Category Archives: Decks

Plain and simple, the only thing that looks like wood — is wood.

Screened porch with stained ACQ pressure-treated wood in Overland Park, KS

Screened porch with stained ACQ pressure-treated wood in Overland Park, KS

When we think deck, we think wood. With all of the talk about composite decks, one may be led to believe that’s the only good option. Wood is still a REALLY good option for a deck. Plain and simple, wood is still a great option. The only thing that looks like wood — is wood.

Last week, we posted a story called “Do you REALLY want a composite deck?” At Archadeck, our job is to counsel you about the options, help you decide what is best for you, and build the absolute best product for you.

Regarding composites, many of our customers hear all of the benefits of composite decking and PVC decking and assume that’s the only thing that will suit their needs. It seems funny to me but many people think Archadeck is a composite decking product. In fact, we are a custom builder and we use every sort of decking material imaginable depending on what our customers want and what makes the most sense for them. We build decks with pressure-treated wood, natural wood such as cedar, composite wood such as TimberTech and Evergrain, PVC and PVC capped boards which TimberTech also has as well as AZEK and Trex, and last but not least – hardwood. Naturally composite woods are gaining in popularity because of the benefits I mentioned in the last post.

There are many pre-conceived notions and misconceptions about woods as well as many familiar memories. When we think of wood decks, inevitably we remember a couple splinters we received from a wooden dock or deck as a child. Or, we may also think of our own current deck or a deck from a past home that was made of natural wood and suffered from splitting or cracking or molding. These are all true. All wood will suffer from various wear, use and aging depending on the type of wood, how the wood is treated, and the amount of direct sun the wood receives. In fact, composites and PVC decking also suffer from various issues but mostly to a lower degree. It’s a tradeoff. With more expense comes more benefits.

Cedar deck

Cedar deck

There are several reasons to build a wood deck

A wooden deck is A LOT LESS EXPENSIVE.

A wooden deck still lasts a long time. Depending on the type of wood you plan to use, your wood deck may last 15 years or even longer if well cared for and maintained. A composite deck or hardwood deck may last 30-50 years although many of us will have moved to a different house in that span of time.

A wooden deck is familiar and comfortable. It’s reminiscent of the deck you had as a kid. That “gray” color that wood naturally fades to is very appealing if you like the natural effect of aging and weathering. The docks we walked on as children and the decks we played on as children were made of natural wood.

With the various pressure treatments of wood, pressure-treated wood suffers from fewer issues than it did in the past.

Kansas City cedar covered deck

Kansas City cedar covered deck

Let me tell you first what hasn’t changed. A natural wood or pressure-treated wood deck will gray out if not stained and sealed on a regular schedule – every 2-3 years or so. Natural wood such as cedar or redwood will still crack, split and splinter but they do have some rot resistance. Pressure-treated wood will also do this but has the added benefit that the treatment prevents rot and termites.

One of the big things to ask yourself if considering a wood deck is how much maintenance do you want to do on your deck. The next question is how long do you want your deck to last. This depends greatly on the amount of sun your deck or structure will receive. Nothing speeds up the process of aging faster than direct sunlight. The more direct sunlight and the hotter the sunlight that hits your deck, the faster the wood will age.

As you can imagine the question of whether to build with wood, composite or PVC is not an easy question. With more expense comes some different features and benefits. Composite boards are more consistent. They don’t have imperfections. Wood has imperfections such as knots but this is also what endears us to wood.

Don’t forget that a wood deck will still last a long time and although far from the only option, is still a really good option.

To discuss your new project and what material might be best for you, give us a call at (913) 851 – 3325 or email kansascity@archadeck.net.

The Skinny On Today’s Railings

When selecting railings for your next outdoor project, you might be surprised that there are a lot more options than you think. The railing industry has exploded in the last few years. There are many choices in colors, materials, width, and required maintenance. But, overall the trend is very quickly turning toward thin metal railings for their aesthetic appeal and because thin railings allow more visibility beyond your deck. Here’s the “skinny” on railings.

Ipe deck with Deckorator tube railing

A few years ago, the next big thing in railing was vinyl railings. Vinyl is used most exclusively in white. Vinyl is inexpensive but the trade-off is it is not very structurally sound. Vinyl is sensitive to scratching, it fades and it usually has to be reinforced on the inside with wood or metal. The bottom line is it’s inexpensive for a reason.

Beautiful Hardwood deck by Archadeck Kansas City

Composite railings are a low-maintenance option but there are also some drawbacks to composite railings. The cost of composite railings can be quite prohibitive. Also, railings made of composite woods are thicker and are square. While the drawbacks of a square rail are not readily apparent, there are more sides to paint on a square rail. There are more sides to clean. You can multiply your efforts in staining, sealing and cleaning by four.

