2: Choosing the direction of your deck
Do you want your deck in the east so that you can enjoy the sunrise, or you want it in the west to enjoy the sunset view? When you choose the direction of your deck, think about the amount of sun and lighting you want.
Step 3: Floor level of your deck
You must think about the height of the floor you need for your deck. There are two options. First, you can make it the same level as your home floor and have more space, and the second is, you can add steps leading down onto your outside deck.
Step 4: Check your ground
Before digging your ground, check whether any underground water pipe, gas pipe or power cable is installed under it. Because if by mistake, any of these are cut or hit, it can be dangerous and explosive at the same time. Another most important thing to consider is if you have a cement slab, you’ll need to think about how to remove it.
Step 5: Selecting the style
Timber deck will be a beautiful addition to your backyard, so you need to figure out how it will look so it can match up with the rest of your house. Deck builders can offer you different materials, styles, and designs for you to select the decking reflecting your style.
Step 6: Rough sketch plan
Before drawing your project, first measure the height, width, and length of your deck. After that, draw the rough sketch of your deck with the help of measurements.
Selecting the right Timber for Decking
The best timber for decking comes in a wide range of choices, with different types, distinct colours and hardness features. There are over 20 different timbers which you can choose. Among them, some are best but few stand out for having their own benefits and drawbacks that includes price, durability and sustainability. Some of them are mentioned here:
1. Treated pine
Using this material is always a trend as it is the most common and popular timber used in deck building. Treated pine is a pinewood which is chemically treated to resist the common threats to softwoods such as termites and rot. Apart from being cost-effective and easy to work with, there are many benefits of using treated pine timber decking along with some drawbacks.
- Available widely and is sustainable
- Staining or painting can be done easily
- After-treatment rot and termite resistant
- As it is softwood, cutting, nailing, and sanding is easy to do.
- It has consistency in width and gives thickness to your board.
- Durable for a high foot traffic area.
- It gets damaged easily
- Its lifespan is only 15-20 years, which is lower than hardwoods
- It will require resealing regularly compared to other materials.
It is famous as Australian native species because of its fire-resistant quality. It comes in attractive golden yellow to pale brown and even slightly pinkish colour. It is often suggested for decking in the bushfire-prone areas as it is naturally fire-resistant.
- It is hardwood, and more durable, which increases its lifespan.
- The golden-brown colour is pleasing.
- It is naturally fire-resistant
- It absorbs oils well, so it requires less maintenance than other materials
- It is not a termite resistant
- Prone to surface checking and splitting
Experts say that some homeowners won’t settle for anything less than jarrah. However, it is expensive than any other timber decking. Its beautiful colours that range from light to extra dark browns and reds makes it a popular choice. It could turn to pleasing grey over the time if it left unsealed.
- It is fire-resistant and suitable for fire-prone zones.
- Turns into a stunning dark red when finished
- It is naturally termite and rot resistant
- Compared to other timbers, it is expensive
- Availability can be a problem, as it grows only in Western Australia
- Regular finishing is required.
4. Spotted gum
Just like blackbutt and jarrah, this timber is also suitable for bushfire prone areas. Due to its durability, it is an excellent choice for decking. It is often grown in Australia. It is the right choice as an environmental standpoint. It also offers various colours ranging from pale brown to chocolate brown.
- It is available widely and sustainably sourced
- It is hard, durable and has 40+ years of lifespan.
- Working with it is hard
- It is more costly than most of the decking timber
- It is not fire, rot and termite resistant
This timber material was also used to build house frames in the past. Nowadays, it is used as decking material and is less expensive than most of the decking timber. It is rot and insect resistant. The Merbau which is used today mostly comes from the Southeast Asian rainforests. It is costly, but it sends the message that it cares about the environment.
- It is easily workable though it is moderately durable
- It has an attractive golden-brown colour
- Very inexpensive for a hardwood
- It is rot and termite resistant
- It is unsustainably located, triggering rainforest deforestation throughout Asia.
- It is highly prone to tannin leaching
- Regular staining will be needed, which can balance inexpensive purchase cost.
This timber material has durability according to its colour variation, so it is not suitable for all locations. Still, it’s popular because of unusual grain patterns and variety of colours. Its colour variations are white, red and yellow. It is said that red is more durable compared to white and yellow.
