Recent comments

Re: Synthetic Decking: Best Buy or Absolute Nightmare?

I posted a few comments back, and should have mentioned that I'm in the north GA area, and many decks around here are built on sloped lots, often 8' or higher off of the ground, so using concrete or other stone products (such as slate) isn't practical. Footings needn't be deep in this region due to almost non-existent frost uplift, although the mostly GA red clay has it's own quirks, esp during cycles of drought & heavy rainfall which we've had in the past decade, so the shear weight of concrete is an issue, even w/ deep footings. We also enjoy an abundance of sunshine, along w/ large temperature & humidity swings during the year. And, there's the issue w/ termites, too. Perhaps powder-coated steel posts are the ultimate answer. . .

I'm amazed at how little attention is paid to proper work methods, structural codes, & materials around here by many supposed decking specialists, Most homeowners, by and large, are so price-driven that they object to investing in a properly constructed deck, including the type of deck boards that are used, and that there's a necessity to periodically clean & re-seal wood decks. But, if deck contractors offered a 'seasonal freshening up' (reseaing, etc) as an option, additional opportunities for follow-on work may result. . .And there's a fair share of the blame that falls on the lumber/hardware wholesalers & retailers, for many haven't a clue re: what kind of fasteners & flashing are to be used w/ the newer formulated P/T wood, and that the P/T lumber they sell is often poor quality stuff, adding to it's bad reputation. And, ditto re: composites, for not all products are alike, as has been mentioned by many in this blog. The 'big-box home centers' are even worse than the traditional lumber yards, as you'll find that you end up educating them, and not vice-versa. So, it boils down to the contractor(s) to be able to specify proper materials, incl which composites or wood deck boards should be used in our region, and in a particular application.

Until there's some long-term performance data re: composite deck boards, it'll be a crap-shoot, and it's not all that comforting to know that many manufacturers may exit the industry if they have a significant number of failures in the field. I spend so much time sorting thru piles of twisted and cupped P/T wood right now, and I wish that there was a cost-effective natural alternative to new growth P/T southern yellow pine that is both available in the Southeast, and suitable for our environment, too. Anyone tried bamboo yet? (talk about a sustainable material! And, if there was a way to utilize kudzu in the makeup of composites, that would be terrific!!

Re: Synthetic Decking: Best Buy or Absolute Nightmare?

One of the major decisions re: to use a synthetic or natural wood for decking has to do w/ the style and period of the home that it'll be attached to. . .Most homeowners don't have a clue re: what to use, and many rely on the under-informed help @ the big box stores to make their decisions. And, when it comes to using an appropriate material that'll compliment their home, they're equally in the dark. Deck-builders often compound the problem, as most deck quotes start out w/ so many sq feet of deck for so many $$s, and often the homeowner ends up w/ a poorly designed and constructed deck - destined to fail sooner, rather than later.

Perhaps we should first strive to redefine what a deck is, and how - depending on it's design, as well as it's condition over time - it becomes either an aesthetically pleasing adjunct to an existing structure (extending one's living area into their backyard, etc.) or an eyesore that screams: 'stay away, as it's not that pleasant out here, , ,'

On lower cost, vinyl-sided homes, composites look okay, but their higher costs and alleged long-term durability are at odds w/ the traditional move-up nature of such housing, esp if the homeowner plans on not staying in that home all that long. Where's the benefit, esp cost savings?

At the higher end of the spectrum, a homeowner should plan on budgeting for routine maintenance on their wooden decking, just as they (should) on septic systems, HVAC, roofs & gutters, pressure-washing siding, and so on. Renewing the surface of deck boards is not all that hard, nor costly, and it amazes me that an entire 'feel-good green industry' has sprung up to make that over-blown issue so important.

How many builders and homeowners really are all that concerned w/ recycling plastic grocery bags, milk cartons, etc? It's time to get honest & real w/ oneselves, even though it may not be the proper image to project to clients and our neighbors. As someone else wrote, aren't we creating another environmental issue when one as to recycle platic deck boards in the future? Whos's fooling who?

