We’ve had a lot of experience building decks, usually hardwood, and recently many composite too. Choosing a decking material can be pretty overwhelming with so many products on the market today. Clients often ask us whether they should choose hardwood or composite deck, and which composite should I choose for decking?
Given how much maintenance hardwood decks require, the idea of a composite deck with no fading, oiling, splintering, termites, or tannins leaking onto surrounding areas is really enticing – not to mention more environmentally friendly!
Typically, composite materials are made of a combination of recycled plastics and timber pulp. The result is a low maintenance product that looks fairly realistic but with the downside that they can get very hot and experience fairly significant and inconsistent expansion / contraction. We’ve cut lengths one day and come back to find them with up to 6mm variations the next! This doesn’t bode well for an even looking deck. They are also a very expensive alternative.
We've just had the opportunity to build a deck with Millboard - a fairly new addition to the Australian market though a well established brand in the UK where it is manufactured, so we thought we’d share a little of our experience, as well as a few pointers for how to build a this pool deck at our Kirrawee Coastal project.
We’re here at our Kirrawee Coastal project and we’re putting a deck in the new pool enclosure.
We started with a 100mm concrete slab with slight fall to ensure water can drain away to the garden. We installed pine level joists painted black at a minimum of 400mm centres with packers underneath to ensure it was perfectly levelled to the adjacent pool coping. Painting joists black ensures they won’t be visible through the cracks of the deck. Having the packers underneath also ensures water can flow freely underneath the joists. We don’t want mozzies breeding under there!
The first thing that struck us with Millboard was how realistic it looks. Millboard have 8 colours in their Enhanced Grain range and today we’re using the Smoked Oak colour which looks just like beautifully silvered hardwood – without the splinters! Amazingly, thanks to many years of research and development, there’s not even a hint of the ‘plasticy’ look that many composite boards still have. You honestly wouldn’t know it’s composite! We were also pleased to learn it has thermal properties more like timber than other composites, so it doesn’t become searing hot in the sun, which is so important around a pool deck.
Laying out the millboard deck prior to installation is extremely important as it lets the boards adjust to the local temperature. Millboard is manufactured using eight molds from real timber, so laying them out in advance gives the opportunity to ensure that grain matched boards are not placed next to each other. We found our batch to primarily have 5 different designs, so this step was particularly important.
Our client selected a picture frame header around the L-shaped garden bed, with deck lights installed along the edge.
Once all levels are set, cutting and installation of Millboard was straight forward with 4mm spacing and full length boards. Using silicone spray on the screw heads allowed the screws to sink into the Millboard and disappear, which after years of using hardwood, just blew our minds. You literally cannot tell where the screws are. Huge bonus – speedy installation time because there’s no need to worry about them being perfectly aligned! And if you’re worried about needing to remove a board in future – not to worry, just slip a wedge underneath the board and slowly lever it up again and it comes off without a worry. This is a game changer for how beautiful the finished deck looks – sleek and seamless.
Millboard recommend removing factory edges and coating fresh cuts with their tinted sealer, and when joining boards such as with mitered picture frame edges, using a combination of two glues to ensure a durable bond.
Is Millboard worth the cost? Our verdict
After installation a quick soapy scrub down of the boards and this deck is ready to last many years with minimal maintenance. As you can see, the end result is absolutely stunning. Millboard is one of the most expensive products in the market, but also the most realistic and premium looking in our opinion. That coupled with the ease of installation, amazing look and minimal maintenance makes this a winner in our books.
Millboard is supplied in Australia by https://conceptmaterials.com.au/