Quality and craftsmanship tend to go together, in as much as good craftsmanship will lead to a better quality product. I have covered craftsmanship elsewhere, so here I will concentrate on the other factors which affect the quality of my decking projects. Mostly, this is the materials.
Firstly, I only use premium quality decking planks. Currently, I am using products from “Q-Deck” who give a 15 year guarantee against rot and insect infestation. By default, the profile I use is “York” which is 32 mm thick, whereas budget decking and the type of decking sold in DIY chains is 28 mm or even 22 mm. Also, premium grade is relatively free from knots, splits and shakes whereas “budget” decking is a more inferior quality. I can of course offer clients any deck profile from the Q-Deck range, with the exception of composite decking which I will no longer use.
Next the framing timber, which is equally, if not more important. Again, this is tanalised and guaranteed against rot and insect infestation. However, what is not always appreciated is that the preservative does not penetrate all the way through the timber. So, I further treat all cut surfaces. The framing timber I use is also stress graded and “PAR” (Planed All Round), which means that it is reasonably straight and true. Wherever possible, the frame is always built clear of the ground with plenty of room for air to circulate, and supported on timber posts, usually set into concrete.
Now on to fixings. You have probably seen decking being built on DIY programmes where the frame is held together with a few large nails and the planking is fixed in minutes using a nail gun. Bad idea! Firstly, timber is a natural product and therefore prone to warping or twisting as it dries. As the timber moves, plain nails will tend to come out and planks could “spring”. “Ring shank-ed” nails will hold it but then, if ever you needed to remove a plank for access, you would destroy it in the process. So all my decks are fully screwed, the framing as well as the planking. Also, decking is built outside. It is alternately being soaked, baked and frozen. Interior grade fixings will rust or react with the timber. So there is little point in using timber which is going to last for (say) at least twenty-five years if the fixings fail after five. All the screws and fixings I use to build a deck are high quality, either stainless steel or otherwise specially treated exterior grade.
Weeds. I have seen decks, which probably looked quite reasonable when they were first built but after a year or two, have weeds growing up through them. I always treat the area with weed killer and then lay heavy duty “landscaping” fabric to suppress any further weed growth.
Other issues. Where decks are built close to buildings there needs to be a fall (slope) away from the building for drainage. It would also be tempting to use the building to support the deck by simply fixing timbers to the existing walls. However, this could lead to problems with damp ingress, especially if the deck is above, or bridges, the damp proof course. So, I never fix decks to existing structures. The framework is always supported separately and there is always a reasonable gap between the framework and the structure for air to circulate. The deck planking is fitted closer to any wall or fence but still with a slight gap.
Finally, it must always be born in mind that any deck needs to be able to support a substantial amount of weight and therefore must be built on a substantial, load-bearing frame, which isn’t going to twist or subside.
Something like this for example: