Best Of Both Worlds: Hybrid Decking
Stone has grown increasingly popular as a finish for paths and patios. Beyond its rustic and natural appearance, stone is durable and will last forever.
Folks with homes on anything other that a flat (or near flat) lot have traditionally not been able to enjoy a stone patio. Concrete paths and patios on sloped lots require lots of excavation, retaining walls, soil compaction and drainage control. This can be an extremely complex and expensive undertaking. Consequently, most people with sloped yards generally opt for a deck (natural wood or composite) on which to do their backyard entertaining. A deck can be constructed over mild or steep slopes and in the poorest of soils.
Now, even people with sloped backyards can enjoy a level stone patio thanks to a clever new construction system that utilizes traditional deck framing onto which stone panels are placed. We have dubbed this system the “hybrid deck” because it offers all of the advantages and ease of framing on a slope coupled with the natural beauty and ease of maintenance of stone.
Although these new systems are ideal for sloped lots; they may also be used for roof top decking and decks above living space, as well at traditional backyard deck applications. In addition to large stone tiles; wood tiles and concrete pavers may also be utilized. Ironically, the hybrid deck system is as popular among people who live on flat lots as it is with those on slopes. Stone is the perfect solution for someone seeking an alternative to constant wood refinishing and/or replacement. Stone decking is an especially practical alternative for parts of the country where the climate is harsh and where wood products take the greatest beating.
The system is simple. An interlocking grid system – typically plastic – is installed over existing or new wood deck framing into which the natural or composite tiles are placed. The tiles, range in size from 12 to 24 inches square with 16 inches the most popular as it will conform neatly to most existing deck support framing. The tiles for most of the available systems are backed with a high strength material that increases their strength and durability. There is even a hybrid for the hybrid deck that wherein stone decking can be used as an accent to natural wood or wood composites.
In contrast to a mortar-in-place tile or stone installation, the tiles require no mortar and allow for a narrow gap – about an eighth of an inch – for drainage. Material weight and thickness can vary dramatically. Average thickness ranges between one to two inches and weights vary from 9 to 22 pounds per square foot (psf). Wood decking weighs in at about five to ten pounds per square foot depending upon the material thickness. Most wood decks are built to carry a ten pound psf dead (material) load and a 40 pound psf live (people and things) load. Anything heavier will require additional support.
The hybrid deck system can be used when constructing a new deck or to replace existing wooden decking – provided that the framing is sound. Although most systems are installed by contractors, carpenters, deck or dock builders and landscape contractors; the project can be performed a handy do-it-yourselfer.
Material costs for the stone decking can vary as widely as the size and weight of the material. Other conditions that affect cost are the size of the deck and shipping costs. In general, manufacturers claim that the material cost is slightly more than natural wood and slightly less than wood composites.
So whether your deck is on a cliff in Malibu that overlooks the Pacific; part of a rooftop garden in Manhattan; or, as is the case for most of us, just a back yard retreat; a hybrid might be exactly what you’ve been looking for.
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