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Adelaide's best deck builder Paul Skilton from Paul's decks and pergolas

Planning a new deck?

Deck ideas shared and processes in Adelaide explained.

A little overwhelmed at all the options available? Not sure where to start?

 

You’re In the right place. Welcome. My name is Paul, and what I don't know about decks isn't worth knowing.

On this page we will walk you through everything you need to consider when planning a new deck in and around Adelaide. Starting with the mundane (council approval) through to outdoor kitchens, planter boxes and bathrooms! If it's information and inspiration you need, then read on.

An example of Blackbutt timber decking in Adelaide South Australia

Initial considerations for an Adelaide Deck

Do I need a building permit?

With over 60 local councils in South Australia all with their own regulations this is a difficult question to answer conclusively. However as a general rule if you live in an urban area with no bushfire risk and your proposed deck is less than half a meter high and more than 900mm from the boundary of your property then the answer is generally not. Areas that are deemed not to carry a bushfire risk include most of the following reigons,

  • Adelaide

  • Gawler

  • Port Lincoln

  • Port Augusta

 

Any areas with bushfire risk or zoned a historical area or a heritage place will need a permit. The following places fall into this category

  • Mt Barker

  • Hahndorf

  • Goolwa beach

  • The Adelaide hills council area

 

The best starting reference to ascertain if you will need a permit is plan SA. Visit their website at www.plansa.gov.au scroll down to the ‘Do I need approval’ heading and click ‘Start the approval wizard’. All you need to do is select ‘deck’ from the list and enter your address.

Easements

It’s always a good idea to check your certificate of title to check if your property has an easement where you are looking to build your deck. In some cases decks can be built on easements, in other cases they cannot. You will need to check what type of easement you have an what is permitted.

Underground pipes / cables

The posts for your deck will be set at least 900mm into the ground. To avoid your decking contractor digging through a utility pipe you should check your house plans to ensure there are no pipes or cables in the area. If there is you will need to alert your decking contractor to their presence.

Power and water?

Are you going to want power to your deck for lighting, speakers or anything else? Do you want water to your deck for either a hose to water pot plants or a sink for an outdoor kitchen? If so, this needs to form part of the planning process.

Access

Decking frame timbers can be up to 6 meters long. Does the spot you have in mind afford reasonable access for contractors?

Sun or shade?

If your deck will be in full sun you might want to consider adding a pergola or shade sail. Decks in the Adelaide region are oftin in harsh sun. Your choice of deck boards will also be impacted here. Dark coloured composite decks for instance can get quite hot in full sun. There is little point in building a deck you can’t walk on if the sun is shining!

Swimming pools

If your proposed deck borders a swimming pool you can guarantee your local council in South Australia will want to be involved. You will need to consider fencing and gate complicity and will need to get it inspected by your local council and signed off. Given the proximity of water you may also want to consider slip resistant oils if you are building a timber deck. Some composite decks can also be slippery when wet. Consult with your deck installer about these factors.

A great example of Blackbutt timber decking in Adelaide South Australia

Chosing the right decking boards

Choosing the right decking material for your deck.

The first decision you need to make is what decking boards are you going to use. In the Adelaide market there are two primary options, we don’t install aluminium decking here for instance. Just imagine your dog trying to cross an aluminium deck on a 42 degree day…

 

In South Australia we install timber decking and composite decking. Below is a comparison table showing Adelaide’s most popular decking materials.

A comparison table of all the decking boards commonly used in Adelaide decking South Australia

Adelaide Decking comparison

Composite Decking

Composite timber decking is sold as an environmentally friendly alternative to natural wood. It’s made from recycled wood fibre and plastics, which combine to form a strong, lightweight material that looks somewhat like natural timber. The big advantage of composite decking is that it requires very little ongoing maintenance. Timber decking by comparison needs to be acid washed (NOT sanded) and oiled at least once a year. It is actually recommended in the Adelaide area to oil a timber deck twice a year.

 

SIDE POINT: many decking companies recommend that you sand your timber deck each year before oiling it. As you would be aware the process of sanding removes some width from the wood. Most timber deck boards are 19mm thick. After you have given them a good sand you will have removed at least 1mm from the board, so ten years down the track your deck boards are now just 9mm thick. This is now a significant problem! Decks should be washed with a deck preparation product, which is an acid that cleans the deck boards without reducing their thickness.

A selection of composite decking boards commonly used in composite decking Adelaide South Australia

Composite decking comes in a wide range of colours and grain options.

Advantages of composite decking

Low maintenance

As mentioned, this is the big one. It shouldn’t rot, warp, crack or fade, so it doesn’t need re-oiling, repainting, or resealing, And it cleans up easily with an occasional wash using soap and water.

Environmentally friendly

It makes good use of timber and plastic waste, so its eco-footprint is lighter than timber decking, which is made from harvested trees. That said with all deck instillations there are off-cuts. In the case of composite decks this represents plastic waste bound for landfill.

Highly durable

It stands up to all kinds of weather and is resistant to termites, mould, saltwater and even pool chlorine.

Doesn't splinter

This makes it better for decking, as it’s safe for bare feet and pets and even comes with anti-slip properties.

Moisture resistant

Because the ends are fully capped, it keeps out moisture, which leads to rot in natural timber boards.

As nice as wood

It can be made to mimic any type, colour or texture of natural timber. That said, it is always obviously not natural wood. No composite decking material looks as natural as real wood.

