Several weeks ago, we announced that we at Archadeck Outdoor Living’s corporate office are getting a new outdoor living area. We are thrilled to let you know that after some weather delays, we officially broke ground today!
To recap, up until now, our corporate office has been of void of any outdoor living structures (we know, it’s sad considering what we do). This year, we decided to change that and designed this custom deck and patio combination project. A large pergola will cover part of deck for shade and built in benches and retaining walls will provide places to sit throughout the space.
In preparation for the first phase of building, we had to file for building permits. After the county reviewed our plans and specifications, we were able to grid out the deck and patio on the property. Victor, our Director of Construction and Drafting who is spearheading the build for us, went outside with members of his team and sprayed a pink paint to illustrate where the building will take place. This allows the sub-contractors to envision the space and know exactly where to build. With the paint and permits in place, we were ready to build! Of course, Mother Nature had other plans for us. After a few days of rain, the ground needed to dry out a bit before we started digging. And finally today we were ready!
The first phase of the build is the patio and footings for the deck. This morning, bright and early, bulldozers started digging into our lawn to grade the area. Grading is the process of leveling out the ground. For us, the land that we are building the patio is uneven, sloping down to the road. The bulldozer cuts out the grass and dirt to level the area so that when the patio is built is it sturdy and level. It has been pretty interesting to see the difference in just a day, these guys are fast! Grading is also key for the drainage of the patio. Uneven surfaces hold water and puddle instead of properly draining and may cause future problems.
The footings for the structure will also be dug this week. Footings are the load bearing parts of an outdoor living structure. Before we start building the deck portion of the project, a county inspector will come out and test the ground and evaluate our footings. When they are all given the green light, we will be ready for to start the deck!
Everyone here is more than excited for an outdoor space at the office. On a beautiful day like today, it would be wonderful to have a nice spot to sit and hold a quick meeting while enjoying the sunshine. Our goal in designing the space was to create a combination project that not only features some our most commonly built structures, but also to create a space that is usable. By including the outdoor fireplace and outdoor kitchen, we are ensuring that it is used. The other offices that are part of the building are just as excited to have a space to enjoy the outdoors as well!
The North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA) declared May as Deck Safety Month back in 2006. May is the month that many homeowners start to spend extended time outside on their decks as the weather turns nicer. Unfortunately, a lot of homeowners don’t have their deck’s safety evaluated properly. Just because it is standing, doesn’t mean that it is safe!
According to NADRA, there are over 40 million decks in the United States that are over 20 years old. This is a scary idea for deck builders like us at Archadeck. Building and code requirements have changed drastically in the last 20 years. Those decks that were built 20 years ago most likely would not be considered safe or up to code by today’s standards.
At Archadeck, we suggest having any deck over 7 years old checked for safety. A professional deck builder can come out to home and check all the components of your existing structure. From there, you should get a list of any issues and how they can be addressed. When we do our deck safety inspections, for example, we often find problems with the deck that can be fixed quickly to extend the life of the structure. There are times, however, that we find that it is best to just replace the deck entirely to ensure that those enjoying it are safe and secure.
So what are deck inspectors looking for when they evaluate your deck? At Archadeck, we use the BE SAFER acronym to explain what we are looking at:
Boards – While most wood decking will show cracks over time, the overall condition of the boards need to be considered.
Every Connection – Hardware is key when considering deck safety. Every connection and fastener should be looked at to ensure safety and stability.
Structure – What is the condition of the posts, beams and joists that make up the skeleton of the deck? Is there any visible sagging?
Attachment – It’s imperative to check how the deck was attached to the house as that is where most deck failures occur.
Foundation and Footings – This part of the deck supports the weight of the structure and those who enjoy it. Foundations and footings need to be checked for sinking, sagging and separation from beams.
Exits – Are all of the exits from the deck, like stairs and ramps, in good condition?
Rails – Check that all parts of the railing system, posts, pickets and balusters, are sturdy, properly built and the correct height.
Before you host a barbecue with twenty friends, make sure that you have a deck safety inspection, especially if your deck is more than 7 years old. It will give you the peace of mind that you need to truly enjoy the spring and summer months. Call your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office to set up an inspection at your home.
Over the past month I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and looking at the Archadeck Dream Backyard Makeover submissions and themes have started to emerge. One that seems to be recurring is homeowners being left high and dry by their deck contractors.
