Craftsmanship in stone
 and wood since 1981



Si nce 1981, We have built hundreds of decks. It's not the only thing we do, but we do many of them and we like to think that they are particularly well made. All of our decks have a 5 year limited warranty on everything. We do all kinds, big and small,basic or elaborate, We have a particlar interest  in doing anything that is unique and challenging.
There are some pictures of decks that we have built on this page, and you can go to the Gallery links to the right  to see more.
All pictures are  thumbnails . You can click on them to see larger images

What makes a good deck?

Decks can be built in a number of acceptable ways. Utility, aesthetics, structural requirements, including the local building code, price and longevity are the main considerations. The building code covers the building of decks that are attached to the house, 24" or more above grade, and above a certain size in square footage. Those decks require a building permit and several inspections. Most decks are below the square foot requirement. Decks don't need to be attached to the house, but often are. The building code has nothing to say about aesthetics or what might be an appropriate size for a particular house. Most of the discussion around decks seems to be how to build decks that don't require a building permit.

Utility means; Does it do the job? Is it big enough to put your table and chairs on it , if that is what your purpose is? Does it feel comfortable as you enter and exit the house? This is influenced a lot by the height of the top platform. We aim at 2 inches below the door threshold. The top platform must be big enough to feel safe as you step in and out. 4 feet wide is a minimum, the bigger the better, in general. Are the steps a comfortable and a safe width and height? They should be wider and shallower in height than typical indoor stairs. We aim at a height of 6" and width of tread of 13". This makes a big difference, especially to older people and children. Do the steps get you to the right area of the yard or do they force you to go out of your way? This is usually the reason for angled steps .Are the railings secure(strong) , of a proper height and attractive? Building codes are very specific regarding railings. Is it comfortable to sit on the deck? A common complaint is that high decks are too public, too much in view of the neighbors. This is the most common reason for low decks, multilevel decks with a top platform and steps down to a main lower seating area, or wood steps leading to a stone or brick patio.

Aesthetics means ; Is the deck or porch attractive? Carefully crafted, nicely proportioned, high quality materials. Does the design compliment the home? This is why we use selected cedar decking boards, tongue and groove cedar siding for enclosures and trim at the ends of cut boards, and many other careful details.

Structural requirements mean ; Is it built well enough that it feels and is secure? Are there enough supports? Lower decks can be built with " deck blocks" which are blocks which sit on top of the ground and support the framing. They almost never work in the long run, and in general, we don't use them. Is the deck high enough above grade to provide good ventilation underneath? Wood framing needs to be at least 6" above grade or it will deteriorate prematurely. There are many other structural requirements that affect and limit the design possibilities of decks.

Price means ; Price is self explanatory, I guess. This why we usually use pressure treated lumber for framing rather than cedar. It costs about half as much. In general, we don't use pressure treated decking boards because they not high quality enough. Price is why we don't normally build decks out of redwood, ipe, teak or clear cedar, though all of those make good decks.
We are often asked about composite decking material and do quote it. It is much more expensive than cedar and so rarely is used.

Longevity means ; Is the work done in such a way that the deck will last as long as possible? Many of the above factors affect this matter. In the Ottawa area, a realistic life expectancy for a deck would be 20 years. With care and good maintenance, 25 years is possible. With poor design or materials, decks can have problems within 5 years of being built.

#1-Do you (Summerstone) recommend a particular stain or preservative for decks?
Cedar wood has a natural resistance to rot. Decks built with it don't require any stain or preservative. I haven't observed that stain extends the life of the wood by much. However, it is useful to maintain a colour in the wood. Left untreated, cedar will turn to a silvery gray over the first few years. It can be very beautiful like that, and in an appropriate situation, doing nothing is the best ( and by far the easiest ) solution. However, if you require stain, here are my recommendations;
--Consult a good paint store for their recommendations. The formulas for stains seem to evolve and change frequently.
--Wait at least 30 to 60 days to apply anything. The wood needs to dry out and stabilize.
--Avoid stains that sit on the surface of the wood. Use nothing that is gloss or semi-gloss. They always peel off eventually.  Use a penetrating -type stain.
--Be prepared to maintain the stain regularly. You can expect to have to redo it at least every two years, especially in the high traffic areas. Vertical elements , such as railings or skirting  boards will require less maintenance.

#2-Does a deck require a building permit? How much cost does that add?
Most decks and porches do require a permit. There are exceptions, mostly for small and low decks. Should an accident ever occur on your deck, your insurance company will investigate whether or not a permit was issued. Also , when homes are sold, most buyers require a home inspection , which usually includes determining whether permits were issued for any upgrading. For an average deck, creating the necessary working drawings and obtaining a permit adds from $500.00 to $1000.00 to the cost. More ambitious projects will cost somewhat more, rarely more than $1500.00.

#3-- Will the pressure -treated framing material pollute the soil under the deck in any way?
As described in our Deck Specifications, we usually use pressure -treated wood to frame decks and porches. This is a cost saving step. It is possible to frame a deck with cedar. It would add about $1000.00 to an average size deck.

Pressure-treated wood formerly contained quite damaging preservatives. The chemicals used now are more innocuous. However, it is recommended, for instance, that pressure-treated wood not be used in a vegetable garden, and it should not be burned.  So we can't consider it completely harmless. If you have concerns, perhaps about children playing under the deck or a similar situation, I recommend that you consider using cedar to frame the deck.

#4-- Why do a deck at all? Why not some other material or method?
Decks and porches are most often used when there is some height involved. They are usually the most cost effective way to get from a high door to the ground. They are also used simply because people like wood. Often clients have a strong feeling that they want to be on a wood structure. My impression is that many people associate a deck or porch with some good time in their past. Sometimes people like the feeling of sitting in a high place.

#5-- How long will the deck that you builds last?
A reasonable life expectancy for a deck in our climate would be 20 years. With good maintenance, which would include replacing boards as required after the 15 year period, a life of 25 years could be expected. A porch that is covered by a roof and is 2 feet off the ground will last much longer.

#6-- The railings that I see in your pictures are too high for me to see over when I am sitting down. Can I get a lower railing?
Railings are covered by the Building Code. There are a number of required specifications for them.One of them is a minimum height of 36". Decks lower than 24" above grade may use lower railings or no railings at all. Whether or not the deck is being inspected, these specs need to be followed, both for safety and for insurance liability reasons.One possibility is to build railings that replace the wood balusters with transparent material , such as tempered glass, or one of several plastics.

#7-- DoesYou  build composite (such as Trex)  or Ipe ( a "50 year" tropical wood) decks?
Yes , we can use either of these materials, but don't recommend either one.  They both add cost and have structural limitations. Neither of these materials is used to build the frame of a deck. So the life of the deck will still be determined by the life of the framing.

Composite decking usually costs 2-3 times as much as cedar for the decking material, usually adding  30-40% to the total cost of the deck. There have been many problems with all the brands of composite decking. Fading,  staining, and physical deterioration are the most common complaints. Search for "composite decking complaints" or "composite decking warranty problems" to get an idea of the current situation.  

Ipe decking costs 5 times what cedar decking costs. It will do a good job and does not need to be stained to be stained to last in  Canadian conditions. 
The installation also will cost somewhat more than cedar.

Summer Decks Ottawa