For this and other reasons, metal railing has really hit its stride. As for adding metal railings to your project, most consumers no longer want everything to match. Railings today are increasingly seen in contrasting colors instead of matching colors. Customers now want a railing with character and they want a railing they can see through. Metal railings are more slender than wood or vinyl railings ( typically 50% of the thickness or less). Metal railings combine view, strength, rigidity, durability, beauty and low maintenance all in one.

The most popular railing color over the last few years is black. Regardless of the deck color, with it’s upscale look and low maintenance, black metal railing is a tremendously popular choice.

The two most common types of metal railings are steel and aluminum. These railings are often powder coated. Fortress steel railing is made of steel and is powder coated.  Deckorator also makes metal railings and that’s a product we build with quite a bit.

Timbertech also offers a wonderful rail of reinforced composite, it comes in black and white, and it is more scratch resistant, durable and doesn’t need reinforcement to maintain rigidity. Radiance Rail has been a big seller with Archadeck Kansas City in black, with many happy customers.

Whether you are considering the ever popular metal railings, or a wonderful composite give Archadeck of Kansas City a call today and we can discuss all the possibilities to custom design and build your next deck or outdoor structure.

With composite woods, if you’ve seen one, you haven’t seen them all

Kansas City TimberTech Deck with White Low-Maintenance Composite Railing

Kansas City TimberTech Deck with White Low-Maintenance Composite Railing

Are you considering building a new deck, patio or other outdoor living area in your back yard? If you’ve talked to friends or done some research, you’re likely very familiar with composite woods or you’ve heard a good deal about them. Likely you’ve formed some sort of opinion and likely feel that composite would be ideal for your new project. Like  everything that lasts longer, composite is more expensive. And, for the most part, you get what you pay for.

The composite wood industry is almost 20 years old. Some of the composite companies are actually on their 4th or 5th generation of product cycle. They’ve added new colors, new materials, new styles and new features.

Kansas City Evergrain Composite Spa Deck with Storage Bench

Kansas City Evergrain Composite Spa Deck with Storage Bench

Here are the the primary benefits of using composite woods:

  • Termite warranty
  • Rot warranty
  • Boards will not split
  • Lower maintenance

Previously, the composites were not warrantied against stain and fade. Composites are now just coming on to the market with stain and fade warranties – and long ones too. TimberTech is coming out with a new product called TimberTech Earthwood Evolutions which has a 25-year fade and stain warranty. AZEK and Fiberon are also addressing the fade and stain problems with composites.

Warranty is one big difference you will find among composites. But, the other big differences are price and the composite characteristics. Price will vary for market to market based on a variety of factors. But even composites that look somewhat similar can have very different characteristics. One company’s cedar shade may be very different from another. Another company’s grain pattern or texture may be different than another company’s product.

Kansas City WeatherBest Composite Deck with Painted Treated Wood Pergola with Custom Gate and Lattice

Kansas City WeatherBest Composite Deck with Painted Treated Wood Pergola with Custom Gate and Lattice

So, how do you decide? Everything is a balance. Weight what is important to you as it relates to warranties, required maintenance, price and the aesthetic appeal of the composites you are considering. Then, during the specification and design phase, find an experienced contractor with strong familiarity across many of the composite lines to discuss the pros and cons of the top composites you are considering. A qualified, experienced professional outdoor contractor will be glad to take the time with you to review the choices and considerations when selecting the composite that’s right for you.

I’ve been an outdoor builder in the Kansas City market for over 10 years now and used many of the top composites including EverGrain, TimberTech, AZEK, and Fiberon.

Deck building materials-Lots of choices

One of the facts of life in the current century in the United states is we have multiple choices for everything we do.  We go to the grocery store and are overloaded with 100 types of bread or cereal.  The building industry has seen the same type of explosion of choice over the last 15 years.   What used to be a relatively simple decision on what kind of material to use to build your deck or porch is now much more complex.  Even more complex is the issue of locating a contractor who actually has expertise in a wide variety of materials.  A great many contractors regularly build with only one or two materials, and therefore aren’t  up to date on the specifications and requirements of more specialized materials.  For example when composite decking boards first appeared on the market in the late 1980’s there were only a few brands to choose from, and there was little difference between brands.  At the time all of the products used very similar technology and manufacturing processes.  Today the situation is entirely different, especially with composite decking and railing.  There are over 60 brands on the market, and new ones are being introduced every year.   Many  companies have developed proprietary manufacturing technologies and systems, with multiple different ingredients.    Some companies do a great deal of product development and testing, and some companies do very little.   In the last few years several composite companies have gone bankrupt, and other have been acquired and changed products.   The end result of this is a very confused marketplace for the potential homeowner and consumer.   Today there are substantial differences between brands of composite decking materials.   There are multiple price levels (some 2-3 times the price of others), multiple warranty periods, and major track record and history differences between brands.   Quite a few brands have experienced lawsuits, consumer complaints, and caused a lot of grief to people who purchased them without sufficient research.    There are differences in color fading, stain problems and scratch sensitivity….. in addition some brands are harder to clean than others.  The decking industry, just like any other industry, has its low quality players and its high quality players.   If you are considering a composite deck, do your research and make sure that your contractor has experience and a track record with the material you are interested in.