Several entries have shown (including one of our February finalists) decks that are half or barely finished. The descriptions reference a contractor that they found out wasn’t licensed and the building they did do wasn’t to code. It’s no wonder why so many homeowners are hesitant to invite contractors to do projects on their home.
Deck construction is a serious topic that can lead to personal injury or damage to the home when done incorrectly. To ensure that the person you hire is going to treat your property as if it were they own, make sure that you ask all of your candidates these questions:
What’s your contractor license number? Many homeowners ask prospective contractors if they are licensed, but reading the contest entries has made me realize that sometimes people lie. You should be able to get the contractor license number from the people you are thinking of working with. That way, if something happens, you have it on file.
How are you insured? A good contractor has the appropriate insurance to protect you against damage that is done to or on your property. If something happens, it shouldn’t have to go through your homeowner’s insurance.
Will you pull the local building permits and have them on file? Any structures built on your property need to be built to the local code. Permits must be pulled and inspections must be made (sometimes a few times during the building phase). A contractor who is good at patio and deck construction will do this for you, but you should have access to permit numbers if needed.
What warranties do you have? No one wants to invest is a large home improvement project just to have it break or fail. It’s even worse when there is nothing you can do about it. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we pride ourselves one having 2 guarantees to protect our clients. Additionally, if you have an issue with the material, we will work with you to get in touch with the manufacturers to look at their warranties.
Could I have some references? It’s understandable that homeowners are careful about who they invite into their home. Every deck contractor should have a list of clients that you can reach out to and ask questions.
Asking these questions will help you to choose a deck construction provider that you know you can trust. If you have questions regarding our process, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.
At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our motto is “better building by design.” We take great pride in the fact that each and every one of our outdoor living projects is different and custom designed to fit the homeowner’s needs, tastes and budget. We have a needs assessment that guides our designers as they create the perfect space for their clients. Our deck builder in Hawkinsville, GA recently created an outdoor living space using an old feature of the property as his inspiration.
Stephen Denton, the owner of Archadeck of Central Georgia, was asked by his clients to create a deck design around an old well that the home had. The house was built in the 1800s and had some beautiful charm as a result of its age. The old well had been filled in and works as a flowerbed, but the homeowners did not want to get rid of it due to the history behind it. Instead, they wanted a unique outdoor living space that mirrored its shape, thus the curved deck was born.
The curved edges of the deck enhance the curve of the well that sits in the center of the deck. Rounded decks, however, don’t work on certain properties due to the landscape. In general, decks must having railings for code and safety issues (no one wants an injury), but curved railings are expensive. They have to be specially made because you can’t bend wood or rail caps to follow the unique curve. Luckily this project didn’t need to have railings. The evenness of the yard allowed Stephen to build a low-to-grade deck which means the structure is low to the ground. If the deck is less than 30 inches off the ground, code says that the structure doesn’t need railings, so the sides of this project were left open. The homeowners are thrilled that the view from their deck isn’t blocked by railings and is completely open to the backyard (not to mention it saved them money). Railings were added to the straight edges of the deck and stairs so visitors have something to hold on to while traveling around some parts of the space. The railings on the side also give the deck added definition.
When considering what the deck in Hawkinsville should be made of, the homeowners were clear: they wanted low maintenance. Stephen used TimberTech composite decking in a deep walnut color so his clients can easily keep the space looking like new and don’t have to worry about rot, mildew or bugs as the boards age. Archadeck of Central Georgia was able to build the deck without breaks in the boards too. No two boards are right next to each other on the ends, creating a clean finished look.
The last part of the deck design was the trellis. Not only can the homeowners use it as a place to hang or grow vegetation, but they also added an outdoor curtain that they can open and close for added privacy.
I love projects like these where a request to keep and highlight a special feature, like this well, drove the deck design. It’s a unique project that the homeowners love. It’s functional, yet charming.
Our thoughts and prayers are with those that are recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our passion is improving outdoor living spaces for families to enjoy and unfortunately strong storms and hurricanes like Sandy can bring havoc on such areas of the property.
As the weeks and months of recovery beginning, we wanted to offer guidance to those that were impacted regarding their outdoor living areas. High winds and rains can cause damage to decks, porches, patios, etc. and it’s important to look for that damage and have it repaired by a deck professional.
