Everything you need to know about building a deck

Summer is on its way and we are all excited. But with the warm weather comes more barbecues and more time outdoors, so now is the perfect time to fix up your outdoor entertaining area. And where do we Kiwis always start? With a deck of course. We asked two of our NZCB regional presidents for their best tips for your next deck.

There’s a perfectly good reason why the Kiwi deck is so ubiquitous – we antipodeans love a barbecue almost as much as we love rugby and the beach. Not only that but decks also add value to your home as they increase usable living space. So what do you need to know before you or your builder create your next outdoor entertaining masterpiece?

NZCB Member Dave Gunter of Coastal Designs Ltd in Motueka says it’s important to chat with your builder to come up with the most cost-effective way to construct your new deck.

“They will probably be able to offer you solutions on the way the deck can look and be created to meet your needs,” he says.

“Think about the height above the existing ground – if any part of the new deck is greater in height than 1m, then it will require 1m high handrails to be installed which can majorly increase the construction costs.”

He also suggests you ask your local builder for advice on material selections for your new deck.

“There are pros and cons for every material. Some hard woods bleed stains (which you might not like on driveways), cost of decking vary per metre, and the thickness of the decking can effect movement in sunny areas,” Dave says.

NZCB Member Dave Whitehead, of Lifebuilt Construction Limited in Auckland, has also helpfully sent through a list of questions to consider and get your builder’s advice on.

  • Do you need a permit?
  • What are the ground conditions like?
  • What wood treatment will you require?
  • Will your decking choice last in the environment?
  • Will there be any heavy loads placed on top of the finished deck (ie: spa pool or concrete table)? What does that mean for construction/design?
  • Is the deck in a wet environment (such as around a swimming pool)?
  • Will the deck be oiled?
  • Do you want the fixings to be a feature or subtle?
  • Will the deck require extra bracing?
  • Does the deck require a handrail?

Of course, once your deck has been built, good maintenance is key to ensuring it has a long, happy life. Dave Gunter says the first step is to put some type of stain or clear sealer to help protect the timber, and to keep them clean. “If possible, some form of shade protection will help keep your deck lasting years longer,” he says.

Dave Whitehead says if you’re oiling your deck it is a good idea to have it pre coated/machine coated. “You should also research how often the oil/stain needs to be re-applied. Watershed finish is a great idea as the water runs off the boards,” he says.

While we recommend getting a New Zealand Certified Builder to build your deck, we know some of you won’t be able to resist the temptation to DIY, so here are some friendly builder tips before you begin.

“If you’re going to build your deck, all aspects of the deck design still need to be constructed to comply with NZ Building Code, which you might not understand,” Dave Gunter says. “It’s always better to ask for help than not construct the deck correctly.”

Dave Whitehead points out a few other common pitfalls. “Make sure your fixings are all stainless steel and that you use the manufacturer’s guides for fixings and gap between boards.”

He also says to double-check you’re meeting all the council and Building Code requirements. “If a built-in seat is added, this may push you over on height in regards to council or handrail requirements.”

If you’re not confident building your own deck, you can find a local NZCB builder here. Regardless, here’s to bigger decks and better summers ahead!

Photos supplied by – Abodo

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