Building A Deck To Last A Lifetime, Part 2


In the first part of this series we looked at important factors to consider when designing your deck foundation.  In part two, we’re going through the frame and surface of your deck, how loads affect it and how they work together to create a safe and strong structure.

Deck frames consist of three interrelated elements: the beam, the joists, and decking:

Diagram showing deck components: beams, joists, decking.
Diagram showing deck components: beams, joists, decking.

Deck Beams

The purpose of the beam is to support the deck joists and boards along with the weight of your furniture and human traffic on the surface.  The beam has to be strong enough to support this weight and transfer it down into the concrete footings and into the ground.  When designing your deck you must consider the distance between the footings or the span, the type of wood such as Spruce, Pine, or Fir and the dimensions of the wood.  For example, some species of wood are stronger and thus able to support more weight across the span.  This means that you can go with less footings or you can use a smaller dimension of wood for the beam.  If you choose the wrong combination of wood, dimensions, and span you risk your deck sagging or worse collapsing.

Sagging deck beam: wood species, span, and/or dimension incorrect.
Sagging deck beam: wood species, span, and/or dimension incorrect.
A poorly designed deck.
A poorly designed deck.


Deck Joists

Deck joists are the intermediary between the deck boards and the beam.  Some of the same factors that affect beams also affect joists.  These include the load , the dimension and species of wood used for the joists, and the spacing between the joists.  There is a relationship between the joists and the deck boards and between the joists and the beam.  Spacing the joists further apart will mean you need to use heavier boards on the surface while the spacing between the beams will determine the wood dimension necessary for the joists.  The aesthetics of the deck boards also comes into play.  For example, 5/4″ deck boards have a different look from 2 x 4 deck boards which also look different from 2 x 6 deck boards.  Add to that boards angled on a 45 degree angle or using Cedar or Ipe deck boards and you have a myriad of combinations that need to fit together perfectly for a successful project.


Deck Boards

Deck boards provide the finished surface of the deck that you and your guests will see and admire.    Deck boards can me made of pressure treated wood, Cedar, or Ipe which is by far the most beautiful and expensive of all the options. T he deck boards are where the load from the top of the deck is first transferred through to the rest of the structure and into the ground. By knowing the final finish before hand you can adjust all the other elements to create a safe and sturdy deck you can enjoy for years to come.

Proper deck construction gives you the freedom to design a work of art!
Proper deck construction gives you the freedom to design a work of art!

All these components function together as a single unit to transfer the load from the surface of the deck to the ground below.  Many contractors will use the same design for all their decks but you must consider your specific site conditions.  Different municipalities will have specific standards for the different deck components in their jurisdiction.  What may be acceptable in Toronto, may not work in Mississauga, which may is different from standards in York Region where soil conditions and weather patterns differ.  This is why it is very important for the  long term durability of your project to design a deck using the right materials.  Discuss these factors with your contractor or the designer of your deck to ensure you’re getting a quality project.  In part three, we’ll study the connections between the different components and their importance.  Look for this update coming soon!

Building A Deck To Last A Lifetime, Part 1

A deck is a great place to relax and enjoy time with family and friends.
A deck is a great place to relax and enjoy time with family and friends.

Spring is approaching.  We know this from the longer days, brighter sunlight and warmer weather.  Spring fever gets a hold of us and we naturally start thinking about spending more time outdoors.  If you’re considering installing a deck so that you can spend more time with your family in your garden then review these points for a successful project.

Part 1: Deck Foundation

Like a house your deck needs a solid foundation that won’t move over the course of its life and that will support the weight of people, pets, and furniture.  The most common way to do this is to build the deck on concrete piers.  Your contractor can help you balance cost an function in choosing the size of the piers.  10 inch, 12 inch, or 14 pinch piers all have their proper use depending on deck design, function, and soil conditions.  Choosing a pier that’s too small will result in your deck sinking over time and choosing piers that are unnecessarily large is a waste of resources.

Also, the depth of the pier is vital to the life of your deck.  Since everything is built on top of these, getting this part wrong will essentially mean demolishing and rebuilding your deck.  In the Greater Toronto Area the recommended depth of deck piers is at least 4 feet in the ground.  In Toronto the accepted frostline is 42 inches deep but if we have a particularly cold winter and your site is very moist your piers have heave upwards due to freezing and thawing.  Digging to a depth of 4 feet gives you a little insurance against this.  In areas north of Toronto where it gets a little colder in the winter it is absolutely essential to dig at least 48 inches.

Many contractors will install deck footing to a depth of 42 inches to save a little money, but don’t accept this.  The risk of frost heave is too great for the amount of money you save.  Ask for footings to be installed 48 inches deep, make sure they add the depth of the footings in the contract, and ask them to show you the depth of the holes before pouring the concrete.  An ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure here.

Footing depth too shallow: the layers of frost below the footing will repeatedly heave the footing upward after each freeze thaw cycle and cause the deck to shift vertically.
Footing irregularities: frost will “catch” the protrusions in the surface and heave the footing upward throwing the deck out of balance.
A perfectly smooth footing will eliminate shifting or cracking and properly support the weight of the deck for a lifetime.