Here are some things to look for:
- Exposed or washed out footings/foundations. Especially in areas where flooding occurred, it’s important to check and see if you can see the foundations of your deck or if the structure seems to have sunk. This is one of the most important safety components of your deck, so if you are worried about the structure, call your local deck builder to come and take a look.
- Erosion under your deck or on your patio. The ground underneath a deck helps support the foundation of it. When the ground is washed away either by high winds or rain like many areas experienced due to Sandy, it weakens the structure. For patios, the pavers are locked in by compacted dirt and sand. Under harsh conditions some of the sand may be swept away, leaving the pavers loose and unsafe to walk on.
- High winds may weaken decks, especially older decks. If any deck boards, railings or steps are loose and shaky, it’s important to have a professional come and look at the structural integrity of the project.
- For structures that are attached to the house, check for any water infiltration at the place of attachment. For many homeowners that will be in the crawl space or basement of their home. If there is water dripping, it can cause damage to the structure of not only your outdoor living space, but your home.
Mother Nature can cause safety issues when it comes to outdoor living spaces. After big storms like Sandy, you should have an outdoor living contractor come and inspect your spaces. At Archadeck, we offer a deck safety inspection where we check all parts of your structure and provide recommendations as what you may need to do now and what you can plan for in the future.
I love the Fourth of July. The barbecues with family and friends, fireworks and the red, white and blue always makes me smile. But unfortunately, for one family, an annual holiday party turned scary when their deck collapsed on Tuesday night before the Fourth.
Earlier this week, a family was having party on their deck in Littleton, CO when the structure broke away from the home at about 9:30pm. Those people who were on the deck at the time of the failure where dropped more than 10 feet to ground level. Luckily for everyone, no one was too seriously injured, but four people were sent to the hospital with bruises and broken bones (they were later released).
This probably wasn’t the holiday party the homeowners had hoped for. Upon looking at the structure, it became apparent that the deck was not up to current building code, resulting in the deck failure. As we discussed during Deck Safety month in May, when a deck is attached to the side of the home, it is strategically bolted to the structure of the home using what is called a ledger board. Instead of bolts, this deck in Littleton was attached using nails.
Nails are inadequate when it comes to providing the safety a deck connection needs. According to Structure Tech Home Inspections, nailed connections are probably the most common cause of deck collapses because they can easily pull out of ledger boards when significant pressure is placed on it.
The ledger board of a deck can usually be seen when accessing the deck from below. If you take a look at your deck from below and only see nails on the board (as opposed to bolts), make sure to call your local deck builder or contractor. Depending on the size of the structure and access to the ledger board, this can be easily fixed.
A few years ago there was a big story here in Richmond about a deck that had collapsed during a weekend barbecue. A group of friends had gotten together to cook out when the deck detached from the side of the house and collapsed. Several people were injured and unfortunately, this is a common occurrence.
In celebration of May’s National Deck Safety month, we want to discuss one of the key components to making a deck safe: the connection to the house. When designing and building a deck for a client, the deck builder has to decide whether to build a free-standing deck or a deck that’s attached to the house via a ledger board. Some homes, such a brick, stone and stucco veneer homes, cannot have attached decks due to code or other site conditions.
For those decks that are attached to the house, a ledger board (band that supports one end of the deck joists) is secured to the house band (horizontal band that’s a part of the house structure). This connection is key to the safety of deck. If it fails, the deck has the possibility of collapsing. As building codes and requirements have changed in the last few years regarding connection, it’s important to have a trained professional come out and inspect your ledger connection. Here are a few things they should be looking for or at:
Flashing – Also known as drip edge, flashing is a material that stops moisture from entering the home. Deck flashing is placed between the house band and the ledger board. An inspector would check to make sure that the flashing is still in place and intact to prevent rot and decay.
Fastener Type and Spacing – Simple nails cannot hold the weight of deck and shouldn’t be used to fasten the ledger board to the house band. ½ inch lag screws or through bolts with washers need to be place 2” from the bottom or top of the ledger and with 1’ of the end. Additionally, they need to be staggered strategically along the horizontal ledger.
Corrosion – With metal fasteners being the keep component to holding your deck together, it’s important to check that all of the pieces are in good working condition. Corrosion can occur over time weakening the system making it more susceptible to breakage or failure.
Rot – Rot is most common at the house band (especially if it isn’t properly flashed), but can also occur along the ledger board. Rot and decay, if not properly inspected and fix can lead to structural decay within your home and ledger failure, causing your deck to collapse.
