Decking & Railing Options

Ah, summers on the deck. Conjures up images of images of cold, refreshing beverages, grilling, and fun with friends and family, right? There’s nothing like a good deck for entertaining or just sitting and reading, enjoying the sunshine and fresh air.

A deck on the back of your house is a must—especially if you don’t already have a porch or patio. A deck can also be a valuable selling point when the time comes and a point of pride for you as a homeowner until that time comes.

Our team has built more decks than we can count. Big decks, little decks, decks on new homes, decks on existing homes. We can help you design your deck—including all the amenities you want and need. As part of your new custom home or existing home renovation, we will build it for you, taking the financial, time, and potential legal concerns off your shoulders. When we’re finished, all you will need to do is kick back and relax.

To ensure you are well informed on everything that goes into building a deck, let’s review the parts and types of decking to consider.

What Size Should My Deck Be: Size Guidelines

There are two basic guidelines that we typically follow when we plan decks for our clients:

  1. No deck should be more than 20% of the total square footage of the home itself. That means, for example, that if your home is 3,500 square feet, your deck should not exceed 750 square feet.
  2. No part or section of your deck (if you want a multi-level deck, for example) should be larger than the largest room in your house.

Of course there are exceptions to these guidelines.

As we do for the rest of your custom home build or existing home renovation, we will suggest a number of deck plans that meet your goals and desires, and then to ensure the deck meets your expectations and that you can realistically imagine the end product, we will produce 3D rendering of the designs you are interested in.

Parts of a Deck: Flashing

Deck flashing is absolutely a necessity but one an amateur or inexperienced builder may not think of. Deck flashing is essentially a beam that attaches the deck to the house. The beam, or ledger is attached horizontally along a home’s framing. The flashing is a rubber- stainless steel, copper, or vinyl-based, tape-like material that helps the deck shed water and prevents moisture from seeping through wood planking and from entering the house itself. Without flashing, your deck–and even your home’s framing–may experience rot.

Parts of a Deck: Ledger Attachment

As discussed above, your deck’s ledger is the beam that physically attaches a deck to the overall structure of your home. The ledger is a critical element of your deck and must be attached to the house via half-inch bolts or lag screws. Nails are neither acceptable or safe.

Parts of a Deck: Guardrails

Deck railings, it should seem obvious, prevent people from falling off your deck. In most towns, guardrails are required when your deck is 30” or more off the ground. The minimum acceptable guardrail height is 36 inches (but they may be taller based on your needs or wants). And you can use a little creativity when it comes time to choose which railing style to use as there are numerous types and styles to choose from. (FYI, guardrails and handrails are not the same thing. A guardrail includes the structural rails, posts, and infill (often balusters) that prevent falling. Handrails are merely considered something one can grasp onto to steady themselves when climbing up or down stairs.)

In addition to guardrails around the perimeter of your deck, you also need handrails for any stairs that may be a part of your deck.

Guardrails may be made of the following materials:

  • Decking Materials: Pressure-treated lumber that matches deck flooring is the most common and popular guardrail material along with other types of wood, including cedar, mahogany, and redwood. If your deck floor is built with a composite product (like Moisture Shield Vision composite decking), you may opt for guardrails also built with this material.
  • Vinyl Railing: Vinyl is another option that is growing in popularity. Vinyl railing is extremely strong and durable and can be used regardless of which material you choose for your deck flooring. Among its other benefits: it is much easier to clean than wood, and it is resistant to blistering, decomposing, rusting, peeling, pests, rotting, and rusting.
  • Glass Railing: If aesthetics are a priority for you, you may want to consider glass railing for your deck. It’s a beautiful , high-end looking option that provides a solid barrier without obstructing views. The glass railing helps block wind. And believe it or not, glass railing is very durable; it is made from quarter-inch thick tempered glass. Glass is among the most expensive railing options, and requires more cleaning and maintenance than other options as well.
  • Cable Railing: Stainless steel cable railing provides a fresh, modern look and feel for your deck. Another durable option, they are installed to and between wood, vinyl, or stainless steel posts at intervals of about 4 inches.. More affordable than glass railings, cable railings are easier to install than some other options, require very little maintenance, and their life expectancy is quite long.

