Eastco’s custom outdoor living projects include decks, arbors, patio covers, gazebos, and outdoor kitchens. we are able to construct any of these from several different materials depending on your style.
Projects can range from small to extravagant depending upon the needs. Since “Form Follows Function”, one should consider:
1. What direction does the area face? Where does the sun set?
2. What other projects are in the area’s future such as a pool, play scape, etc.? How do you want access to these areas
3. Based on wind direction, where would you like grilling/kitchen are to be?
4. Casual (food in hand) dining or gathering with seated dining?
5. How many people will commonly be using the area?
6. Split Level or single? Square area, or curved and angled?
7. Do you want built in benches, shelves, handrails?
8. Maintenance preferences for long term care of the area? concrete, wood stain, etc.
9. Patio Cover? Solid or Arbor? Attached to the home or free standing?
Considering that by national statistics, over a third of outdoor living projects are torn out and redone because the above considerations were ignored, let Eastco work with you to design your area and offer some ideas and solutions.
San Antonio area soil conditions factor large in this decision. We have a caliche soil that is partly clay that expands and contracts based on moisture level that may raise or lower inches several times a year. We may not have earthquakes or hurricanes, but this is a challenge.
If you have ever seen a sidewalk next to a large tree where the root has cracked and raised that sidewalk, that is the type force the soil can exert.
Concrete done right to minimize the soil challenges, should:
1. Be attached to the Foundation to prevent it from moving away from the house. This is usually done by drilling horizontally into the foundation (it should not void the foundation warranty) and rebar epoxied into place.
2. The concrete should be of a high PSI (at least 3,000). There are many new formulas for concrete from self compacting, to vacuum, and more, but, much of the concrete poured here is of poor quality due to a desire for faster pouring (high moisture content)
3. The area should have a moisture barrier to prevent soil moisture from moving up into the concrete—particularly if the upper surface is going to receive a sealing treatment or overlay of any kind. This also slows the cure and makes for stronger concrete.
4. The area should be dug down and prepped which may include compacting, or the use of road fill, etc.
The exterior edges, some will call footings, should be 6” thick or more, and the slab should be at least 4”-6” depending upon other factors such as where it will be load bearing, support the weight of patio cover, or the weight of a wall if it to be enclosed.
6. Rebar reinforcements must be present and some areas require an engineered drawing of the metal and a pre-pour inspection.
Foundation repair is big business in this area, and you can see cracks everywhere. If there is an existing tab, 3×3, piece of concrete, we may or may not demo it to build over with a deck, but it is best practice to remove it and any questionable concrete before pouring more.
There are great concrete overlays such as sundek, etc that can even have the look of Flagstone, without the inevitable disappointment of flagstone. Stamping, staining, and other options are exciting options in the market. And, if one wants exterior tile, concrete is the answer.
On the other hand, the wood framing of a deck can raise and lower without breaking. When properly done, that deck frame should:
1. Be attached to the foundation to provide stability using a ledger board with staggered lag bolts.
2. Have post footings at least 12”-18” deep—deck blocks are a definate “NO”. The post must NOT come into contact with the soil or it will rot.
3. Use treated lumber as required by code. (the only area Eastco uses treated lumber on a deck)
4. Use non-corrosive fasteners—stainless or hot-dipped.
5. Not use nails but lag bolts, or bolts, or a type of ring-shank nail.
6. There are great options in metal frames being used, but the treated dimensional lumber on framing is not often a point of failure if the footings are done properly.
7. There are many methods of framing from girder to double beam… with joist hangers or older methods. Eastco prefers the stability of double beam with no more than 16” on center floor joists.
The framing is one part of the deck independent of the deck boards.
San Antonio had decades of treated yellow pine 2×4 deck boards which accounts for every ugly deck you’ve seen. Suitable for framing, but not decking, it has too high a moisture content and will often cup, warp, bend, bow, or twist as it dries. The wood expands and contracts with upto 60% moisture content that large gaps must be left between boards. TYP doesn’t accept stain very well and often need to be stained every year if not more.
The “economy wood” suitable for our dry heat is Cedar, most often Western Red Cedar. Beware, not all “Cedars” are cedar at all..Chinese Cedar can be any number of woods without the natural weather and insect resistance of Cedar. Cedar is considered sacred in some cultures because of its inherent traits. In addition, it is 5x stronger that TYP, doesn’t swell much when wet, accepts stain deeply and requires less maintanance (good quality penetrating oil stain lasts about 4 years). There are no allergy concerns—our Cedar Fever is actually due to Mountain Juniper.
Other woods used include redwood (a high maintanance wood), and various true hardwoods with ironwoods such as ipe, tigerwood and others holding a solid share. These are very dense and durable exotic hardwoods from South America which are incredibly strong.
Composite decking has been around since the 80’s and has finally solved many of its initial nightmarish problems. Particularly suited for northern Freezing climates, these synthetic made out of wood pulp, and various substances in a non-permiable capsule textured and colored to look like wood.
They generally have good warranties, but it is essential that the Capsule not be penetrated with screws or nails and “hidden fasteners” are used. There is still significant color fade and many find the surface to get excessively hot, running about 30 degrees above ambient in direct sun.
The attractive feature for most is the low maintanance requirements.
Accesories such as hand rails (required by code above 18”) can run up the bill fast while others like benchs and shelves are less so.
The “why” question is first. Will this be an enclosure like a sun room, or screened in area? If not, an arbor (Pergola) is a good option for shade and heat reduction with a dramatic look.
If a solid cover is preferred, understand that our rain is often almost horizontal when we get it and will generally penetrate 6 feet or more inside the roof line—so rain protection is not 100%.
A solid cover can be the traditional “shingles to match the house” which is often required by the home owner’s association), or an insulated flat panel in most applications.
Often, the existing structure places some limitations as to what can be built to withstand our heavy rain (when we get it) and building code as to the required pitch of the roof for a shingled roof.
In those situtions, a flat panel roof can work well.
Let Eastco work with you to find the answer for your family’s home.
EASTCO General Contractors in San Antonio, Texas was established in 1976. Our expertise includes commercial, multi-family, and residential construction from ground up new construction., renovation/remodeling, and insurance loss restoration.