What is a deck?
A deck is a structure that’s primarily made of timber (such as hardwood, composite or treated pine) and can be either attached to your home or freestanding. Although often built onto homes with sloping blocks as a large balcony, decks can be built over flat surfaces to create design features or outdoor living areas. A great deck design idea can take your backyard from zero to hero in no time.
What makes a good deck, and what kinds of decks are trending?
According to data collected by Houzz Australia, of the 86 per cent of Australians who reported they had plans to make structural changes to their homes, the most popular project was adding a deck, at 43 per cent.
“Architects are embracing innovative timber applications in residential projects, including decking, screening, cladding and as a decorative lining over a covered deck. There is also a trend towards longer lasting, easier to install timber decking with a thicker, wider and more robust profile,” says Leon Travis, national sales and distribution manager, Boral Timber. “In terms of colour and species, Blackbutt and Spotted Gum remain a durable and popular choice.”
- Always build your deck on solid foundations, such as concrete pad footings.
- Make sure screws, bolts and nails that hold the structure together are galvanized to prevent rusting.
- Screws are best for your deck, rather than nails, as nails will eventually become loose as the timber is worn and weathered.
- Always treat your timber decking with the appropriate oils and finish, and maintain your timber deck by oiling, staining or finishing it regularly.
- Always sort out your council approval for new decks before you start building, otherwise you risk being ordered to remove it.
- Always use post stirrups for your timber posts, as setting them into concrete or directly into the ground will result in the timber being constantly moist, and eventually rotting away.
- Don’t forget that your deck will need to be recoated every two years to ensure longevity.
“All building codes and Australian standards need to be adhered to when building a deck,” says Leon. “Regulations for structural elements, including post sizes, stress grades, bearers and joist spans, are outlined in Australian Standard AS1684 Residential Framed Timber Construction and AS1720 Timber Structures – Design Methods. A licensed builder, architect or engineer can provide advice. Local councils can provide details on relevant regulations. Detailed plans, as well as development and building approvals, may be required depending on the scope of the deck.”
“If your deck is over a metre off the ground, it must have a railing that complies with Australian Standards,” says Greg Fahey, Better Homes and Gardens DIY expert. “Generally, they must be at least a metre high, not have any gaps exceeding 125mm wide and not be climbable. Stainless steel cables have more stringent requirements depending on how high the deck is, so check them if that’s the look you’re after.”
Should a deck be covered?
“Depending on the orientation of the home, the deck may benefit from a cover to reduce the need for frequent maintenance,” says Leon. “Of course, regularly cleaning and maintaining the timber will help to preserve the colour and improve the life of the deck. Boral recommends applying a decking finish such as decking oil to the exposed surfaces. Manufacturers of decking oils and finishes may recommend that the decking finish needs to be re-applied more than once a year.”
Can a deck surround a pool?
“With many pools positioned inground, the issue of clearance between the pool edge and the deck needs to be considered” says Leon. “Water pooling and poor ventilation can cause cupping of the timber. Equally, the wrong fasteners can cause the timber to stain. The most important things to remember are to build to code, make changes where necessary, fully seal all sides, edges and the underside of decking boards for protection, and ensure there is cross flow ventilation in place which can also assist with water drainage, and make sure compatible fasteners for wet area environments are used to avoid rusting and stains.”
What can decks be made of?
The experts at Bunnings Warehouse suggest hardwoods and treated pine as suitable timbers for decks and decking. Hardwoods are durable and resilient and include Jarrah, Spotted Gum and Merbau. Treated pine is a versatile material that has been treated to resist decay, fungi and termites
Another option for decks is to use composite decking. “Composite decking is a manufactured material made of wood fibres and recycled plastic, so it’s a great environmentally-friendly alternative to timber,” says Greg. “The best part about composite decking is that it’s virtually maintenance free. It won’t rot or warp and all it takes to keep it looking good is the occasional wash down. While it’s more expensive than timber options, you’ll save time and money on maintenance.”
Austim also reports that composite timbers are heavier, stronger and denser than natural wood alone.
