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Discussion Starter #1
We are looking at building a new deck in our backyard and would like to have a very clean and manicured look to it.

As such I would prefer not to use the traditional pressure treated lumber or composite products with gaps between boards. The goal is to have the exterior decks look like an extention of our interior wood floors (no gaps - sanded and flush surface without grooves at the joints) - just using a different wood. I know the water run-off could be an issue - as such I figured I would do the same approach as with patios - 1/4 inch falloff for every 3 linear feet or so to keep the water from pooling.

I found the following image that has the general look of what we are after. Does anyone know what material would/could most likely be used here and what type of prep/finishing would be required? We live in a humid climate with light freezing in the winter.

http://www.hotspring.com/planning-tools/hot-tub-deck-design-tool

seahawk2000
 

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Architect / Carpenter
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Brazilian redwood and Ipe come to mind, but it depends a lot on the color and hue you are looking for. I would recommend looking into thermally modified decking. Many species of wood can be thermally modified making it more flexible for use in exterior applications. The big issue with the 'look' you are going for is the thermal expansion and contraction of the material. Even thermally modified material will have some expansion and contraction due to the temperature and humidity. If you construct the deck with no gaps, even if you have a minor slope for drainage, I think you will see the joints slightly bulge in the warmer seasons and slightly separate in the colder seasons.

I have built a couple of decks with a tongue and groove TimberTech composite decking that eliminates the gaps. The water is drained through small weep holes in the grooves. While that type of product could be detailed with a modern look, it's not going to be as modern as using some type of hardwood flooring.
 

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Civil Engineer
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The gap on traditional interior hardwood flooring is provided at the edges. Typicall you might have a gap of 1/2 inch to 1 inch, depending on the size of the installation. This gap is normally covered with molding, and therefore is not visible, but it certainly needs to be there. I would think that a deck could be built the same way, however I have never seen it done this way. Every deck using traditional lumber decking I have ever seen has had gaps between the boards, typically 1/16 to 1/8 inch.

The gap allows for drainage, and eliminates the chance of buckling during wet periods. I suppose in theory you could install the boards using no gap, and put the gap on the edges. One of the issues I would see is that the boards will expand during wet periods, and because there is no gap, the outermost boards will move more than the center boards. This is likely to tear the screws that fasten the boards down out of the joists. If you use hidden fasteners, same problem.

Of course, if you use synthetic decking that has minimal shrinkage and expansion issues, such as aluminum or plastic, you can probably get away with this. When I built my ipe deck, I followed manufacturers recommendations of not less than 1/16 inch gap between boards. There was an option for tongue and groove ipe, which was still gapped, but would not show the gap due to the tongue. I did not go with that option, more expensive, and I did not trust the hidden fastener system recommended for use with it.
 

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Too Short? Cut it Again!
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I would get some books from the library and maybe research companies that do marine deck kinds applications. Soft conifer woods like redwood, cedar and the pressure treated materials are going to expand and contract too much. Something like teak or South American exterior hardwoods would work but for $$$$$. You will probably want a deck designer working on this with you and via some prefab outlet that can cut everything for delivery to your site?

Synthetic materials would offer a modern look. Recycled glass decking can be quite beautiful with broad color possibilities. Rubber would be less modern.
 

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uva uvam vivendo variafit
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The gap on traditional interior hardwood flooring is provided at the edges. Typicall you might have a gap of 1/2 inch to 1 inch, depending on the size of the installation. This gap is normally covered with molding, and therefore is not visible, but it certainly needs to be there.
Slightly off topic, I've never fully understood the reason for this except in the case of floating floors. Nailed/glued floors with undergo expansion/contraction with the stress increasing the further you get away from the center. If the gap between the edge of the flooring and the framing was was to be filled with displaced flooring, the nails would have to be popped along the way or the glue bond would have to be broken. Furthermore, the flooring would expand/contract the most across it's width, which is perpendicular to the joist and the joist expansion/contraction is minimal along its length. This being the case it's hard to see the flooring, subflooring, and framing expanding in a composite manner. I'm sure there is something that I am not taking into account. What am I missing?
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you everyone for the quick responses. I am going to look into some of the items listed here. IPE keeps coming up - and at 1/16 of an inch gap it wouldn't be too bad. I have read some interesting design sites on IPE.

Part of what we want to do is put some curves in the deck rather than all stock angles - I am not sure how easy this would be with IPE; however, I did find some prefab units for purchase that are already curved, but I am not sure the radius will work for us.

Does anyone have experience curving a top deck board (I cannot see where this is possible - but thought I would ask) or a facia board with IPE? Similar to that image - we want to picture frame in the top of the deck with a 12 inch board then use 6 inch boards as the inside planks.

Thanks
 

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Does anyone have experience curving a top deck board (I cannot see where this is possible - but thought I would ask) or a facia board with IPE? Similar to that image - we want to picture frame in the top of the deck with a 12 inch board then use 6 inch boards as the inside planks.
I’ve done a curved Ipe staircase with a 5 ½” cap cut from 11½" stock and steam bent the grab rail and skirting. Very time consuming but well worth the effort.
 
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