Outdoor decks provide beautiful spaces for homeowners to relax, entertain, and enjoy the outdoors. When building a new deck or refurbishing an existing one, eco-friendly design principles allow you to reduce your environmental impact. Follow these tips to create a stylish, sustainable deck.
Choose Sustainable Decking Materials
Select decking materials made from renewable or recycled resources. Here are some excellent options:
This fast-growing grass is very durable, attractive, and available in many stain colors. Most bamboo decking contains a mix of recycled plastics as well for sustainability.
Composite decking often includes recycled wood fibers and plastics. The result resists rotting, splitting, and insect damage.
Made from recycled plastics, plastic lumber lasts for decades without needing staining or sealing. It will not rot, warp, or splinter.
Using reclaimed lumber from old barns, factories, or deconstructed buildings diverts waste from landfills. Reclaimed wood is typically more durable than new lumber.
When selecting materials, check with your local building codes, as some decking types may not be permitted. Also, consider your climate, as some perform better than others in moisture. Check certifications from the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative.
Choose Eco-Friendly Deck Stains
Unprotected wood decks require frequent staining or sealing to prevent deterioration. Many conventional stains contain toxic chemicals and high volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that harm the environment and health.
Instead, use stains made from plant oils, waxes, or water-based acrylics. Brands like DEFY Extreme, Messmers UV Plus, and BioAdvanced are excellent options. Or, choose unfinished decking like plastic lumber that needs no stains.
Incorporate Green Features
Building green features into your deck’s design further reduces its environmental impact. Consider adding:
- Drought-tolerant landscaping: Choose native plants that thrive in your climate without excessive watering. Group plants with similar needs together.
- Permeable pavers: Allow rainwater to soak back into the ground rather than running off into storm drains. Options include crushed stone, porous concrete, and open-celled paving grids.
- Rain barrels: Connect rain barrels to downspouts to capture roof runoff for gardening and landscaping.
- Solar lighting: Solar-powered lighting operates without electricity. Solar panels on the roof also provide renewable energy.
When incorporating any rain barrels, pavers, lighting, or other features, consult with a qualified landscaper or contractor to ensure proper installation and positioning.
Use Sustainable Construction Practices
How you build the deck impacts the environment too. Here are some eco-friendly construction tips:
- Follow green standards like the National Green Building Standard to reduce environmental harm from materials, construction techniques, and more. Consider ENERGY STAR, LEED, or NAHB Green certification.
- Hire eco-conscious contractors who minimize waste, use sustainable materials, and prevent pollution.
- Minimize waste. Plan purchases carefully to avoid leftover scraps. Use engineered lumber and composites requiring less material.
- Salvage or recycle materials when possible. Reuse existing boards, railings, footings if still in good shape. Recycle any damaged materials.
Maintain Your Deck Sustainably
Eco-friendly decks need occasional maintenance to stay looking great. Follow these sustainable practices:
- Compost trimmings instead of sending them to landfills. Reuse compost in gardens.
- Conserve water. Spot treat weeds instead of hosing the whole deck. Use a broom, not a hose, for dirt.
- Re-stain with eco-friendly finishes when needed, as described earlier.
- Repair individual boards instead of full replacement. Recycle any unsalvageable boards.
- Use non-toxic deck cleaners with plant-based ingredients, not harsh chemicals. Or, make your own cleaner from mild dish soap and water.
So, Is an Eco-Friendly Deck Worthwhile?
Installing a sustainable deck costs more upfront than standard construction. However, I find that it pays off for years through lower maintenance costs, energy savings, and durability of eco-materials.
An eco-friendly deck also conserves resources, reduces pollution, and provides healthier outdoor spaces.
FAQs About Eco-Friendly Decks
Do sustainable decks look different?
They can, but do not have to. Many composites and plastics closely mimic wood grain patterns and colors. Eco-friendly stains also come in many hues. Focus on durability and sustainability instead of looks alone.
How much more does an eco-friendly deck cost?
In my experience, you can expect to pay 20% to 30% more for sustainable materials like composites and bamboo versus standard pressure-treated lumber. Green building labor costs also add 10% to 15% typically.
What green certification programs apply to decks?
For residential decks, the National Green Building Standard (NGBS) is most relevant. Some builders can also get LEED certification through LEED for Homes.
Should I stain or seal composite decks?
A benefit of composites is not needing protective coatings or stains. Their outer shell contains UV blockers and colorants. Sealing may actually harm composites.
Can I DIY an eco-friendly deck?
Yes, if you have carpentry skills and knowledge of green building. Research which sustainable materials suit DIY installs before finalizing plans or hire an eco-conscious deck builder instead.