Building an outdoor deck

July 16, 2016

If owning your own home is the great Australian dream, then having a great deck out the back must be second on the list.

With our fantastic climate, outdoor living is part of everyday life here. And a deck is the perfect place to entertain friends, cook dinner for the family on the barbeque and to enjoy the sunshine while watching the kids play. What’s not to love?

If your home doesn’t have a deck and you’d like to build one, it can be done. But first you’ll need to clear a space for where you want it to go. Building a deck over top of shrubbery and dead leaves can be a fire hazard, so before you even begin it’s a good idea to hire a skip bin and do some cleaning up. Read on for more considerations that need to be factored in:

Build to compliance

Before you put hammer to nail, first you need to make sure you have complied with Australian standards with your decking plans.

The Timber Framing Code AS 1684 provides important provisions of building practice procedures, which is in line with research findings and current industry practice.

The code outlines important requirements such as; the decking should be nailed or screwed directly to hardwood bearers and joists, and if you are in a bushfire zone the deck spacing should not have wide gaps, instead it should be spaced only 0-5mm instead.

In a bushfire zone, you should also make sure that underneath the deck is enclosed so that fire fuel cannot accumulate beneath the surface.

Your licensed builder should be well aware of the regulations, but if you are planning to build the deck yourself, always check with someone such as a builder, architect or engineer before you begin, as the purpose of the code is to keep you and your family safe.


Next, it is time to choose the material for your deck. There are several options to choose from:

Softwood: Pine wood is a good material to use, as once treated it can be resistant to termites and rot. But it must be treated because if not, it is actually one of the worst kinds of wood to be left exposed to the elements. Pine is highly likely to have insect or fungal attacks when the untreated wood is used outside in all kinds of weather.

Hardwood: Spotted gum or blackbutt are nice varieties of hardwood, but they are more expensive than the softer woods such as pine. A hardwood deck will look fantastic, and will take a little less maintenance than softwood. It will also last longer, and be less likely to scratch or mark.

Aluminium: In a bushfire prone area an aluminium deck can be a good option as it is a non-combustible material. Even outside of fire zones, aluminium has some great benefits such as not rotting, cracking or warping. It is also very low maintenance. You don’t have to spend time oiling or staining the deck like you do with timber, instead simply wash it with soapy water every once in a while. Aluminium decks are made to look like wood, so you get the look you are going for but without the maintenance.

Composite: If you can’t decide which way to go, you can combine the two options and buy composite decking. This is made from recycled plastics as well as timber fibres. You get the great look of timber but without the high maintenance that a wood deck brings. And like aluminium, it is a great option for anyone living in a bushfire prone area.

How to care for your deck

Thanks to the harsh Australian climate, taking care of an outdoor deck is essential. The high temperatures, strong sun and heavy rains all combine to age a deck, as well as make it fade and warp. Take good care of your deck so that it will stay looking fresh and new for as long as possible.

Wash your deck often to get rid of the build up of dirt and grime. Use a pressure hose and some cleaner, or even just some soapy water if you don’t want to use chemicals. As soon as you see any bird droppings, hose them off immediately. The longer they stay on there, the more they will stain and ruin your deck.

Check for loose nails or boards that are starting to lift. Get on top of nailing them back down sooner rather than later so they don’t turn into a big job.

If you have a wooden deck it will need to be oiled or stained regularly, usually at the start of the two main seasons – summer and winter. Oil will freshen the deck up and protect it from the elements. A stain will revive the wood and give weather worn and faded decks a bit of colour.