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Top 10 High-Tech Deck Innovations that Make Modern Decks Safer

High-Tech Deck Innovations
High-Tech Deck Innovations

Posted on Saturday, March 24, 2018
By: Sequoia Supply
Categories: Decks

The number of deck collapses causing injury and even death, were on the rise. Necessity challenged the market to build a better deck… and the market answered.

Technology touches every part of our lives. Even the majority of those seeking to live off the grid find themselves seeking the advances of modern technology to make it possible. The deck building industry has most certainly benefited over the decades from the modern advances of technology in the building-materials industry.

Of course, composite decking and railing may come to mind first, and we certainly agree. In fact, we would argue that the invention of long-lasting composite decking may be what drove hardware manufacturers and others in the deck-building industry to try harder. You see, the composite decking suddenly was designed to outlast the conventionally-framed substructure of the deck.

Additional advances were driven by building codes seeking greater customer safety. It is estimated that there are over 20 million decks in the U.S. that are over 15 years old and the average healthy life-span of a conventional deck is 10 – 15 years. The number of deck collapses causing injury and even death, were on the rise.

Necessity challenged the market to build a better deck… and the market answered.

Here’s a list of our top-10 list of recent advances in building-materials technology (in no particular order) that make modern decks – your deck – safer.

ZMAX Galvanized Coating

Since the 1930s timbers were treated with CCA – chromated copper arsenate. The most widely-used treatment in the world, it is a mixture of chromium, copper, and arsenic formulated as oxides or salts, and is recognizable for the greenish tint it imparts to timber. A number of countries, including the U.S., have review the CCCA during recent years and have restricted its use in residential situations. These restrictions were a precautionary move due to public pressure after the publication of some studies suggesting that CCA could pose a risk to children.

Up until that time, all deck-related fasteners were designed to work in conjunction with the CCA treatment. When American treaters were forced to change the treatment methods, conventional electro-galvanized fasteners were found to not withstand the chemicals of the newer treatment methods like ACQ. In response, Simpson Strongtie came out with their ZMAX coating, a thicker coating (galvanized per ASTM A653 with a G185 coating) than the standard hot-dipped galvanized coating. Due to this increased galvanized thickness, connectors treated with this process would be expected to have a longer service life than standard galvanized connectors.

LEDGER FASTENERS

The #1 cause of decks collapsing is the ledger board pulling away from the house. Past deck-building practices involved simply nailing the deck ledger to the house. That practice, unfortunately, proved disastrous. Enter the Simpson Strong Tie DTT Deck Tension Tie. A safe, cost-effective designed to meet or exceed code requirements for deck construction. Installed properly, it provides a 1,500 lb lateral load connection per deck by fastening the deck joist, through the ledger of the deck and the rim joist of the house, and fastening the other end to the house joist. This method prevents the deck and ledger from pulling away from the structure.

PREFABRICATED DECK PIERS

To meet code in most areas of the U.S., deck footings must be dug below grade, exceeding the depth of the deepest recorded frost line in that region. In the past, deck builders would dig a hole to the required depth, place the wooden deck post into the hole, and fill around it with dirt. Pressure treated or not, the post would ultimately succumb to the elements and eventually fail.

This method was replaced by digging the hole, inserting a round cardboard tube, filling that tube with concrete, then mounting the wooden deck support post on top of the concrete pier using various galvanized post mounts. Still widely used and effective today, this method is also laborious and time consuming, and requires waiting for the concrete to setup before deck construction can begin.

The industry answered this need with the advent of precast deck piers, providing – in most cases – the ability for the deck builder to install the piers and begin building the deck on the same day (provided the inspector cooperates). Materials for these piers include concrete, galvanized steel, and aluminum. They are often placed atop a precast concrete footing placed in the base of the hole, or include their own footing which generally is at least twice the diameter of the deck post in order to resist settling.

HIDDEN DECKING FASTENERS

While it can be argued if hidden decking fasteners make your deck safer, few would contend that they certainly make it look much better. We would maintain that they do both. Past methods required fastening each deck board through the face of the decking which creates an opening for moisture penetration, gathering of mold and debris, and subsequent damage… two holes per board, per joist.