Steve Folsom

Azek-One of the lowest maintenance choices

I have just returned from a meeting with Azek held at their deck manufacturing facility in Alabama.  Azek decided to form a national Deck Advisory council and selected 13 deck builders from around the country to participate.  Archadeck of Kansas City was selected as one of these builders.   We toured their main manufacturing plant and learned about their quality control, research and development, and production process.   In addition Azek was interested in feedback on consumer wishes and trends in the industry that deck contractors here about from the end-user.   During the course of this meeting I was also lucky enough to brainstorm with some of the very best builders in the country, and to hear about what they are doing in their markets.

Azek is arguably the most successful and fastest growing deck material in the country right now.   Their all plastic deck board has improved scratch, stain, and split resistance in addition to the normal rot and termite protection enjoyed by traditional composite boards.   All manufactured  decking companies invest in some research, development and product testing, however from what we saw Azek  is among the leaders in durability testing and product r & d.

Traditional composites have long been manufactured with wood fiber and plastic ingredients.  Some years ago Azek decided to undertake development of a board that eliminated the wood fiber component, and therefore improved the stain resistance, split resistance, and scratch problems that many wood fiber composite have had.   Several manufacturers are offering 100% plastic boards today, however Azek is the largest and fastest growing.   Although this type of decking is usually slightly higher priced than a traditional wood fiber composite it appears many consumers will think it worth the investment.

Steve Folsom

When is the best time to build a Sunroom?

Four season sunroom in Lee's Summit

We field a lot of questions about building throughout the year.   One of the more common is when is the best time to build my sunroom?   People are juggling all kinds of plans and home maintenance issues these days that may conflict with a major building project if not planned correctly.  Frequently we hear about people who plan to rework landscaping, repaint their house, or install a new roof  at about the same time they plan to build a sunroom or screen porch.    All of these projects can cause issues with construction of an outdoor room or porch addition and need care in planning.  Proper planning can save both money and time in the building process, depending upon the other projects to be  done.  It is very important to consider how each type of project may interact with the room or porch project, no matter if it is a screened porch, sunroom, ro0m addition, or three season room.

In general with some exceptions, all of the above project types should be scheduled after the outdoor room is completed.  In the case of re-roofing,  it may very well save  money  if the roofing job is coordinated with the roofing on the new addition.   Landscaping improvements should always be planned after the addition is completed, to fully allow for design of the new room and to minimize damage to any landscaping while building.

Additionally here in Kansas City we frequently answer questions about the  best time of the year to build.  Many consumers are under the impression that outdoor building can only be done in the summer.  We usually build 11 months out of the year, and there are some advantages to planning your project in the early spring or late fall.   Since the planning and building permit process can take up to 30 days, depending upon the city,  it is always wise to allow 30-60 days prior to the actual desired building time when making decisions.  In addition heavy rains in the warmer months can actually slow down the building process more than cooler weather does.     If you have multiple projects in mind, always consult with your builder about the best sequence for the projects to save time and money.

New decking woods available

For many years now when the consumer wanted to  select a deck building product in wood they had a few simple choices.  In Kansas City these choices usually boiled down to cedar or treated pine(also known as CCA or ACQ).  Although both of these choices have always been readily available in the marketplace, both woods had some disadvantages in use.  In the Kansas City climate with its extremes of temperature and humidity , both products tend to crack or split as they age and are subject to great variations of temperature.  This cracking and splitting happens regardless of stain or waterproofing, and can diminish the appeal of an older deck.  Recently a new product has been introduced in the marketplace based on long-established European wood technology.

This new product is thermally modified wood.   In a nutshell the wood goes through a heating process at the manufacturing plant that optimizes its performance in the field.   In addition it is processed with a factory applied premium sealant that holds up better to weathering.  The thermal modification process is well-proven and has been used in Europe for over 10 years now.   As a result of thermal treatment the wood has much less tendency to crack and split, and is very shrink resistant as well.  No chemical additives are needed to achieve this result.  The thermal treatment process also makes the wood rot and termite resistant.

The product also has some “Green” benefits since it uses no chemical treatment and the original trees grow on tree farms here in the US.  At present the product goes under two names- PureWood and Radiance wood.