It is difficult to beat wooden verandahs. Not only do they create a comfortable yet dignified atmosphere, they’re also strong, long-lasting and able to withstand the elements. Timber decking is just perfect for the Australian climate.
Designing your own deck is an exciting and satisfying experience. It provides the opportunity to exercise some of your handy man skills, and at the same time give your home a personal touch. A careful, well-considered planning process is essential to success.
Drawing Your Design
Before starting work on building timber decking, you should create a thorough design. Think about how your deck will appear from different angles – you will need a bird’s eye view, a side (or front) view and a clear impression of the joists and bearers. Use a pencil and ruler to draw diagrams, ensuring that all measurements are accurate and to scale.
This process enables you to imagine how the deck will appear once it’s built, and allows the calculation of necessary materials, saving money, time, disappointment and frustration in the long run.
Which Decking Timbers Are Best?
Decking timbers vary in their ability to carry different amounts of weight – some types of wood are tougher and more flexible than others. When figuring out which to use, and how much to purchase, consult the ‘Timber Framing Code’, published by Standards Australia. This publication provides tables that communicate span guidelines for bearers and joists, which is extremely important, particularly given that decks often have to bear heavy weights. The last thing you want to do is see your veranda collapse, simply because the timber used isn’t strong enough!
Bearers: Continuous or Single Span?
The first step in planning decks involves the bearers, which are the pieces of timber that are directly attached to the posts. Bearers are described as either ‘single span’ or ‘continuous span’. ‘Single span’ means they are fixed to two posts only (one at each end). ‘Continuous span’ means they are fixed to several posts (one at each end, plus others in the middle). The former is used for verandas that are short in length; the latter is used for more extensive projects. In order to determine how many bearers are needed, it is essential to calculate the ‘amount of floor’ (or area) each will carry.
Joists: How Many?
The joists are the pieces of timber that run perpendicular to the bearers. It is to the joists that the veranda boards are affixed. Although 4.5cm-wide joists are usually ample, it is important to accurately determine the size and number needed, again by consulting the ‘Timber Framing Code’. The configuring of joists is largely decided upon by their spacing.
Once you have calculated bearers and joists, you’ll need to determine how many decking boards are required. Figure out the overall area of the veranda, and the intended size of each board, and then make the division accordingly. When deciding upon board dimensions, remember to take into account potential wastage (often about 20%).
Once you have completed these three steps and drawn up your plan, you’ll be ready for a trip to the hardware shop to buy decking timbers. It won’t long before the hammering starts!
About the Author
Joanne Lemke is a final year creative writing student at UOW, who is looking to break into the corporate copywriting space once she graduates and hopefully go on to eventually some day write a book around her other passions, namely finance, cooking and travel.