Decking: Choices, choices, choices!


 Since we planned the extension I have been looking at decking. That is now over two years of studying what the options might be.

When I started I knew that what we did not want was treated pine. There was a large deck where the extension is now that was made from very neglected pine decking and joists. It was fixed to the ground with 4 (yes 4) dynabolts. It was only approx 200mm off the ground but still. It took 4 days of pressure washing to blast the dirt from the grooves.

original deck


No deck deck now (May 2011)


Even with the advances in chemical treatment and no longer using arsenic I still do not feel comfortable with treated pine. A decision was made to re-use and recycle as much of the stuff that was already here in other disguises but to not bring new treated pine onto the property.

So what were other options. At the start of the journey there were basically three. Timber of some sort, Wood Plastic Composite (WPC) of which there appeared to be only two makes, and plastic.
Timber could be the standard imported Merbau or Balau or Fijiian Mahogany or some such relative, Australian hardwood such as Spotted Gum or Jarrah,  softer decking such as Australian Cypress, or recycled decking.
Two years on things had changed somewhat. The timber choices were much the same but you could add fingerjointed timber to the mix. However on other fronts the choices had increased exponentially. WPC is on offer by many companies and easily available in hardware stores; there is choices of powder coated aluminium, PVC, bamboo, bamboo and plastic. It is enough to make your head spin.
As I researched it became clear that I had to apply some logic. The place that I started was to draw a plan of the deck area and work out how much area I was actually looking at. Although the deck was on the plans drawn up by Lateral Drafting I needed to draw my own based on actual measurements of the extension and deck top hats and bearers. I used Home Plan Pro, a software program I found when I was first drawing up plans of the house. It is easy to use and does everything I need it to do and was only $39 US with a thirty day free period.

Deck Plan

It has paid itself back many times over.From it I worked out that 70 square meters of decking was needed. The next problem was that every decking product I looked at came in different lengths and widths so I was comparing apples to oranges.To help overcome this I  created a spreadsheet in Excel that took the various parameters such as material width, price per meter, price per length and gave me a price per square meter.

 Now it was a question of narrowing the choices down. After much procrastination and umming and arring it came down to either 140mm wide finger jointed jarrah available from Bunnings, 85mm wide Australian Cypress pine from local timber yard Timber World or a wood plastic composite called Cleverdeck by Futurewood.
The Pros and Cons: This is of course a very personal look at these materials and very situation would be different.
Australian Cypress Pine.
Reasonably cheap per square meter approx $39.00
Easy to get more if needed, (ie locally sold at Timber World in Meander)
Suited to outdoor weathering.
Australian (NSW) sourced
only 90mm wide
Needs a coating and onwards maintainence. (more often if totally exposed like  ours)
Has lots of knots
Finger Jointed Jarrah
140mm wide
Australian timber (WA)
Easily available from national hardware
standard 5.4meter lengths (less waste)
Very little is plantation sourced
National Hardware is Bunnnings (not my favourite)
Needs coating and recoating (more often if totally exposed like  ours)
more expensive than Australian Cypress ( approx $70 per square meter)
Cleverdeck wood plastic composite
Very little maintainence once laid
140mm wide
standard 5.4meter lengths (less waste)
very stable
hidden fixing system
cuts like timber
made from recycled plastics, rice hulls and hardwood flour
very good phone service and informative website with very comprehensive fixing guide
Made in China
Needs to be shipped from mainland to Tasmania
more expensive up front $93 per square meter
So more umming and arring and comparing cost of time and money for upkeep of deck and the realisation that most people do NOT bother doing the deck as often as they should
therefore leading to more hard work when you do. This slowly led to the light bulb coming on in the cranium a (a LED lightbulb) and the thought that although it is more expensive up front the WPC (wood plastic composite) should workout cheaper in the long run.
So after facing up to the figures and reworking my plans according to the fixing instructions I rang Cleverdeck to order the decking. The good news was that there is an agent just setting up in Tassie so I went through Mike Mulkearns who managed to work a deal with shipping and has so far been very helpful. The order went through just as Cleverdeck were shifting logisitic centres so it is a waiting game. That is fine as I need to do some small alterations to the deck layout. A fairly easy thing to do with steel tophats but tracking down the correct steel for the job has been a bit of a detective story, but is nearly resolved.
I thought that the fairest thing to do would be to create a list of links to all the different types of decking that I have found so far. recycled timber decking WPC Australian made WPC and Timber. Launceston based Aluminium decking
Thats a fair choice and there are more out there. The best advice I have received to date is if you are going to go for WPC decking then do not buy hollow section but solid section. WPC has as its name implies a percentage of timber in the mix and still expands and contracts like timber so a hollow section if not capped correctly can make a place for moisture to lie.