Summer is here, making this the best time of the year to spend long evenings or relaxing afternoons on your deck. Or perhaps you prefer using your deck for BBQs and family gatherings? No matter the occasion, having a deck simply transforms a home.
But what makes a deck a great deck? Space and construction are important, of course. Deck construction is about more than stability and maximizing the area you can use. Choosing sustainable materials, construction, and maintenance methods is equally important. In this article, we take a deep dive into what it takes to create and look after a sustainable deck.
Importance of Sustainability in Deck Construction
Decks are growing in popularity across the United States. In 2021, 50,000 new single-family homes were built with decks according to Statista. In 2012, contractors only built 26,000 single-family homes with decks, so it’s safe to say that decks are enjoying a revival.
Just how much of a comeback decks are making becomes even clearer when we look at recently published research and market forecasts on composite decking. Experts believe that this section of the decking market is set for a growth period between 2023 and 2027 that will see the sector experience a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of just over 14%.
This level of growth requires extensive resources when it comes to building materials. Choosing sustainable building materials is essential to protect valuable natural resources such as wood and water. As more people are becoming aware of the necessity to manage resources wisely, sustainability is growing in importance. Of course, homeowners and home builders want their decks to be beautiful and functional, but environmental considerations are becoming just as important.
Choosing Eco-Friendly Deck Designs
Every eco-friendly deck starts with a decision to create a space that has the least possible impact on its surroundings. Arguably, not building a deck would have the least impact, but it’s simply not practical.
Rather than setting unattainable standards, start by choosing a location that utilizes the assets of your backyard and any existing buildings. Look for places that provide natural shade from trees or existing buildings. Otherwise, a sustainable pergola kit like the one from Hanso Home, which allows you to get replacement parts, makes a low-impact option. This will reduce the need for elaborate roofing or sun protection arrangements. If you live in an area that is exposed to high winds, choose a place that is already protected from some of their effects.
Talk to your contractor about choosing low-impact building methods. Deck construction doesn’t necessarily require excessive digging and concrete posts. Helical piles can offer similar stability.
Selecting Sustainable Decking Materials
Next is the selection of sustainable decking materials. Traditionally, most decks have been built from wood. If it has to be wood, look for certification labels such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Sustainable Forestry Initiative (SFI) to select eco-friendly options. You can also choose reclaimed wood. In any case, ask about the source of your materials and their sustainability status.
Alternatively, consider eco-friendly options such as composite decking. They may not be top of your mind, but contractors now have access to a range of innovative materials that help you make a difference with your deck.
Take Trex composite decking, for example. This material combines recycled plastic and wood fiber. Not only does this help you achieve a classic deck look, but it also promotes more efficient use of natural resources. The plastic component gives this decking material a few additional advantages, including a long lifespan, high strength, and lower maintenance compared to other materials.
Energy-Efficient Deck Lighting
Enjoying warm summer nights outside is one of the biggest benefits of having a deck attached to your home. While it may be romantic to enjoy a starry night sky from time to time, hosting family gatherings or even an intimate dinner on your deck requires appropriate lighting.
Again, opting for sustainable lighting starts at the design stage. Look for energy-efficient options or solar lighting. Choosing these alternatives doesn’t mean limiting your choices of lighting design, but it will make a difference to the environment and help you manage your energy bills.
Water Management and Conservation
Water is one of our planet’s most precious resources, and climate change has led to unprecedented droughts and water shortages. It’s now more important than ever before to conserve natural water sources, such as ponds, and adjust your deck design accordingly.
If you’re planning on having a water feature as part of your deck, talk to your contractor about utilizing rainwater for this feature and turning it into a water source for local birds and other wildlife.
Sustainable Deck Maintenance
Our quest for sustainability in deck building doesn’t end when construction finishes. Think about it – not maintaining your deck properly leads to major repairs which use up new resources. Looking after your sustainable deck instead saves on repair costs and allows you to enjoy your deck for longer.
So, what does sustainable deck maintenance involve? Looking after your deck starts with protecting the building material you chose. Natural materials like wood tend to need protection from the elements, especially if you live in an area that is prone to strong sun in the summer and freezing temperatures in winter. Talk to your builder about appropriate maintenance.
Modern Materials – Less Maintenance
Modern sustainable decking materials require comparatively less maintenance. They have been manufactured with protection from the elements in mind. Keeping them looking sharp requires little more than regular cleaning.
In fact, cleaning your deck should be part of your house cleaning routine. Even if you’re not using the area for a while, we recommend sweeping your deck regularly. This keeps it free from dust, dirt, leaves, and fallen tree branches. None of those may damage your deck immediately, but having a layer of dirt on your deck allows the materials underneath to deteriorate or become discolored and unsightly.
If you need to use cleaning chemicals, opt for sustainable detergents and cleaning agents. Last, but not least, reach for a pressure washer before opting for chemicals. Sometimes, pressure is all that’s needed to restore the beauty of your deck.
Sustainable design and construction is becoming the norm for modern decks. Homeowners can combine stunning looks with a commitment to sustainability by choosing composite materials, adding solar lights, and using rainwater to maintain decorative features and plants.