- It is affordable and widely available
- It is moderately durable, and it depends on the variety you use.
- It is termite resistance
- Some colour varieties have a short lifespan and are not durable
- Gum veins are typically present
Understanding the hardness ratings and durability of the timber
Usually, timbers are rated by a class system from class 1 to class 4.
- Class 1: high durability with over 40 years of lifespan
- Class 2: offers high durability with the expectancy of 15 to 40 years decay resistance
- Class 3: moderate durability with 7 to 15 years lifespan
- Class 4: moderate durability with 1 to 7 years of resistance
It also graded into hardness. The hardness rating is called Janka. It is expressed in newtons (N) or Kilonewtons(kN). By checking the hardness ratings, deck builders get an idea about which timber species is suitable for decking. The ranging of hardness is like 4-8 range class is medium in density and the range class above 8+ is high in density. Materials like ironbark are class 1 with 14 grades, and spotted gum is class 1 with 11 grades are high in density. In medium-density species like blackbutt is rated 9 and softwood species like Tasmanian Oak is rated 5.
Tips on colour, characteristics and sustainability of timber
Before reading the tips, you need to consider tannin leaching. It’s the occurrence of the stain marks when rain water from timber deck falls onto the surrounding walls. These marks occur when timber deck is not sealed or not coated properly and also consider important tips for installation deck.
With these tips mentioned below, you will get knowledge about the tannin leaching, colour, characteristics and sustainability of timber which are commonly used in Australia for decking.
- Treated pine: It has class 1-3 durability with blonde colour shade. The tannin leach is normal, and it has high sustainability level, but it is not fire-resistant.
- Blackbutt: It is fire resistant with class 2 durability. The colour shades are yellow-brown, and its tannin leach is normal.
- Jarrah: Durability is class 2. It comes in red-brown colour shade and are moderately fire resistant and sustainable. The tannin leach is susceptible.
- Stringybark: Durability is class 3. It comes in yellow to red colour shades with moderate fire-resistant and conventional tannin leach. It is also sustainable.
- Spotted gum: Durability is class 1. It comes in grey to red. They are fire-resistant and durable. It’s also resistant to tannin leach.
- Merbau: Durability is class 1. It comes in orange-brown colour and is fire resistant. It is not sustainable but susceptible to tannin leach.
Questions you must ask before creating your timber decking
With the help of these questions and answers, it would be easy to select the timber material for your decking.
- How to select the right timber for decking?
It depends on your choice and where you live. At the time of selecting, you need to consider the cost, durability, fire-resistant, and sustainability.
- Which is the cheapest timber for decking?
The cheapest timber which you can use for decking is treated pine. It costs $200 approximately per square meter.
- Which timber is more fire-resistant?
The fire-resistant timbers which are suitable for a bushfire-prone zone are Blackbutt, Merbau, Red Ironbark, River Red Gum, Turpentine, Silver top Ash, and Spotted Gum.
- Which timber is long-lasting for decking?
The timbers which fall in the category of class 1 durability rating are known for long-lasting decking timber. Materials such as Spotted Gum, Tallowwood, and Ironbark are class 1 timbers with 40+ years of life spans.
- How to get approval for decking?
If your building the deck at ground level, you don’t need permission. But if you are creating a big one, you need to take approval from your local council. The approval also depends on the location where you live. The best way you can go through approval process smoothly is by hiring a qualified and licensed decking builder.
- What should be the size of the deck?
The decks which are larger than 10 square meters require approval by the local council, while in some areas decks up to 25 square meters are allowed without approval.
- What should be the height of the deck?
Deck, which is directly built on the ground, can be dangerous, so some council only permit to develop a 66mm height deck. In contrast, some council allow decks of up to 1 meter to be built before approval is needed. If you want, you can visit your local councils or ask you deck for more information.
Factors that will affect the costing of your deck
- The size of the deck should be in square meter.
- The type which you choose for decking
- Whether your deck includes stairs or balustrade
- Soil type and site condition
- Things like approvals, permits and inspections that are required from councils.
The Bottom Line
After reading this blog, you might be clear about the timber decking. These above-mentioned points and questions will help you in selecting the right material and builder for your timber deck.