One more thing you should insist on is the use of form tubes, commonly known by the brand names: Builders Tubes and SonoTubes.  There are two good reason for this.  First, by using the tubes the concrete will cure smooth on the sides so that any frost that comes in contact with the piers below the soil surface won’t have any irregularities to “catch” on and lift the pier.  Second, the tubes will act as a break between the ground and the footings minimizing the friction between frost and your footings.

Builders Tube inserted into hole prior to pouring concrete.
Builders Tube inserted into hole prior to pouring concrete.
A well built deck footing will support your deck for a lifetime.








If you take these points into consideration when building your deck you will end up with a foundation that will last a lifetime.  In part two of this article we’ll look at what you need to consider for the frame of your deck.  Read part 2 to get a better understanding of deck framing construction.


Hiring A Contractor – Contracts Establish Trust

Cash jobs, no bill no tax, under the table. These are all common terms you hear in the construction and home improvement industry. No one wants to pay more than they have to, no one likes paying taxes, and it is unfortunately true that tax dollars are not always spent wisely. However, these underhanded techniques to save money have several negative implications.

First of all, if you are interviewing a contractor and they mention avoiding paying tax three things are happening. One, it is blatantly illegal. You and your contractor can be charged or fined for such activity. Two, if your contractor brings this up he is essentially admitting his dishonesty and thus his untrustworthiness.  Finally, if this is your idea, you are defining yourself as dishonest.

Contracts provide clarity and prevent misunderstandings

Have you found a contractor you can trust? How do you know? Maybe friends or family members have told you they good work, have good prices, or some other benefit, but if they are willing to lie about their income on their business taxes, if they are willing to hide things from the tax man, if they are willing to put their character into question then what makes you think you can really trust them? They have obviously demonstrated they are comfortable lying so how do you know they will deliver what they promised? There is the problem. Lying about income to the tax man means that your contractor could be lying to you about the work they are performing. There is no way you can really trust them because by lying, they have demonstrated they are not trustworthy.

Some people think that it’s ok because both the contractor and the homeowner are on the same page.  Since they are in this together, their reasoning goes, they can trust each other, at least for this transaction. The problem with that line of thinking is that once the contractor has your money there is no reason for them to complete the project, or even start it for that matter and you have no recourse.

Contracts protect both you and your contractor.

When hiring someone, always have a signed contract that spells everything out in as much detail as possible. This is your agreement with each other on what is to happen, how it is to happen, how long it should take, how much it should cost, and what warranty is offered. If any communication problems arise you can both refer to the contract for clarification.

This means you will have to pay tax but think of it this way:  those tax dollars will hopefully be spent in beneficial ways in your community. Also, think of that extra amount as your insurance that in the event there is a problem you have proof of your agreement with each other. Finally, consider that amount as a form of insurance to prevent problems from coming up in the first place.

Don’t degrade yourself to save a few dollars and don’t enable contractors to degrade themselves to get your business. Always get a contract, accept the tax bill, and your projects will go smoother.


Bellevue Landscaping is a quality oriented Toronto landscaping company serving Toronto, Vaughan, and Mississauga.  We specialize in developing home landscapes into beautiful spaces families can enjoy!


Canada Blooms

Spring is on it’s way!  Although you wouldn’t know it from the weather recently.  The first sign is not always the first Robin in your backyard but rather Canada Blooms, the largest gardening and landscaping show which started last weekend.  This a great place to get ideas for gardening, landscaping, and other outdoor activities.  The exhibits are amazing with sample gardens and outdoor living ideas you can use yourself or as inspiration when working with your contractor.  You can find magnificent backyard displays, interesting and unique flowers, and seminars on gardening to help you realize your perfect landscape.  With admission you will also get access to the National Home Show which will give you even more ideas to help improve your home.  There is so much to do!


We will be there as usual, not with an exhibit, but enjoying ourselves with all the things to see and do.  It is the premier outdoor living event of the year that gets us fired up for the season with all the new and creative ways of making our homes beautiful.  Take your whole family and have a great time.  See you there!



Increase the Value of Your Home with High Value Landscaping


A Virginia Tech survey a few years ago showed well landscaped properties go up in value more than properties with poor landscaping or no landscaping at all.


Three Landscaping Services that Give You the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

The survey looked at the change in home value from basic landscaping to sophisticated landscaping and found the best ways to invest in landscaping are:

  1. Design sophistication
  2. Plant size
  3. Diversity of plant material type

The authors found an increase of 5.5% to 11.4%, but one of the most interesting points to come out of this study is that poor landscaping can actually lower the value of your home.  This means for a $1 million dollar home, good landscaping can increase the value between $55,000 and $114,000.

The good news is you don’t necessarily have to do all the landscaping at once.  Unless you’re selling your home right away, you can do the hardscaping one year with potted plants for a splash of colour, you can add trees and shrubs the following year, and in the third year you can finalize the design of your property.


Curb Appeal Increases Value

Curb appeal will increase the value of your home.  Take advantage of this information to beautify your home and increase the value at the same time.  Call us and we can help you!

Toronto Landscaping Vaughan Landscaping Woodbridge Landscaping Mississauga Landscaping Port Credit Landscaping