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There is a simple thought process to follow when making decisions about your proposed decking project, and I’m a nice guy so I will happily share it with you here. It really is fascinating/concerning to hear of the huge disparity in both advice and pricing being dished out to people who are just trying to make the best investment for themselves and their family on what sort of decking to install.

I hope to enlighten you as to my thinking (as a professional who has over 17 years experience). You may decide that this is just one person’s view, but time in the job doesn’t lie and I live and have traded in Adelaide for a long time. I have also seen many thousands of dollars wasted due to poor advice regarding decking.

Let’s start with one very important point… When you purchase decking that is “low level” your timber warranty is automatically void. Think about why this is done – the timber companies have had so many claims arising from timber faults in low level decking that they felt compelled to put in a disclaimer. This unfortunately leaves you even more at the mercy of your installer. They need to know what they’re doing!

Never fear, after reading this you will be able to attack your new decking with confidence and in turn weed out the cowboys who may be misinforming you.

1) Consider where the new deck is going.

Is it exposed to constant sun? Does it only get full sun at certain times of the day? (East/west) Is it on the southern side of your house so will be in shade all winter and full sun during the summer? Is it in full or part shade all day?

2) How high off the ground is your decking going to be? Any decking over 900mm high will require fall protection. Decking less than 1m off the ground should have a larger gap to encourage air flow.

3) What look are you going for?

Are you trying to match furniture, contrast plants, pick out a garden feature? Look at your internal floor level – try to match the height, colour and direction to give a continuous flow.

4) Balustrading options

A balustrade isn’t always only used just to provide fall protection. It can be used very successfully to create a barrier between different areas, a place to lean/rest your drink by a focal point or give a feeling of a wall without the visual interference.

5) Steps

Do you need them? And if so, how many? Do you need or want a landing? Can your steps wrap around a corner to enter onto another area of your garden? Or perhaps provide an entrance to your entertaining area?

6) And the fun one, let your imagination run wild…

Add a special area for a spa pool, built in seats, built in storage, built in seats with storage, add an area for a fire pit, a built in esky – there are so may options if you open your mind to them.

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7) Choose your timber wisely. Refer to points 1 and 2.

Ie. If your decking is exposed to a lot of weather you are going to want something hard wearing that doesn’t need treating every few months.

If you have an area that is very low to the ground you need something that is durable but not too hard (Merbau or Blackbutt). If you choose timber that is too hard here you will end up with “surface checking” where the top of the decking develops small cracks caused by hard timber expanding and contracting. You also don’t want anything too soft that will start cupping (when the decking boards have a large moisture differential causing the underside to swell and the topside to contract) which ends up pulling out nails/screws, twisting and causing stains and decking finishes to chip off.

If you have something that is elevated, and doesn’t get full sun you can do whatever you want really but try to follow these rules.

* Elevated deck in full sun – look for a hard timber (Jarrah/ Spotted Gum)

* Elevated deck with full protection – use whatever suits your budget/style

8) Winners ‘finish’ last

In tannin rich timber (dark coloured) you will need to apply a washing solution to remove the tannins before using an acid wash to strip the timber back to its raw state.

Unfortunately you can’t use a finish that won’t alter the colour of your raw decking as you would be able to inside. (If you are told of any they are either lying to you or please give me their number because I would love to meet them).

I suggest using Intergrain Natural Stain, it does change the colour of your decking but you can use that to enhance your choices. It also last for a really long time between coats and doesn’t easily scratch.

To screw or to nail? It’s an important question but a simple one.

Screw, the answer is almost always screw – unless you have an elevated deck in complete protection and are on a tight budget then nails will suffice.

And lastly, don’t be a sucker.

There are salesmen out there who have this fantastic new timber that no one has ever heard of or some system that doesn’t require visible fixings. I have tried some and personally investigated every system that I have heard of in my time and I refuse to use any of them without a disclaimer. Most of these systems are great for a few months but I guarantee that you will have problems down the track.

Remember location + aesthetics + budget/advice = sound investment.

Cheers, Dave