The deck is in!

The deck is in! Work on the house itself hasn’t started up again yet, but Harry and his crew were free and I was excited to get this checked off early.

Western red cedar deck
Western red cedar deck Western red cedar deck

My deck is 17×19 feet, and is accessed from a door right off of the living room. Several people advised me that building too many (inevitably underutilized) decks is a common homebuilder mistake, so I decided to build one big (big-ish?) deck that would be well-integrated with the main living area.

There’s a lot to talk about when it comes to decks, but the center of attention is always the decking itself. For my deck I went with western red cedar. Cedar is stable, sustainable, and widely available. The acids in cedar make it resistant to bugs and rot (though this does mean that expensive stainless steel screws should be used to fasten the decking; see last photo). In Anchorage’s cool, low-precip climate, cedar should last decades if cared for. But best of all… cedar is just stinkin’ beautiful.

Western red cedar deck
Western red cedar deck Western red cedar deck

So why didn’t I use a composite decking, like Trex? Composite decking boards are very durable, consistent, and increasingly affordable. Their popularity is well-deserved. But in my case I didn’t feel that they always offered clear advantages. For example, some popular composite decking has lower fire ratings than solid woods because of the flammable plastics and wood pulp that it’s made out of.

One of my goals with my project is to avoid “ersatz” materials (materials that mimic some other “real” material). I respect the decision to use composite decking, but personally I’m not crazy about the fake woodgrain and can’t shake the feeling of walking on plastic.

If cost were no object, I would have strongly considered aluminum decking. In many ways, aluminum is the holy grail of decking material: it’s attractive, fireproof, and will basically last forever. However, it’s very expensive and difficult to find in some markets.

Total cost for the deck, including labor and materials (though not including the pilings), will probably come out around $20k. Yes, that’s a lot of money but this deck is going to be the site of a lot of long and memorable evenings. I’m pretty sure it’ll be worth it.

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