Chicago deck expert extols composite wood benefits
Mike Fredman, a partner with J. Sitko Construction in Chicago, has worked with J. Sitko Construction for 10 years, primarily focused on sales and customer service. When hiring a contractor to build a deck, or any other major renovation, he recommends looking for someone with top-notch credentials.
"You want someone who's licensed and insured, who has trade references, responds to your questions, and has a lot of experience in the kind of project you're hiring them for," he says.
Also, he cautions that you get what you pay for: "You don't want a cheap price; you want a fair price."
What are the proper ways to maintain a deck?
The best thing to do is build a deck from composite wood, which is plastic with a wood grain and wood look. It requires virtually no maintenance. It doesn't need to be sealed, and you can just clean it with a hose.
If you go to Yellowstone National Park, the boardwalk in front of Old Faithful is composite wood. That's an extremely well-traveled deck, but it lasts forever.
Composite wood will stand the test of time, so it's a no-brainer. I always recommend that people go with it if they can afford it. Composite wood has been around for about 10 years, and the price has gone down in that time.
It's still more expensive than pressure-treated lumber. You can expect to pay about a third more on a job with composite wood. So for the bigger jobs, it might not be cost-effective. We use composite wood on about 40 percent of the decks we do.
With pressure-treated lumber, stain and seal it once a year to extend its life. That helps to preserve the wood. If you have a maintenance program, it'll last for many years, and you'll save some money. If it's properly maintained, pressure-treated lumber can last 20 years.
When you're having someone build a deck, I recommend that you write into your contract that there will be a city building inspection at the end.
When you're looking at pressure-treated lumber, make sure they're bolted properly and the beams aren't separating. Keep the deck clean. Watch for any warping or how the weather affects it. Mother Nature is probably the biggest factor in the wear and tear on a porch or deck. It's out there in all four seasons.
If you're not sure about the condition of your deck, call a licensed contractor to take a look. They should also inspect it during the yearly maintenance. They should check and see if any part of the deck - the decking, the beams, stairs and railings - is coming loose, and repair it if need be. It's like tuning up a car.