Things to Consider
There are myriad benefits to selecting decking as your outdoor surface of choice. First and foremost – how good does a quality timber deck look and feel? There are so many fantastic-looking options when choosing your decking, and they all look amazing when installed. Everybody’s different, but here at Gill Landscapes what we hear most is that people find decking more inviting and visually appealing than a concrete patio.
Some experts estimate that a timber deck can increase the value of your home by up to 30%. That might be on the high side, but there’s no doubt that having a timber deck is typically associated with a higher specification of building and is a huge draw-card for potential buyers. Many modern suburban homes in New Zealand only have 40–60 square meters of living area, so a well-designed and positioned deck can expand the usable living area of a home by up to 100%.
Unlike common pavement options (concrete, tiles and pavers), timber decking can be legally constructed at floor level without the installation of expensive, ugly threshold drain systems. Who cares about whether your patio has a level-entry threshold, though – right? Wrong. Having a step down from your indoor living to your outdoor living creates a natural disconnect, discouraging guests and family members from using the two areas in tandem. For a true indoor-outdoor flow, nothing beats the transition onto timber decking. A level entry threshold is also more user-friendly for the very young and the elderly.
Timber decking in New Zealand gets an unfair rap as a less sustainable option. In actual fact, Gill Landscapes exclusively install sustainably harvested decking timbers certified by the FSC. Timber acts as a natural carbon sink, so by installing a timber deck you are permanently locking away greenhouse gases! Most alternatives to timber decking involve concrete or cement-based products, and the cement industry is one of the primary producers of carbon dioxide worldwide.
If you treat your deck right, it will last you for over 20 years. While some customers prefer to regularly oil their decks to improve longevity, even a deck that’s left to weather naturally will last many years to come – especially if it’s a hardwood!
Choosing the Right Timber
There are so many options available as decking these days that selecting a product can be a bit overwhelming. All in all, it’s a personal choice – but there are a few things you should know before deciding which timber to go with.
We install more Kwila decking than any other timber – by far. The reasons are simple – it looks great, lasts forever and it’s pretty cost-effective relative to other decking timbers. Kwila has a naturally rich red colour, which can be maintained by oiling or left to silver off with age. It’s a highly stable timber and isn’t prone to warping, cupping or splitting. The only downside of Kwila is that during its first few rains outside, it will bleed oils onto adjacent hard surfaces. This can however be managed by an experienced installer and there are a number of products on the market which quickly and effectively remove any staining caused by the tannins.
Purpleheart is a rich, purple timber that is absolutely fantastic for decking. It’s heavily favoured for marine applications because it will outlast any other product on the market, especially if it’s near water. It does have a slight tendency to cup over time, but it is supplied with a ‘watershed’ profile to offset this. While oiling will maintain the Purple colouring, Purpleheart does fade to a beautifully sophisticated silver that is generally favoured by clients – after all, why buy the most durable decking available and then spend every spring oiling it?
Pinus radiata is the most prolifically grown timber in New Zealand. Pine decking is the cheapest available, and it comes in long lengths which is great for DIY users who want to avoid cutting as much as possible. In all honesty, that’s about all the good you could say about Pine decking. Pine is soft and prone to splitting, shrinking and warping. It has a pale colour and doesn’t age gracefully. The primary reason we hear that people selected Pine decking is cost. We try to stress that this can be a false economy, as while the decking may be 10% cheaper, it won’t look nearly as good and only last half the time before it looks tired and ready for replacement. If you are planning to paint your decking in the style of a traditional veranda, Pine may be a good option as it takes paint well and a good coat of paint offers some protection against the elements.
The last of the main options to discuss is composite decking. Composite decking has risen to some prominence in recent years and is made from recycled products including plastic, fibreglass and sawdust. Composite decking proponents argue that it’s stable over time and environmentally friendly. While the environmental benefits of recycling are hard to argue, the decking doesn’t act as a carbon sink. On top of that, in my experience many composites still demonstrate the warping and shrinkage associated with timber and have an undeniably plastic look and feel to them. The low-maintenance nature of composite products do make them an ideal product for some commercial applications, but my advice is to make sure you’re happy with the aesthetic before locking it in.