Deck design and construction in Seattle

In Seattle, we love our cedar decks. Deck construction is especially popular because the wood looks so beautiful next to all of our greenery. But maintaining a deck? Well…that’s not always so “beautiful”. In this blog we discuss cedar decks and composite decks, and a few things you might want to know about each.

Environmental Construction, Inc. specializes in quality deck design and construction. Many of our clients in Seattle and surrounding areas request decks made from composite material, but the most popular wood used for decks and in landscape construction projects is still cedar.

Cedar is preferred for fences, decks, benches, roofing shingles and other outdoor structures because it is a lightweight, soft wood that contains special oils which allow it withstand our Seattle weather conditions and pests. This oil in cedar is the reason a cedar plank will last in outdoor construction projects without extensive treatment. It can be left unstained and, although it will turn grey, the oil in cedar helps resist insect and fungal damage.

Next time you are near your fire pit and happen to have a cedar twig on hand, toss it into the fire. You will notice the twig will sputter and flare. This is because of the oils in the leaves and wood. Compare this to a maple twig of the same size. That maple twig will burn but it won’t sputter or flare. It acts much like other woods. The difference is in the contents of oils found primarily in cedar.

Not all cedars are created equal

You may be interested to know, the roofing industry is having a few problems because cedar shakes have declined in quality over the last few decades. Previously, old growth cedar was used, but now old-growth cedar is becoming scarce and more expensive. Cedar shakes these days commonly have a considerably lower amount of oils than they used to, and could last as few as 8 years; whereas, they had lasted 20 years or more. The roofing industry is moving to stone (again), rubber, metal, ceramic, and other materials.

Age isn’t the only factor in cedar that should be considered. Red Cedar is a commonly available. Other cedars may be available but vary in cost and amount of oils. The “incense” cedars are terrific when placed in a spa but are probably not cost-effective choices for outdoor construction.

Note: Beware of breathing the fumes when cutting cedar as they may be toxic, over time.

Care for your cedar deck

In our experience with landscape construction and wood products, one of the most common concerns of homeowners is how to effectively care for the wood. Wood stain will enhance the color and longevity of cedar, but it can also add a considerable amount of maintenance.

Seattle area homeowners complain about stain peeling and chipping even after proper application. Having to strip, sand, and re-stain a deck each year is hard work and not pleasant. With the right product, generally a deck may need a touch-up of stain every three years or so. Environmental Construction, Inc. builds quality wood decks, pergolas, arbors, and outdoor kitchen features, then we take the time to give advice about how to successfully care for your investment.

One recommendation we often give is to choose an oil-based stain that will penetrate the wood and your cedar landscape construction project. This will last considerably longer. It is important to talk to a reputable water proofing supplier (paint store salesman) when purchasing your stain for cedar wood as not all are created equal. Some products on the market are not as effective as others in our Seattle climate.

Another factor to consider for any wood building project is that in order to increase longevity the wood should be allowed to dry and kept away from ground contact. Months of wet wood can increase the chance of rotting and infestation of ants or termites (a constant battle in our Seattle climate.) If you are using wood for a landscape construction project that requires ground-contact, we suggest treated woods such as pressure treated woods or timbers. Over the years we have stopped using railroad ties in the garden as the creosote may leach into the soil and is not good for our earth. Read our blog about wood used in gardening and landscaping or our web page about wood used in deck design and outdoor construction.

Composite versus cedar decks

Some Seattle homeowners are now requesting “plastic” wood, such as Trex brand; this is a man-made composite “lumber” that is much more durable than even the best cedar. The cost may be slightly more expensive but given that it does not need staining, requires less maintenance and is more durable, composite woods are an excellent alternative.

Here are some comments we have heard about composite decks versus cedar decks:

  • Composite decking has a tendency to fade over time
  • They tend to show foot prints. If you have a dog and are concerned about paw prints, this is a factor you may want to consider.
  • Grease spots do not clean up easily. For those of you who plan to use the deck for grilling, this may be helpful information.

Whichever product you choose, we are here to help design and install a deck, or other wood landscape feature, you will use and enjoy for years.

Category: Landscape Construction

Environmental Construction, Inc.

It's not simply about designing and building beautiful garden spaces, it's about providing a landscape oasis where you can relax from the daily grind and recharge. Let us create an outdoor space that will enhance your home and quality of life.

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