“Australian hardwood species are an excellent choice for their high density, toughness and high durability. Blackbutt, Spotted Gum and Tallowwood are known to make a great decking timber,” says Leon Travis, national sales and distribution manager for Boral Timber. “Some species, such as Blackbutt and Spotted Gum, are bushfire resisting timbers with Blackbutt also offering termite resistance - qualities which are ideal for Australian conditions.”
What types of railings can be used in deck design idea?
“You can choose something standard like timber palings or stainless steel cables,” says Greg. “A great material combination [for railing] is aluminium and glass, which suits a contemporary style. If your deck looks onto your neighbours, build a privacy screen into your railing. Extend a pair of posts up past the railing and fill between them. Lattice is a good option. It gives you instant privacy and you can train a climbing plant over it so you’ll soon have a living screen, softening the look.”
10 INSPIRING DECK IDEAS
1. The covered deck
An enclosed deck is the perfect all-weather outdoor living space. The advantage of an enclosed deck is that it won’t suffer quite as much damage as an open deck, and it can be used all year round. Furthermore, your outdoor furniture will be protected from downpours, hail and sun damage when it’s on an enclosed deck. This design works particularly well as it has multiple ‘zones’. A conversation area with a coffee table, a dining area and a swing chair for quiet reflection.
2. The pool deck
This modern pool deck idea seamlessly fuses the indoor dining space with the outdoors thanks to the folding doors that open out directly to the pool area. Not only does this design cater to long summer afternoons filled with swimming, food and family, it’s also practical in that the adults can enjoy sitting inside and still have a very clear view of any children in the pool.
3. The viewing deck
This timber decking idea really takes advantage of the view. Almost balcony-like in style, this particular deck idea is sleek and simple with a white concrete fence and simple railing. If you’re attempting a similar look at home be sure to situate your outdoor furniture in such a way that allows conversation to flow freely, while also taking in the view.
4. The backyard garden deck
If your backyard is long and narrow and you’re looking for a way to integrate a small deck-like entertaining area into it, this deck design idea is the perfect fit. A concrete retaining wall means foliage and shrubbery can be planted high to create privacy, while also giving the deck an intimate, sunken conversation-area feel that’s reminiscent of 70s living rooms. Create a focal point with a large statue or water feature at the end to give the illusion of height and length.
5. The partially covered timber verandah
A partially covered timber verandah plays up the colonial or country vibes of older houses, and offers elevated views over a large garden or patch of land. Perfect for those that only require a small table and chairs to take tea or read the paper, this deck design idea can be adapted to suit the size and style of the home.
6. The small-space deck idea
If you’re small on space then this deck idea is the one for you. Snuggled into a nook to the side of the house, this adjoining patio-style deck offers enough space for an outdoor entertaining area without feeling closed in or cramped. Lighting is important to create an atmosphere in this sort of space, so invest in some weather-resistant pendant lights to really play up the warmth of a small deck idea like this one.
7. The no-backyard deck idea
No backyard? No problem! Don’t despair if all you have at your disposal is a small courtyard or paved area. A deck can be laid over the space and will neaten it up, give it warmth, and make it feel more like a purposeful place for relaxation or entertaining, rather than a damp stony space where the kids keep their bikes.
8. The modern deck design idea
Decking can be used not only as an entertaining area, but as a stylish flooring solution to surround your pool. In this case, the decking in long, sleek and modern, and seamlessly fuses the indoor living area with the outdoor pool area. The unobstructed views from indoors to out ensures safety if there are children present, and the extra length of the deck offers enough room to have pool chairs and other furniture.
9. The typical timber deck
Timber decking ideas are wide and varied, but you can’t go past a classic like this one. Added on to the side of the house and offering a slightly elevated view over the garden, this deck idea has wide, deep and short steps that lead up to an outdoor dining area.
10. The outdoor living area
This deck design idea isn’t particularly large or complicated, it’s simply an extra space for reclining and relaxing in the sun. This sort of deck is great for those who want an outdoor space, but aren’t looking for something oversize or fussy.