Parts of a Deck: Stairways and Handrails

Stairs will likely be a critical element of your deck, and before the deck building is even begun, we need to assess likely entrance and exit points from the deck and carefully and meticulously plan for any stairs and handrails (if required). Stairs can also help you define specific areas on your deck for specific purposes.

In addition to the math and geometry that goes into building stairs, building codes require specific riser and tread widths and depths as well as height and load requirements.

Regarding handrails, not all decks require them; requirements are dependent on a number of factors, including vertical rise. In most towns, if your deck is more than 30 inches above the ground (or below grade), you will need two handrails.

Parts of a Deck: Framing

Framing a deck is similar to framing a house–it’s just on a much smaller scale. The deck framing process includes creating the necessary connections between beams, joists, and support posts that will yield a code compliant structure. Typically, when building a deck, the structure is begun against the house with the ledger board acting as a stationary surface and length to pull measurements from and attach joists to.

Parts of a Deck: Posts and Footings

These parts of a deck are similar to the foundation of a house. They keep the structure stable and hold it up. A deck post footing is a poured concrete pad that measures 20-inch or more in diameter. The concrete is poured into a hole that is dug into the ground, and the hole needs to be deep enough that the bottom is below the local frost level. Once poured, a deck post is inserted in the hole and the concrete cures around it. Posts and footings and spaced in a way that permits the deck built on top will meet code for how much the weight per square foot the deck can support and so on.

Parts of a deck: Deck Flooring

There are a handful of materials with which a deck flooring may be built, and ultimately, there are four factors homeowners will consider in their decision-making: aesthetic, budget, climate, and maintenance. Natural wood, like cedar, redwood, or tropical hardwoods make for beautiful deck flooring that resists both pests and rot..

Pressure-treated lumber is a more budget friendly option. Typically southern pine, the lumber is chemically treated to resist rotting and insect damage. In fact, the majority of home decks in the U.S. are made with pressure treated lumber, which isn’t a terrible voice aesthetically and that is very durable. Pressure treated lumber decks will need to be pressure washed annually.

Composite decking (such as Moisture Shield Vision composite decking) is an excellent option. Such products are made from a combination of recycled plastic and wood fibers. A durable synthetic material, composite decking resists warping, is unlikely to rot or suffer insect infestations. It is also available in a large variety of colors and styles, including looks that mimic natural wood. Composite decking does not require any sanding, or sealing—ever. On the other hand, dark-colored composite decking gets extremely hot in direct sunlight, mold and mildew can grow in cool, damp areas, and the surface of composite decking can become slick when wet. Moisture Shield Vision composite decking is the exception to composites that share many of these drawbacks. It stays cool even in the hottest climates, and is frequently used as a flooring material for decks that surround swimming pools.

Plastic decking, too, is durable and easy to clean. It won’t crack, split, or warp (even over time), and it’s impervious to decay, insects, and moisture. Like composite decking, plastic decking can get very hot, mold and mildew can grow in cool, damp areas, and the surface of composite decking can become slick when wet. Furthermore, as it ages, it can develop an unattractive chalky appearance.

Aluminum decking is the last to the common materials used in deck flooring. While its appearance is very industrial, it is long-lasting and requires minimal maintenance. When used in decking, aluminum typically features a powder-coated finish. Aluminum is resistant to mildew, mold, and staining, and it will not crack, peel, rot, or rust. Perhaps surprisingly, it remains cool to the touch, even on the hottest days. Aluminum decking is a more expensive option. If you are looking for an industrial look for your deck, aluminum decking is a great choice.

If you want or need help planning and building a deck, whether as a part of a new home build or a part of an existing home renovation, we would love to share our knowledge and experience with you.

For more information, call us or click here to schedule your complimentary, no-obligation consultation.