Upper Canada Carpentry
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Special Techniques & Products:

In our experience, “AZEK” ( www.azek.com) is the best low–maintenance PVC decking available. Its features and benefits are outstanding. There are a few other PVC products very similar in quality to “AZEK“, however, they are more expensive. (We avoid composite decking products because of staining, scratching, and mold issues). For installing “AZEK” we often use stainless steel screws ( www.starbornindustries.com; www.swansecure.com) which are the most corrosion–resistant fasteners. Their heads are colour–matched to the deck surface.

AZEC PVC Decking

When a client desires a fastener–free deck surface, we use the “Cortex” concealed fastening system (www.fastenmaster.com). Unlike other systems that can result in a squeaky deck surface or loose boards, especially after the pressure treated (PT) framing dries, “Cortex” uses screws installed through the decking surface into the joists, which is the most structurally sound method, too. Then, specially manufactured plugs cover the screw heads. For our purposes, “Cortex“ is applicable only to “AZEK”.Also, we use the Cortex screws and plugs in combination with the Hidfast Hidden Fastener Decking System (www.hidfast.com). Unfortunately, for cedar or PT decks there is no satisfactory hidden fastener system. When the cedar or PT decking (and framing) dries after installation, excessive gapping and/or squeaking or loose boards are the result of any current system.

Cortex Fastener-Free Deck

We take particular pride in our pressure treated (PT) 6X6 pier foundation installation method. It does NOT involve the use of sonotubes, wet concrete, or metal saddle connectors. Our method meets the Ontario Building Code, is less costly and more decay–resistant than the common method, and prevents frost–heaving and settling. More than 500 piers so far in all soil types with not a single callback.

Our competitors set their stairs at grade on precast landscaping slabs, or on poured concrete pads. These methods are subject to frost–heaving or settling. Where our stairways meet the grade we install PT 4x4 pier foundations, using the method mentioned above, because walking on our stairs must feel as solid and safe as the deck itself.

Pressure Treated 4x4 Pier Foundation Deck Staircase

The Ontario Building Code requires deck joists to be spaced at 24”, 16”, or 12” on center, depending on the span and loading. We almost always build at 12” on center, regardless of the span and load because the added cost is far outweighed by the increased strength and safety provided.

12 Inch On Center Deck Joists

We always apply a self–adhesive rubberized membrane called “Vycor Deck Protector” ( www.graceathome.com) to the top edge of all our PT pier foundations, ledgers, beams, joists, blocking, stairs stringers & risers. This creates a barrier against water penetration of deck structures. The lifespan of the framing is significantly extended for a minimal cost. A very wise investment, particularly when the deck is finished with a more–expensive–upfront low–maintenance decking product like “AZEK”. “Vycor” will help the substructure to last as long as the deck surface.

Vycor Deck Protector

Our preferred low–voltage and LED deck lighting is the integrated line from “in–lite” ( www.in-lite.us). Their fixtures are attractive and very durable. For post cap lights, and strip lighting, “Aurora“ has impressed us with a fine selection of high–quality fixtures (www.auroradecklighting.com). (Compared to low–voltage bulbs, LED lights have an extremely long life –– eleven years worth of continuous burning hours. Also, the energy consumption and heat produced are very low). Carefully planned built–in deck lighting is beautiful, extends the deck’s use into the evening hours, and increases safety on stairways and at level changes.

Deck And Staircase Lighting

“Drysnap” is our favourite under deck rain carrying system (www.drysnap.com). It consists of white vinyl ceiling panels that collect and drain water away from the space under a raised deck. It provides a bright, low–maintenance ceiling that conceals the joists, bridging, blocking and ledgers from view.

Deck With Drysnap Under Deck Rain Carrying System Deck Staircase With Drysnap Under Deck Rain Carrying System

For low–maintenance aluminum deck handrails, we like “Regal” (www.regalrailing.com) and “Probuilt” ( www.probuiltrailings.com). These systems meet the Ontario Building Code, and offer a good selection of colours and accessories, including tempered glass panels. “Probuilt“ offers a large assortment of custom colours, and has a better warranty. Deckorators ( www.deckorators.com) offers very appealing decorative aluminum and tempered glass balluster systems. We use these elements in combination with cedar rails and posts. Also, they produce unique, fibreglass-reinforced concrete postcovers that make regular handrail posts look like real stacked–flagstone columns. For low–maintenance vinyl handrails, we prefer “Yardcrafters” ( www.euramaxcanada.com). It also meets the Ontario Building Code, and offers three styles in three colours, including tempered glass panels and solar light post caps. There is a tempered glass and aluminum guardrail called “Infinity”. This system has eliminated the top and bottom rails providing the most unobstructed view available.

Low Maintenance Aluminum Deck Handrails

Whenever we require old-fashioned screen doors or gingerbread, Kurtz Millworks is our first and only choice ( www.kurtzmillworks.com). The materials and joinery they employ to build their doors are far superior to anything available elsewhere, and their gingerbread is essentially maintenance–free. Also, they offer an authentic and comprehensive selection of styles.