11 things you need to know before building a new deck

From style and safety, to choosing your tradie we find out the 11 top tips for building a deck from builder Joel Johns-Markham


11 things you need to know before building a new deck

Builder Joel Johns-Markham knows a thing or two about decks so we get his advice on tackling a new build or extending an existing outdoor living space.

1. Find your tradie

Work out how much you’re willing to spend, then discuss your ideas and budget with a builder. When looking for a builder, it’s best to look at reviews and examples of their previous work and, if possible, get a couple of quotes. You can search online to find a builder to suit your budget – try, where you can view portfolios and reviews. Seek out a builder who specialises in decks to ensure yours will be in especially good hands.

2. Investigate permits

Depending on the work you want done, you may need the assistance of a planner to apply for the necessary permits. Any deck over 1.5 metres high will need a permit, which can add a significant cost, so make sure you include this at the beginning of your budgeting process.

3. Streamline your budget

Decking designs incorporating multi-level layouts, custom seating, steps, handrails and unusual shapes will be costly. Instead, keep things simple. Sleek, seamless deck designs are more attractive and less expensive to build.

4. Get inspired

Seek out some inspiration; it helps to be able to show a picture of what you envision to your builder, so you are both on the same page in terms of design. Your builder will be able to inform you of the relevant costs for each of the design ideas you come up with.

Keep in mind that decks are a common job for a builder, so they’ll have worked on a lot of different projects and will probably have some good suggestions that you may not have thought of.

5. Want to try DIY?

Decide what your goal is. Cost-cutting is fine, but you could end up spending thousands on materials for a deck that is missing the professional finish. Keep in mind that the idea is to keep costs down without compromising the overall finish of the job.

If you decide to do the initial work on the deck yourself and get someone in to help you finish it, make sure you find them through a reputable source, or use someone whom you have worked with before.


6. Stay safe

Safety is paramount, especially if you are tackling a DIY project. Do your research and make sure you have the appropriate permits. A safe, functional and attractive deck can add serious equity to your home, which means it can be worth spending a little more money to make sure you get it right.

7. Choose your style

Remember the quintessential Kiwi belief – bigger is better! New Zealanders love big decks. Make sure there is enough room for outdoor living and dining. A level-entry deck design is also popular as it enables seamless indoor-outdoor flow.

Hidden deck fixings, as seen in composite decking, create a much sleeker design. Built-in seating, planting boxes and barbecues are also on-trend. There is also plenty to be said for installing lighting. LEDs or down-lights on stairs, around pergolas and among garden beds will create an intimate feel.

8. Be wary of hardwood 

Hardwood timbers, like kwila and vitex, are commonly used throughout New Zealand for decking. Kwila has a deep red colouring and vitex has a lighter yellow-brown colouring. Hardwood timber does bleed and kwila especially has the potential to stain surrounding paving and fixtures.

Hardwood has a medium-to-high price tag, and can be somewhat controversial as it often can’t be guaranteed to be from an environmentally sustainable source.

9. Research your timber

From hardwood to pine to composite decking, each timber type has advantages and disadvantages. Check out Joel’s suggestions below, and ask your builder for advice on what is best for your project.

10. Stick to pine

Traditional timber such as pine is a simple, cost-effective option which, although arguably less attractive than other timbers, will still look good. Pine is the most common decking timber used in New Zealand and many builders will recommend it as it helps to keep costs down.

11. Opt for a little luxury

Composite decking is a sleek and attractive option, but it comes with a hefty price tag. It is low-maintenance as no oiling or staining is required. If you have the right builder to install it, composite decking can make all the difference. The engineered secret (hidden) deck fixings will create a sleek, seamless, high-end finish.

We found Joel Johns-Markham of JJ’s Construction via, an online marketplace where homeowners can post jobs, and builders and tradespeople can chase jobs, provide quotes and win work.

Words by: Fiona Ralph. Deck image by: Helen Bankers.

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