How do you build a deck or patio structure to last? There are many things you can do to extend the life of exterior projects by doing a few extras that we have learned through experience. Most of these are general concepts that apply to whatever you want to build, be it a deck, patio cover or fence.

  • First, build as much of the structure as is aesthetically possible of pressure treated wood.
  • Treat all the cut ends with a sealer, or whatever the other sides are treated with.
  • When building a deck of redwood, water seal all six sides of each piece of wood with a quality wood sealer before it is installed.

On top of joists and under the decking boards, flashing can be applied to keep moisture away from this connection. Major beams can be flashed with metal, rolled roofing strips or asphalt emulsion.

If building a painted structure, such as a patio cover, seal the major connections with a wood preservative and then prime all six sides of each piece of lumber before it is installed with an oil based primer, and then paint the whole structure. Some pieces will additionally be painted on all six sides before they are installed. You do not want a raw wood to raw wood connection, as dry rot can get started in a very short time.

Footings are always raised above the ground and are sloped so that soil, and thus moisture does not meet the wood.

Caulking is done on the top of a connection, but not on the bottom, so water does not collect and can run out if it eventually does get in.

Many contractors don’t do these things because it is time consuming, messy or they just don’t know any better. The usual practice is to build the structure and then prime and paint and try to caulk all the connections. The finished product may look the same, however in years to come the investment of time to build it right will pay off many times over.

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