Hidden fasters are generally non-invasive to the decking material and engage the decking in a groove on the edge of the deck board. They sit below the surface of the deck board and are largely undetectable.

THROUGH-BOLT REPLACEMENT FASTENERS

The folks at FastenMaster came up with some ingenious methods of fastening deck framing materials much more quickly and stronger than conventional methods. One example is the ThruLOK Through-Bolt Replacement. This system can be used for applications including multi-ply beams, deck posts, carrying beams and more. It combines the strength of a through-bolted connection with the speed of a LOK fastener with no predrilling required. Time savings over installation of traditional carriage bolts requiring predrilling is significant.

STEEL DECK FRAMING

As we mentioned early on, the advent of long-lasting composite decking quickly brought light to the fact that they wood substructure simply couldn’t hold up to the same test of time. Enter the invention of steel deck framing like the Elevations product from Trex. Thing about it: If you are going to invest in a long-lasting deck, don’t you want its support to last just as long?

Most people daydream about their dream deck without giving much thought to what’s holding it up. Although the deck substructure does not generally make the family photos, it is the most important part of the outdoor space. Trex Elevations is comprised of durable triple-coated beams, joists and tracks that create the strongest, straights and greenest deck framing structures. Stronger, straighter, safer, and smarter. Where other deck framing systems may seem sturdy and supportive, only Elevations can stand the test of time without shifting, splitting, warping, rotting or rusting.

HANGER SCREWS

Most of us have witnessed the sight of a deck’s joist hangers secured only with a standard roofing nail… and have shuttered at the sight!! Not only are these nails radically inadequate in diameter, it takes little more than a harsh word to make the head of the nail pop off, thereby releasing any hope of securing the hanger.

Simpson Strong-Drive SD Connector screws are specifically designed to replace nails in certain connectors and are the only screw approved for that application. The load-rated SD screw has been tested and approved for use in many popular decking connector products. In certain applications screws are easier and more convenient to install than nails, and the single-fastener load values achieved by the SD screw exceed those of typical 10d common nails.

STRUCTURAL WOOD SCREWS

The introduction of heavy duty structural wood screws like the TimberLOK from FastenMaster has profoundly changed the way professional deck builders build decks. These fasteners are not only instrumental deck building, but in all phases of wood framing including landscape timbers, fences, stair strings, roof rafters and more.

TimberLOK replaces traditional 3/8” lag screws and is approved for use in ACQ pressure treated lumber. Builders experience significant time savings when using TimberLOK as the screws do not require predrilling. Their sharp point and aggressive threads sip right in to the densest wood using only the friendly persuasion of a drill and a nut driver.

JOIST TAPE

Self-adhesive joist barrier tape adheres to the top-side of deck joists prior to installing deck boards. Trex Company supplies their TrexProtect product, a peel-and-stick butyl tape that’s applied to the tops of joists, rim joists, beams, ledgers and stair stringers to protect the wood against decay. The tape also increases the holding power of deck screws; acts as a barrier between treated wood and galvanized metal in hardware; and seals holes around deck fasteners to prevent water infiltration.

UNDER DECK DRAINAGE SYSTEMS

Having drainage and a ceiling underneath an elevated deck can make the space below far more useful and attractive. Not only does the deck serve its primary purpose of providing entertainment space above, with a the proper drainage system installed, partiers and get down when down below the deck, even when the rain may fall.

Products like TimberTech’s Dryspace, Trex’s RainEscape, the Zip-Up UnderDeck PVC system and others consist of a variety of panels and components that require only basic tools to install. They catch the rain water coming from between the deck boards and divert it to a gutter system, protecting partiers from the elements well into the night.

Tagged:Composite Decks, Decks, Deck Safety, Deck Hardware

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My wife and I are wanting to build a deck this summer so thanks for sharing this. I like your point about how, if you are going to invest in a long-last deck, then steel deck framing might be the best option. We'll be sure to consider this since we plan on living in this house for awhile. 
Posted by Derek Dewitt on Thursday, May 31, 2018, 12:08 PM
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