Perhaps an alternate solution would be to design the fasterning system for wood deck boards so that the entire board could be easily removed & rotated in order to use the mostly unweathered face of the other side of the board. After one rotation, recycle it, and replace w/ new wood - just an idea. . .How difficult would it be to do that, seriously?

When I'm asked to rebuild and/or replace an existing deck, it's obvious as to why the traditional deck has failed: poor design re: water retention vs drainage, overall sloppy 'workmanship' (splinters, unsealed end-grain, nails and/or screws driven too far into the material, improper use of structural brackets, inadequate blocking, insufficient toe-nailing, incorrect or non-existent flashing, inadequate coatings on fasteners, insufficient # of fasteneres from ledger board into house's framing, poor or inadequate footings under under-sized posts, unsafe stair-building & railing methods, and so on. Or, crappy quality wood was used.

And, then there's the matter of design standards. I suppose that if a deck is truly to conform to all of the code standards, they'll all pretty much look alike if we don't start thinking about how to integrate the design of a deck to best work in harmony w/ the architecture of the house itself. That's but one of the challenges facing any responsibe contractor and/or homeowner. Unfortunately, most everyone takes for granted that what they 'cannot see' (footings), as well as what's 'out of the normal line of sight' (joists, ledger, blocking, brackets, etc), must be okay, or shouldn't pose an issue over time, as they cross their fingers. . .And, then a bunch of money is spent on the maintenance free composite deck boards, the railing design, and the stairs. All are important considerations of course, but that's about all that most of the noise is being made about re: decks these days. It's a lot of marketing hype, and that's okay if we select the most appropriate material for the house, and not just because we sometimes convince clients that the much higher cost of composites offsets the relatively low cost of routine maintenance over time. If the bones of the deck aren't sound, the rest is fluff. And, if it's a poor design, why bother?

Lastly : why not use composites w/ textures and pattersn that do not mimic wood? Seldom has fake wood on stereo equipment or TVs, as well as on dashboards, ever fooled anyone! Back in the mid '70s, the Chevy Impala took a bold step, ditched fake wood on their interiors, and made the plastic trim on the dashboard look like cleanly molded plastic done in an attractive textured pattern. It now looked like a quality trim piece made out of plastic, and not poorly-replicated fake wood. How noval an idea. (duh) Does that line of design reasoning - perhaps - have a place in exterior building materials such as deck boards? Extruded aluminum gutters now sub for copper ones, architectural shingles have largely replaced shake-type shingles w/out trying to mimic them, and so on. Why should deck boards have to masquerade as wood?

Re: Play Fine Homebuilding's Game "The Inspector"

re: comment about water from the shower getting on the floor in the subject bathroom - in Holland & Germany I used numerous showers (both in homes & hotels) that didn't have either a threshold or a sill to keep water within the shower pan area, and I had mop up the tile floor everytime I showered. Couldn't get any rational explanation as to 'why' they build 'em like that, but it may explain why (many) Europeans do not bathe as often as Americans!

re: floor to ceiling mirror - in my opinion, a gimicky attempt to double the apparant 'size' of the bathroom. (and, who wants to look at themselves while in the shower, or while sitting on the pot?) Furthermore, the mirror would be a bear to keep clean, and may pose a safety hazard, too, esp w/ small kids in the house. Ain't hi-tech & trendy style just grand!

As for the photographer & their camera not visable in the image - perhaps they were 'photo-shopped' out of that image before beit was downloaded on here??

re: blocking in one-piece fiberglass & acrylic shower enclosures - there should be sufficient blocking for mounting garb/assit bars & handles, but most do not have them. Absolutely needed for the elderly and the physically challenged!

Enjoy the Inspection Games, and I got a 1200 'cause I just went thru a similar project while recently remodeling a home that should have had blocking in all of those places, but lacked some of them. . .Blocking is cheap, easy, and only the lazy and/or dumb don't do it. . .