More cost-effective

While it costs more to buy than natural timber, it pays for itself many times over with the savings made in maintenance and repair costs.

 

Composite decking is stain, and scratch-resistant  

keeping your deck looking brand new for years to come.

 

UV resistant 

Composite wood-plastic boards have an increased resistance to fading when exposed to UV in comparison to natural wood decks.

 

Low-slip 

When installed with the narrow groove side up, composite boards have a lower slip risk than treated timber boards.

 

Fire resistance

Some producers of composite decking, such as Ekodeck produce boards specifically designed to be fire resistant.

Disadvantages of composite decking

An example of how composite decking in Adelaide can be effected by thermal expansion

You can accidentally melt your deck

As this material is composed of plastic, you need to be very careful. If you accidentally spill hot oil or coal while making barbecues, there is a high probability that your deck will melt. You need to keep any kind of heat source as far as possible from the deck.

 

The initial cost could be high

The installation cost of composite decks could be a little too high if you compare it to well-graded timber. However, in the long run, the costs are reduced because of the very low annual maintenance cost of composite decks.

 

Higher surface temperatures

Compared with natural timber composite decking gets hotter. Quite a bit hotter, so if your deck gets full sun you will need to consider this. There is little point building a deck you cannot walk on, on a hot day.

 

Is it really Eco friendly?

As mentioned above every decking project produces offcuts that end up in landfill. In the case of composite decking this means more plastic. Another factor to consider is the ‘dust’ created from cutting the boards, microplastics that end up getting washed down the drains and feeding fish in our oceans.

 

Composites aren't natural

No matter how much effort goes into making composites look like wood, they're not. The only way to get the full beauty of a wood deck is to use the real thing.

 

Composite decks aren't completely maintenance free 

Like wood decks, they still require you to sweep up leaves and other debris, and wash them down periodically.

 

Thermal expansion

Composite decking expands and contracts with the ambient temperature, often more so than the manufactures concede. The industry standard is that a composite deck should expand and contract an average of half a centimetre. There are however plenty of examples of larger gaps appearing. The picture to the left was taken at a school in Adelaide. The installer is unknown.

Timber Decking

Almost all the timber decks installed in Adelaide and South Australia are hardwood. This includes Merbau, Spotted gum, Blackbutt and Jarrah. Most hardwood decks that are well maintained will last up to 40 years.

 

While a lot less popular there are some softwood decks. These are mostly treated pine. They are much cheaper than hardwood but will only last for around 20 years.

 

Indication on hardwood v softwood deck board pricing from Bunnings in December 2023

Examples of the cost of decking boards commonly used in Adelaide for decking

Note the per linear meter price. Merbau is the cheapest of the hardwoods at $1.04 more per linear meter than treated pine, while Ironbark is $9.54 more per linear meter.

 

To put this in context let’s assume your deck is a simple rectangle 8m x 4m. This will require 371 lineal meters of 90 wide deck boards. As such the approximate costs would be,

 

Treated pine:   $2,044

Merbau:            $2,433

Spotted gum:  $3,450

Ironbark:           $5,584

A selection of timber decking boards commonly used in Adelaide South Australia

Adelaide decking - Hardwoods

Advantages of timber decks

They look great

Nothing looks more like natural wood than natural wood. It’s the look all the composite deck board manufacturers are trying to achieve.

 

Durability

A properly maintained timber deck is resistant to rot, insects and water damage. Hardwood decks properly maintained can last up to 40 years.

 

Cost

Most timber decks are cheaper to install than composite decks. This is because the per meter cost of the timber boards are generally lower than composite boards.

 

Low heat retention

Compared with composite decking timber decks stay cooler in direct sunlight.

 

Fire resistant

Most hardwoods are naturally resistant to bushfires. Softwoods however are not.

Disadvantages of timber decks

Maintenance

This is the big one. In South Australia a timber deck should be cleaned and oiled twice a year to keep it looking like new. Decks that are not oiled could warp, crack and look unappealing after time.

 

Price of quality hardwoods

Hardwoods like Blackbutt and Ironbark can be expensive. Cheaper woods, especially softwoods won’t last as long.

 

Environmental impact

Some hardwoods such as Merbau come from south east Asian countries with dubious environmental records. The production of all timber deck boards requires the felling of trees. It can sometimes be difficult to ascertain the origin of timber deck boards.

 

Exposed screws

With composite decking the fixings are hidden clips. With timber decks the fixings are generally stainless-steel screws that are fixed in rows through the top of the board. While some people like this look others may not.

Blackbutt timber decking Adelaide South Australia

OK, I’ve picked my decking material. What other options do I have? Deck ideas.

Picture frames

Boards are placed around your deck like the frame of a picture. They can be the same colour as your deck boards or different. They can also be single or double.

Breaker boards

Like picture frames Breaker boards add to the aesthetic of your deck. Again they can be single or double and any colour you like.

Handrail ideas

The options for Handrails are wide and varied, from traditional pickets or stainless steal wires to mesh, natural logs and screens. An increasing trend with handrails is routing in a channel underneath the rail and embedding an LED strip light there. It is perfectly hidden and provides great soft lighting.

Adelaide deck Lighting ideas

If you are planning on integrating lighting to your deck it's important to plan the electrical wiring from the outset. That way all the wiring can be chased into the timber so it is invisible