Tips for Building a Deck

By Joanne McGowan

Given the length of winters here in Edmonton, it’s not surprising that residents want to make the most of being outdoors during the warmer months. One way that homeowners are choosing to do this – literally in their own backyards – is by building a deck.

But while it’s always been a great way to beautify and add practicality to homes, building a deck on your property can be quite the process, and Sheldon Ens, president of Diamond Contracting, has seen his share of projects in his 20-plus years in the business.

Regardless of whether you hire a contractor or choose to do the work yourself, “you get what you put into it,” he says, “so be sure to do your research first” and invest some time into the planning stages.

Before beginning the process of having a deck built, Ens says that it’s necessary to first contact the City of Edmonton to inquire about permits and zoning bylaws. “Diamond Contracting always takes on the responsibility of attaining permits,” but homeowners are also able to attain these themselves, with some site plans that will need to be submitted at the same time.

In terms of the actual structure, Ens advises that “a pressure-treated substructure material, as well as composite decking material” are ideal for use on decks in this climate, in addition to “ensuring the grade below the deck has been dealt with prior to building.”

“You want to use the most durable and best products available, and ensure your structure is sufficient by using piles for support,” he continues. And, generally speaking, “the deck should then be maintenance-free, aside from expecting to stain or apply protective coating every couple of years if cedar or pressure-treated decking is used.”

In terms of creativity with the design and look of the deck, Ens says that today’s trends are leaning toward the use of “composite or tiled decking, frameless glass rails, and patterned deck floor designs.” Sunrooms with vinyl-based flooring, rather than screened-in decks with carpeting, are also popular in our Alberta climate, he says.

If homeowners are looking to further spice up the look of their deck, Ens recommends adding finishing touches like “LED recessed lighting and other built-ins, such as planters, benches, barbeques, and gas fire pits.”

And the addition of furniture to the deck will of course complete the look without hampering any weight restrictions.

“If a contractor has built a deck according to the National Code, then there should be no weight concerns,” says Ens. “The weight supported by the floor system in a home should be no different than the weight a deck should support.”

The cost of building a deck will vary depending on factors such as size, complexity, and materials used. And though homeowners can potentially save thousands of dollars by taking on the project themselves, it will be without the peace of mind and guarantees provided when using a reputable contractor.

Plus, what may take a homeowner the entire summer to complete, a contracting company can often do in less than a month.

“Not including the waiting time for permits and product availability,” says Ens, “the average deck should take no longer than three weeks to build.”

So, if started early enough in the season, this should still leave homeowners with plenty of time to enjoy their new addition throughout the summer months.