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The Inside Outside Guys ~ Decks – Not a DIY Project Anymore

From The Detroit News | By Ken Calverley and Chuck Breidenstein

DETROIT, February 16, 2023 ~ Question. What common renovation to an existing home can provide a near 70% return on investment, ROI, while providing outdoor space to relax and entertain?

If you answered “decks,” you are correct.

While the National Association of Home Builders, NAHB, provides data to show that new homes throughout the country are not as likely to incorporate a deck, the data also supports the reality that existing homes are seeing a trend in not only adding and improving decks, but in building upscale outdoor spaces with higher end amenities.

This is the time of year the Inside Outside Guys always suggest homeowners conduct an informal “inspection” of their decks. Primary weak spots typically include the connection of the deck frame to the house and railing anchorages while secondary considerations include fastener corrosion and decay and wood rot of structural posts at and just below grade.


February 19, 2023 ~ Chuck “The Inside Guy” Breidenstein and Ken “The Outside Guy” Calverly offer the knowledge and resources you need to make the home of your dreams a reality. Catch them every Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon on 760 WJR.

(CONTINUED) Since many decks were originally constructed as DIY projects, we also see many issues with safety including stair details, cantilevers, and undersized structural timbers.

Your inspection should include looking for any signs of rot or decay. Use an icepick type probe to help you discover punky, rotting wood. Since the majority of wood deck structures are made from treated southern yellow pine, it is also suggested owners look at fastener decay because the wood treatment process includes use of chemicals that are corrosive to standard metal. Look for bowed or split wood supports and make certain there is no movement of the structure when adults are moving about on it.

It is common to see rot at the joint where deck meets home due to improper flashing with metals and synthetic rubber materials. This is a typical point of failure in decks especially when combined with exaggerated deck floor cantilevers and the subsequent collapses often cause serious injury.

Railing post anchorage is another issue to examine as many of these are not properly secured to the frame leading to failure of the rails when people lean on them. Injuries from deck collapse or failure need not be a concern for owners who use professional companies that regularly design, specify and construct decks. There are, quite literally, hundreds of potential variables in materials and in how they are used and secured.

Posts placed into the ground should extend below the seasonal frost line and rest on secure footing. Post, beam, and joist material should be slightly oversized and treated beyond “ground contact” minimums. Fasteners should be properly specified and installed to prevent reaction with treatment chemicals and railing support posts should be anchored to the deck frame as per manufacturer specification. Choices for railings alone range from various types of wood to stainless steel cable or rods or even glass, powder-coated aluminum, wrought iron and composite materials.

The deck surface is always a concern. About 75% of new decks use a pressure treated lumber, PTL, as the walking surface, usually a five-quarter by 6-inch board. Owners quickly find that any type of wood decking whether PTL, Western Red Cedar, Redwood, or a tropical hardwood such as IPE, will fade to a grey shade over time if not maintained. Woods can also split, cup and check. Perhaps the best value in deck surfacing materials is in the use of composites like Azek, Trex, TimberTech and others. The core of these materials is typically a combination of recycled plastics and wood, and the weathering surface is very durable and colorfast.

These products have come a long way and typically include multi-decade warranty and no maintenance other than an annual cleaning with a gentle soap and water scrub. They are dimensionally stable and offer realistic wood grain patterns, many color choices and even fastening options. Professional companies like Decks Unlimited in Flat Rock and Canton can offer custom in-lays and picture framing options to create a walking surface that mimics art.

Such companies will also be in compliance with safety codes and obtain all necessary permits. Jeff Weidner, owner of Decks Unlimited, says that use of integrated lighting can not only add a measure of ambiance, but can enhance user safety with features like the LED riser lights they offer for stairs.

Weidner also suggests that good design can actually save owners dollars. While a DIYer will often over-build the space to accommodate large crowds the deck will never witness, good design maximizes space and materials. Weidner also tells us that designs can include everything from rectangular lookouts to curved, multi-level spaces that blend into water features, privacy fences, outdoor kitchens, fire tables and fire-pits. According to Remodeler Magazine’s Cost-To-Value survey, decks can offer a potential ROI of almost 70%. Keep in mind that good design, specification and construction are critical to a successful deck project.

Decks are an extension of your home. Do not let an amateur’s work risk this space. Consult and use a professional like those you’ll find at InsideOutsideGuys.com.


For housing advice and more, listen to “The Inside Outside Guys” every Saturday and Sunday on 760 WJR from 10 a.m. to noon, or contact them at InsideOutsideGuys.com.