An outdoor decking can be an ideal addition to your home. It can be a space to bring people together or a place to get away and relax. It can create a seamless flow from your inside to your outside space and it can add value to your home.
A deck can also be an investment – an investment in time, money and maintenance. Depending on the decking materials you use, you could find your deck changing from a relaxing outdoor entertaining area into a stressful mess in the space of a few short years.
While traditional hardwood is many people’s first choice for decking, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. There are plenty of opportunities for decking timber to go wrong, whether it’s at the planning stage, materials selection, installation, or maintenance. And any one of these can cost you time, money and even present safety concerns for your family.
So, let’s have a look at some of the most common ways that wooden decks can fail.
Rotting and warping
Wood is prone to rotting. All decking timber needs is moisture and the right temperature range and fungal rot can start to develop. Wood rot breaks down the polymers that bind wood fibres together to the point that the wood can be pulled apart by hand (or a foot can go through a decking board). When left untreated, wood rot can be more devastating than termites.
Protecting a deck against rot requires regular maintenance in the form of painting or sealing your deck to lock out the moisture. This means the use of some fairly harsh chemicals.
Wood decks are also prone to warping. Wood naturally absorbs and releases moisture in response to the moisture content of the air around it. This causes the wood to swell and contract, which can lead to twisting, bowing or cupping. As the wood moves it can place great strain on your deck, gradually loosening nails, screws and other fasteners and leading to the wood splitting and splintering.
Warping can weaken individual decking boards and destabilise the structural integrity of your entire deck. It can also lead to safety hazards in the form of loose nails and split boards, which can cause serious injuries.
As with wood rot, preventing warping comes down to regular maintenance, usually involving harsh chemicals.
It’s no secret that wood is prone to termite infestations. Termites can cause massive amounts of damage and often you won’t know the damage is happening until it’s too late.
While most decking timber is treated to prevent pest infestations, these treatments often include strong pesticides and heavy metals like arsenic. As the wood starts to deteriorate, these chemicals may be released into the surrounding soil and water, creating potential health risks for your family as well as environmental problems.
If your deck uses improperly treated wood it can be a haven for termites and other wood borers. If your deck draws a pest infestation it can put the rest of your property at risk as the pests could expand their area of infestation into your home.
Fading and discolouration
The look and feel of natural wood is one of the main reasons that traditional wooden decks are so popular. Unfortunately, those characteristics won’t last forever. We’ve already mentioned how wood is prone to rotting, warping, splitting and splintering. And any one of these factors can quickly turn the pleasant feel of wood underfoot into a serious safety risk.
Without regular maintenance, wooden decking is also prone to fading and discolouration. Over time, foot traffic, weather wear, UV bleaching and chemicals from cleaners can cause wooden decking boards to fade.
By now we all know that wooden decks require regular maintenance to prevent various issues like fading, pest infestations, rotting and warping. However, it should also be noted that improper or poorly executed maintenance can also cause issues.
One common issue that stems from improper maintenance is peeling or flaking paint. Painting your deck can help to revitalise tired looking decking boards. However, if the wood isn’t properly washed and prepared, the paint can quickly start to peel and flake. And this will cost you time and money, as the deck will need to be stripped back and repainted.
As an outside area of your home, you want to be able to relax, entertain and play on your decking with confidence. If there are children around you want to make sure that your deck presents no risks to little feet.
Any one of the above-mentioned issues, however, can create safety concerns.
Rotting and pest infestations can lead to soft and spongy wood and that means the risk of boards collapsing or exposing nails, screws or other metal fasteners.
Warping, splitting and splintering can also present risks safety to bare feet and can weaken the overall structural integrity of the entire deck.
So, what’s the answer
While wooden decking can be appealing, the maintenance that is required to keep it safe, looking good, and structurally sound can be time-consuming and expensive. One solution is to consider an alternative to wooden decking.
Composite decking products, like those available from Ekodeck, require significantly less maintenance that traditional decking timber and have a much longer lifespan. Composite products aren’t susceptible to pest infestation, won’t split or splinter and are less prone to warping.
If you’re considering a new decking project, avoid the safety risks, costs and hassles of regular maintenance and go with a safe and reliable alternative, like Ekodeck.
Mike works as an outreach manager for many property and real estate businesses. His expertise lies in finance, safety products, and real estate.