Fewer, long pieces give the deck a more finished look. Using fewer, longer boards means that there are less joints to fail, lift or gap. The more joints you have in any structure, the weaker the structure actually is. Less joints mean less chances for the structure to fail. Aesthetically, too, a deck with longer boards just looks nicer.
In general, you always want to use long boards if you’re able. The more boards you use, the more weak points you’re creating where they join and the greater the chance of damage to your deck. You’ll see less warping and twisting, which in turn means your deck will last a lot longer.
However, unless you have direct access to a lumber yard, you’re only going to get lumber in a certain size. 16′ at the most, usually, and if you’re on a budget, you’re mostly likely looking at 8′ boards. These can work fine with a small deck, though you’ll still be using a lot of boards to get the job done.
If you know you only have access to smaller boards, plan your deck accordingly. Don’t create a sprawling deck and then buy standard lumber to build it, as you’ll find that first summer as it bakes in the sun, it’ll begin to warp. Create a unique shape to your deck that uses less lumber if you can manage it. Or if you absolutely can’t do anything else, make sure you have the best sealant you can possibly buy and don’t take chances with ensuring boards are flush together before you secure them in place.
Dan Bailey is the President of WikiLawn, a provider of on-demand lawn care and maintenance that connects people with the best lawn and outdoor services in 2,500 cities across the U.S.
Keith Melanson is the Project Manager of RenosGroup. He is a well-experienced contractor with 12 years of project management in home renovations and 18 years of sales and service experience.
The specifics of building a deck really depend on your own specific backyard and project you’re envisioning. However, I suggest you use as many long pieces of wood as you can. If you hire a professional, it shouldn’t be much of a worry, but typically, the more short pieces you incorporate into your deck, the more joints it will have, which will make it weaker in theory. As mentioned above, the circumstances change with different projects. There’s no “[one] size fits all” when it comes to the details of building a backyard deck.
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