Our blog

March 5th

3 Mistakes People Make When Designing a Deck Layout

There are lots of things to consider when designing your ultimate outdoor retreat.  A deck can be a large part of that plan – and you want to make sure you’ve taken enough time to consider all the pros and cons before you commit to such a big project. Here are three mistakes it’s best to avoid:


Not making it big enough – We know – in the city we’re often constrained by the outdoor space itself!  Nevertheless, it’s important to consider how you’ll use your deck and whether you’ll have enough space to use it as you intend to.  Do you want to eat outside? Does your table fit?  Will diners be able to get out of their chairs?

Not considering sight lines – Making a railing a little bit too tall (although you always want to make it to code), or forgetting that you can see into your neighbours ugly garage from the deck can decrease your enjoyment of your new outdoor space.  A little thought put into how you’ll use the deck and where you’ll sit helps to inform decisions about privacy screens and ideal layouts to help you use your space most comfortably.

Not considering the sun – What time of day are you most likely to sit outside?  Will you be in the sun, or in the shade? Do you want some UV protection built into your deck? May deck designs consider pergolas and sunshades or sails to protect again the full blast of the sun while still enjoying it’s warmth.

Looking to embark on an outdoor carpentry project?  We’d be happy to come and discuss it. Email us at isaac@downtowndecks.com

March 5th

Is your deck well-built?

5 ways to tell

Here are five tell-tale signs that your deck was built by a Pro:

Screws aren’t buried in the wood — Although it may seem that you want the screws in your deck to be invisible — you don’t!  Over-sunken screws allow water to gather in the screw holes and promotes accelerated rotting.

No visible cut edges — No one wants to see the remnants of sawed off wood. Any deck builder worth their salt will tuck away these edges in the design, so that the finished project is polished and neat.

Even board spacing — Well-designed and executed decks will have a uniform and appropriate board spacing between planks. A thought-out plan should avoid any unnecessary hacks to make all the boards fit.

It’s level — This goes without saying – but it can be surprising how often decks aren’t perfectly level.

Centred Pickets — Fence pickets should be centered across each side of the deck, not started at one side and ending however it works. This symmetry really affects the feel of the overall project.


Looking to embark on an outdoor carpentry project?  We’d be happy to come and discuss it.  Email us at isaac@downtowndecks.com

March 24th

The Azek vs.Wood Conundrum

What materials should I use to build my deck?

It’s always tough to decide what materials to use when building. There are a lot of variables to weigh and the base material is an important one.  The main decision that you have to make is wood vs composite.  Although most people build out of wood, it’s becoming more popular to build Azek decks.


AZEK is a PVC-based product which has several big advantages:

  • It’s basically maintenance free
  • It’s certainly easier to clean than wood
  • There’s no staining involved
  • It lasts a long, long time (which could be good or bad depending on your green-tendencies)
  • Hidden screws — some find this more aesthetically appealing


On the downside:

  • It’s pretty expensive (2 times the price of your standard pressure treated deck)
  • It’s riskier to work with if you’re doing it yourself — since a bad cut could cost you $100! And might result in a work-delay since you’d have to order a replacement piece if you make too many  “bad cuts”.
  • Some of the darker shades of Azek can get pretty hot to the touch — which translates into painful bare footsteps in the summer
  • It’s tricker to repair.  Once it’s put together, if you need to get under the deck for any reason – it’s much more painful than a wood deck.


The majority of my customers are still building out of wood (both pressure treated and cedar — but that’s a post for another day!).  Wood is always a great option for a deck:

  • It’s less expensive
  • It feels a little nicer underfoot and to the touch
  • You can create a custom look with stain
  • It’s more forgiving in the planning stages – since making a “bad cut” is less costly and it’s easy enough to procure a replacement piece.


The biggest real downside to wood is lifespan — a well-built wood deck will last 20-25 years with good maintenance.  Which really, should be ample.  By that time you’ll be ready for something new, won’t you?  Splinters are also a consideration — but a well-maintainted deck shouldn’t cause much suffering.  Another negative on the wood side for do-it-yourself-ers is the non-uniformity of boards – a problem you don’t have to deal with when you’re building with Azek.


Overall, it really just comes down to personal preference — and often budget has a large influence on deck material.  But whatever your inclination — I’d be happy to assist you in your decision.


Contact me if you’d like to have a conversation about it.  We’d be happy to come and discuss it.  Email us at isaac@downtowndecks.com


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