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Redwood Decks

Planning on adding a new deck this summer? How about a rot-resistant, high-end quality Redwood deck…

A redwood deck will add richness to your home and extend your daily living to the great outdoors. It’s also a great long term investment because it will increase the resale value of your home.

Why redwood is a good choice

When it comes to the types of wood choices for building a deck consider that some materials hold up better than others based on the environment in which they’re being used. The basic decking material categories are softwoods, hardwoods, plastics, aluminum, fiberglass, and composites. Redwood is softwood and has been the most popular deck material for many years.

Redwood has the ability to stay straight with a minimal number of fasteners. It is a classic for decks because, not only is it beautiful, it resists weathering and it cuts and drills easily. The heartwood grades resist insects, decay, warping, and splitting better than other woods. Redwood takes and holds finishes better than most other woods. Redwood is cost-effective and simply lasts longer and ages gracefully.

Wood Grades

Rugged, knot-textured Deck Heart and Deck Common grade redwood are ideal for decks. Opt for an all-heartwood grade like Construction Heart or Deck Heart if your deck will be built on or near the ground. Sapwood streaked grades, Construction Common, and Deck Common are better choices for above ground uses such as deck boards.

If you’re considering high end material pay close attention to the grade of wood; it corresponds to the level of visual attractiveness as well as the level of strength. Remember, wood grades are based on a number of flaws such as splits, sap pockets, knots, and other imperfections.

Designing your deck

Brainstorm with a few friends, leaf through home and garden magazines, go to some open houses – there are many ways of gathering ideas to help you plan your deck. You may want to sketch out a few ideas of various tiers, stairs, built-in seating, planters, and perhaps a trellis. You should consider how much sunlight your deck will receive at different times of the day. If you have trees do you want to build your deck around the trees incorporating them into the deck? Do you want all sun or some shade? If you have a hot tub or grill you should think about evening use on your deck and lighting features.

You may have other rooms that would benefit from having a redwood deck. Imagine a romantic private deck off your master bedroom. Or, perhaps a wrap-around deck that extends from one side of your house to the other.


Of all the woods redwood is one of the few that can be left unfinished. As seasons pass and your redwood deck weathers you’ll see many natural color changes take place and, ultimately your deck will settle into a nice gray or silvery tan shade. You can also choose to preserve the new redwood color by using a good finish (which will also protect your deck from the elements.) The finish should include water repellent, mildewcide (protection from mildew,) and an ultraviolet inhibitor or blocker.


Expensive - Though redwood decking has been the most popular deck material for many years recently there has been a decline in usage due to the high cost of material and other products being introduced into the market that are taking its place.

Cultivation - The cut backs in cultivation has weakened the quality of the “construction” grades. The old growth redwoods are being saved while the new growth redwoods are being harvested. What that means is the new growth trees are smaller, producing materials with higher concentration of knots and sapwood. High levels of sapwood will induce decay relatively fast.

Other decking options - Another reason redwood is waning in popularity is the abundance of other decking options. Basically, you can build a deck with alternative materials that will last longer and cost less.


The grade of decking material you choose will determine the success level of your deck. The old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true when it comes to quality and wood grade. Naturally, if you opt for a high end material you’ll achieve maximum results. High end materials include redwood, cedar, mahogany, ironwood, and certain composite decking materials.

If you’re choosing to go with a high end redwood for your deck it is important to consider the cost, availability, and maintenance costs. Take these figures and compare them with a non-high end material such as pine or fir (that will need replacement in 10 years) and you’ll see that the wiser, more expensive choice is worth the additional costs because your deck will last much longer.

You can get some pretty deep discounts if you already have your deck design, obtain your building permits, and buy your own materials because you’re saving the builder a lot of overhead expenses. Labor runs anywhere from $8 to $10 per square foot so, if you do the grunt work listed above you could save up to $2,000 on a typical deck.

Permits & Guidelines

You will need to check the local building codes and regulations. You’ll need to determine what guidelines and restrictions you must follow. Consult with your contractor if the area is to be extensive or the construction difficult.

Make sure to check local codes for the distance between each railing. Different towns have different requirements. The last thing you want is for a child to get their head stuck between the railings.

Your local zoning department will tell you how close you can come to your side and rear lot lines with your deck. Sometimes a freestanding deck can come closer to a lot line than a deck attached to the house.

If you have an HOA (Homeowners Association) ask them for up-to-date covenants that spell out any restrictions on size, location, and appearance.

Call your gas, electric, phone, and cable company and ask them to mark buried lines or pipes in the yard and to notify you of any right-of-way access on your property that prohibits constructing a permanent deck.

Hiring a contractor

Chances are you’re going to need help from a pro, and wouldn’t it be nice to not have to lift a finger? A contractor will help you work with your local planning or building department to make sure you’re in compliance with zoning codes. See our extensive list of professional, pre-screened contractors in your area for a consultation on your dream deck.

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