Building things: A deck

Every dad needs to build a deck. I have children, so I started to build a deck. The other, secondary reason was that a useless flower bed was eating a lot of space from out back yard, and a deck would extend nicely over it. I researched some materials, and decided to splurge on some dark grey LunaWood LunaComp composite. I made a list of pros and cons:

Pro composite:

  • Maintenance free – just wash yearly
  • Nicer looking finish
  • No splinters
  • No deforming
  • Lasts longer than wood
  • Premium look and feel

Con composite:

  • More expensive
  • Replacing a board means disassembling the whole deck
  • Never built with this stuff before

The list speaks for itself, so I took a few quotes and went with the cheapest one. They delivered a pallet of wood and composite on my parking spot, which I hauled next to our back yard. The frame was built from 2×6’s to prevent wobbling. The distance between the joists was 40cm as per manufacturer’s guidance for the LunaComp composite, where regular decking could be built with 60cm gaps between joists.

The frame was built during a sunny Saturday:

Starting out in the morning.

First joists in place. Looking good. I was a bit worried about ground clearance, but a laser lever provided enough confidence to go forward with the build. The flowerbed has been gutted and the stone wall next to it torn down, the stones used to hold filter fabric in place.

Progress.
Nothing better than getting a little drunk, listening to podcasts and building a deck.
Support beams in place, still lacking extra vertical supports.

It got too dark to drill, so I decided that this is enough for one day. The end beam is supported by M8 bolts attached directly to the steel fenceposts which I tapped & threaded so that I can screw them directly into it. Some stone slabs (with roofing tarpaper to stop capillary moisture) and plastic adjustable deck supports were used for main support.

I added extra wooden supports from the scraps I had left over all over the deck to give it that little extra support it might need. It has zero wobble. I hate a deck that feels like you’re trying to chill out on a trampoline.

I built the supporting structure alone, so some of the measuring and drilling got a bit complicated. All the joists aren’t exactly straight, and there’s a dip that’s just barely there at the right side next to the small tree that’s enough to gather some rainwater. I’m going to have to fix that whenever I need to take the composite boards off for some reason.

Next day it was time to slap on the composite boards. They were very easy to work with, as they are hollow and easy to cut with a hand saw. No splintering, and cutting through it is fast. The first and last row are attached by screwing from top down, but the next row is attached with plastic clips that leave all the attachment fixtures under the boards. This is a floating installation, which allows the boards to expand and subtract with ambient temperature.

Extra vertical supports and enough diagonal supports to hold a fat man grilling beef.

Adding the composite boards was fast and straightforward – measure, cut, slap in place, plonk with a rubber mallet and screw in the next line of attaching clips.

Getting board.

The planks lighten a bit with UV exposure, and they came off the lumber yard with varying degrees of shade. This has evened out nicely, but it looks a bit rough when working with them:

For this part I had help, which helped.

Deck getting finished:

Getting there.

After installing all the planks, it was time to drag all our mismatched patio furniture on the deck until we can get something nicer.

Done!

Turned out great! I absolutely adore the material. I made a little step for the Sauna door, too. It’s missing the black plastic end-caps in this photo, but it’s a good cross-section of the material used:

If I have the choice, I’m never building a wooden deck again, the composite is clearly superior and the price difference is well compensated with the longevity; the manufacturer promises it would last twice as long as a wooden deck.

I guess we’ll see.

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