If you have a deck that is over 7 years old or in questionable condition, we at Archadeck suggest having a trained deck professional come out and inspect the safety of your deck. They will be able to tell you what you need to repair now and what you will need to repair in the coming years. For more information, please visit us at Archadeck.com or contact your local Archadeck office.
The time for barbecues, outdoor games and deck sitting is almost here. The grass is turning greener and the flowers are starting to bloom. Just like your house, it’s important to prepare your outdoor living spaces with some spring cleaning and upkeep so you can enjoy it all season long without worry or work. Here are a few tips:
Sweep and hose off (or power wash if necessary) your outdoor living structures. Leaves, dirt and other grime can build up on your structures during the cooler months. Wash all of it away and start fresh each spring.
- Check for safety. If you have an older deck (5+ years), have a professional come out and conduct a deck safety inspection as the winter elements can weaken outdoor living structures. The inspector should check all aspects of the deck including the boards, railings, stairs, etc and give you recommendations on if or when you may need to take action. It will give you piece of mind knowing that your deck is safe when you have guests at your next barbeque.
- Scrub your outdoor furniture and rugs. No matter where you store your patio furniture, cushions or rugs, they will need some cleaning, but be careful to clean with the proper solution. Wood furniture will require a different cleaner than aluminum or plastic furniture. Read the directions on the bottle to make sure you aren’t going to harm your furniture or outdoor fabrics.
Take notice of your landscaping. Are there bushes or trees that have grown into your outdoor living spaces and need to be trimmed? Are there flowerbeds lining your structures that need to be tidied up or freshly mulched? If you do need to do some work, watch out for flowers that may bloom in the spring. For instance, we have azaleas alongside our deck that need to be trimmed, but I’m holding off until the blooms are gone and before they get their buds for next year. Here’s a great guide on when to prune different types of plants.
- Check your outdoor lighting. Whether you have coach, deck, landscape or overhead lighting, make sure that everything is working properly. Do you need to have any bulbs replaced? Is anything obstructing the light spread?
- Get the grill ready. Grills often need a good cleaning or tune up after a long season without use. Make sure everything is working properly before you are ready to throw on the burgers and hot dogs.
- Get rid of any standing water. Unfortunately the warm weather has brought out the mosquitoes earlier this season than usual and they breed in standing water. Tossing over object like dog dishes, kids’ toys and loose tarps will cut down on the breeding sites in your yard (if you have a bad mosquito problem, check out our sister company Mosquito Squad).
- Enjoy. By spending some time checking and cleaning your outdoor living space you are ready to sit back and enjoy your space throughout the spring and summer months.
With all the warm weather we’ve been having on the East Coast, more and more people are opening their doors and stepping outside. Spring is less than a week away and it’s now time to prepare your outdoor living spaces for the coming months, including, you guessed it, cleaning.
For those who have wood decks, renting a power washer to clean your deck can make a huge difference, but when done incorrectly, it can also result in unwanted damage. We’ve seen some homeowners who had to replace decking boards after trying to power wash their space because they weren’t 100% sure on how to use the machine.
The key word is “power.” It’s called power washing for a reason. That thing is strong! Power washers (or similar machines) are used to clean grimy streets and etch bricks so it’s not surprising that it can do a number on your deck if done incorrectly. Before using the machine on your deck, take it to an area where you can test it and become familiar with the pressure. A driveway, sidewalk or street will work.
The pressure. On most residential projects, you will rarely need a machine that is more than 1500 pounds per square inch. Even that setting may be too much and cause some damage to both wood and composite decking. The only way to tell if the setting is too high is to watch as you clean. If you see more than dirt coming off your deck, turn the setting down.
The nozzle. The nozzle of the pressure washer can be adjusted to different angles so it can be used for multiple purposes. For the standard deck, a 40 to 60 degree fan nozzle setting is best as it spreads out the power over a greater area as opposed to a zero degree setting that would blast your deck too strongly and will damage boards.
Also, it is important to be careful and not stand too closely to the area you are cleaning. You should be able to stand comfortably while spraying the area 3-4 feet in front of you. If you are too close to the surface being power washed, you can cause unnecessary damage to both your deck and yourself. The water can bounce back at you if you are too close.
Here is a great guide from the Family Handyman on how to use a pressure washer efficiently, effectively and safely.
If you have any questions on care or replacement of decks, please contact your local Archadeck office.