We're often asked to come and replace a deck that hasn't been installed properly in the first place. We feel sorry for the homeowners, especially if it's someone who had us around to quote the works initially but then went with a cheaper option. Honestly, we're not offended if you do select another contractor to do your works but we want you to be educated when making the decision. There are so many home handymen out there at the moment, in an unregulated industry who are quite simply ripping people off and performing poor work. Here's a list of things that you should look out for when having your works quoted.
"Are you a qualified Tradesman?"
Joe Wood may have a few years of experience in laying decks, but has he completed 4 years of trade school to know if the deck is being built to the Australian building code standards? Probably not!
"What timber will you be using for the sub-frame?"
This is a big deal! While you may not see it from the surface, the sub-frame is the back-bone for your deck. If it's built from the wrong materials, no matter what decking boards you have chosen, they will warp and they will bow. The sub-frame should always be built from H3 treated exterior pine and it should ALWAYS be concreted in.
This is a deck and sub-frame that we pulled up on a project. Turns out the sub-frame was just laying in the dirt and hadn't even been concreted in! This cost the client extra money that could have been avoided if the job had been completed properly in the first place.
"Will you waterproof the sub-frame"
Again, this is a big deal! After laying the sub-frame, your tradesman should apply a thick coat of either bitumen paint or waterproofing. If this step isn't completed, over time water will sit between the decking boards and slowly rot the sub-frame away. This step also disguises the wood you sometimes see in between the gaps of decking boards.
"How will you be fixing the decking boards to the sub-frame?"
If your tradesman says they will be nailing the boards prior to screwing them in, walk away. A good quality tradesman will be able to affix a board without having to pin it in first. Similarly, if they say they will only be nailing the boards in, ask them to leave. Boards that are nailed in are placed under extra pressure. Over time, either the nails will lift, or the boards will. Decking boards should always be screwed in with a high quality decking screw. We believe the best screws are made by Wurth and at almost $1 each, they would want to be!
"What oil will you be using on the deck?"
If they name a product that is sold at a major hardware store, go back and ask them question 1 again. Decks should be finished with an oil-based product that is not tinted with a paint colour. Our oil of choice is the German-made Osmo oil. 4L of Osmo oil costs about $200 which will cover approximately 48m2 with 2 coats. Bare in mind that this is a very sound investment. Osmo oil will not allow your timber to discolour, warp or rot. It's also great in that you don't have to sand it back in 6 months when it's time to re-oil. Simply wash your deck down, let it dry and away you go.
"Where do you buy your wood from?"
Don't get us wrong, occasionally the big hardware stores get in some good stuff but the majority of the time they are buying it in at such a low price, the manufacturers are giving them the seconds. A good quality tradesman will have a good relationship with a number of local timber yards where they are able to negotiate the best prices. The local timber yards tend to have relationships direct with the wood mills, ensuring that you are receiving the best.
When we installed this fence, the wood had only been milled the day prior. Pretty amazing when you think about it. Auswest Timbers in Welshpool teed this up for us. Note that the end grains have been treated with Osmo Oil so the water beads on top and doesn't penetrate into the wood.
Got any other questions for us? Leave them in the comments below.