H&G: All Aboard

Whether you’re a do-it-yourself weekend warrior, or a couch-bound channel surfer – “The Backyard Oasis” is referenced so often on every television ad and in every home improvement store that you can’t help but envision your perfect outdoor haven. For some, that Oasis has an outdoor kitchen to rival Bobby Flay, while others dream of sleek, built-in benches circled around a modern glass fire pit.

No matter which Backyard Oasis feature dominates your dream, you’ll need the perfect porch, deck or patio surrounding each element to truly set the stage.

Board by board, Edmond resident Kevin Hillhouse built his business by helping local homeowners bring those visions to life over the last two decades with Riviera Deck & Arbor. “I do a lot of work with Western Red Cedar – it’s a very good choice for the Edmond area. It’s long lasting; it’s insect resistant and weather resistant,” he said. “I’ve got posts I put in my yard up to 25 years ago, and they’ve lost less than 20% around the girth of the post. That proves to me how well this product works in the ground.”

Redwood used to be a popular option for decks, but Hillhouse says residents have moved away from that trend because they don’t like the idea of cutting down those magnificent trees, not to mention the higher price range.

“People are going to composite material. Most people like it because it will not rot, but it’s a much more expensive product than pressure treated wood or cedar,” said Hillhouse. He does caution that while many homeowners think it’s a 100% trouble-free product, about every 3-4 years, it will need to be conditioned in order to avoid getting dull.

Edmond resident Hal Mills also has over 20 years experience with his company Edmond Deck & Patio. He agrees the trend is leaning toward composites, as well as the newest material, PVC decking. “The trend is to go with better, longer lasting materials. The artificial decking materials are the newest thing out there,” he said. “The composite material is a mixture of wood and plastic, so it’s basically indestructible. You get longevity, beauty, and it holds color.”

Mills and Hillhouse both agree these artificial materials need to be installed properly in order to accommodate for shrinkage and expansion due to Oklahoma’s temperature extremes. “Your builder or contractor needs to follow the code and manufacture specifications for the materials, because you work with them differently than natural woods,” said Mills.

“Even though these are maintenance-free or very low maintenance, some of the composite material can have a tendency to get a mold that is unsightly and requires some cleaning. Some materials are more prone to mold than others,” he states. “The PVC is newer and more mold resistant, so that’s a concern that’s becoming eliminated. Negative side effects may involve more cleaning – but you’ll never stain, sand, or do anything else to the deck so it’s a good trade off.”

And no deck would be complete in Oklahoma summers without shade of course. Coverings such as pergolas are always popular, but new materials are emerging as well.

“To protect from the sun, there’s a sunscreen material that’s now out that you can see at Frontier City or Six Flags when you await a ride. It’s a black cloth-like material that blocks sunlight, yet breathes well,” said Hillhouse. “We use that on a lot of our decks with cedar tops to get shade, but not feel too closed in. You can often get 100% shade under an all cedar pergola around 4 or 5 o’clock if it’s set properly considering the angle to the sun.”

Edmond homeowners who want to extend the square footage of their current deck can gain character by changing levels, or materials to add interest. Mills recommends assessing the age and integrity of your current deck prior to starting a new project. “Usually you can walk around and tell how solid a deck is. If you feel any movement or hear any creaking, it’s good to call us or another deck builder to ensure it is structurally sound.”

To set just the right stage in your backyard, show your builder magazine pages or photos of your dream setting. And when choosing a builder, seek out someone with years of local experience who has pictures of their work, along with references before you begin. Because after all, “If you build it right the first time, it should last,” said Hillhouse. 

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