Discrete stainless steel cable railing ends look great.

Stainless steel cable railing

Stainless steel cable railing with discrete cable ends crests the aesthetics bar for interior rail on this multi-million dollar home in Issaquah.

Cable railings

In the past the only aesthetic downside to stainless steel cable railing was the crimp on cable ends. The rail extrusions looked great, the cables looked great but, those ends… They looked they they escaped off a commercial fishing boat. OK, maybe that is a tad harsh but, they always seemed a little out of place on such a fine part of a building or home’s architecture.  the places where the wire was crimped into the end was visible and sometimes even bent the end somewhat. Some suppliers still use this set up.

internal retainer cable ends

Discrete ends have a super clean appearance.

Discrete cable ends

MBA Deck and Fence has uses a discrete cable end that is housed completely inside the post extrusion. All that comes out of the post is cable. This creates a sleek, minimalist and ultra-modern appearance on the railing. This product can be used with stainless steel railing, aluminum railing or well-built wood railings. Only slightly more than a conventional end but, faster to install they make a cost effective improvement to any cable railing.

close-up of discrete cable railin end fitting.

The crimped and threaded end is housed within the carrier which in turn is inside the rail post.

How a discrete cable end works

One end of the cable run is crimped into a threaded carrier that is tightened into a sleeve that is mounted into the post. The other end is pushed through a similar shaped carrier that has one way jaws that hold the cable after it is pushed through. The cable is pulled as taught as possible then, the other end is rotated with an allen wrench. This draws the end deeper into the carrier tightening the cable. The crimped end never comes out of the carrier so there is no need to trim a stud or double nut like in less advanced systems.

An example of proper deck flashing and water sealing.

How to properly attach a deck to the home.

plastic or Vinyl deck flashing

proper flashing technique for attaching a deck to the home.

Here we see vinyl deck flashing with a short return down the face of the ledger joist (the first board attached to the home), the siding was cut and removed and the ledger attached directly to the house framing and sheathing. adhesive flashing was also placed behind the ledger and extends down and just over the next siding board so that any possible moisture penetration is routed outside the siding again. The vinyl flashing extends up under the door and the siding adjacent to it. You can also see how a small notch was cut into the outside joist so that the 3/8″ return on the vinyl flashing can extend down through it so no water can travel across the top of the joist.

It is important that the flashing either be vinyl, stainless steel or that Vycor deck protector either covers the pressure treated wood or is used in place of traditional flashing. Standard painted or galvanized flashing will rust away in short order.

Composite decking prices: Trex, Timbertech and Fiberon compete with wood.


Composite decking prices have exciting new options for 2013.  Manufacturers have come out with new price-point products that are highly competitive with wood for initial installation cost.  Even when the short term costs of staining and maintenance are considered, the net expense of price point composite decking is far lower than real wood. This cost difference will only continue to compound for the life of your deck. The great thing about this seasons offerings is that they all are the new co-extruded type of composite decking, a wonderful benefit because of scratch, stain and fade resistance. Read more about co-extruded decking here. Previous years price point offerings of composite decking, were all of the traditional composite construction, not co-extruded decking.

Some examples of value priced composite decking.

Trex got the ball rolling with new composite decking prices on co-extruded decking, with their new line  of “Select” decking, which is now offered in all of the old “Accents” colors, Winchester Grey, Saddle, Woodland Brown, and Madeira. This decking is on the market in the $2.50 range per lineal foot, or $40 per 16′ length. Timbertech added a similarly priced  version of their “Earthwoods Evoluntions” product  in the “Terrain” line, colors “Brown Oak” and “Silver Maple”, also in the the $2.50 range, per lineal foot. Fiberon’s new Pro-Tect line of composite decking, which is modeled after the appearance of exotic hardwoods, is available for under $3 a lineal foot. The Pro-Tect line includes “Chestnut”, “Gray Birch”, and “Western Cedar”. Pro-Tect also offers two solid colors, “Canyon Brown” and “Harbor Gray” which are available for about $2.40 per lineal foot. We are currently building a Protect deck stay tuned for a portfolio post.

Value conscious homeowners would be wise to take advantage of the new composite decking prices! Give MBA Deck & Fence a call today for a free estimate.

ACQ treated lumber, corrosion and it’s causes.

Several years back environmental regulation mandated the removal of arsenic from the treatment of wood products, definitely a good thing. Heavy metals were being found in the soil beneath play equipment at schools and other sites. This posed a real challenge for wood product chemists and manufacturers, how to market a pressure treated wood without the usual chemical cocktail. The way they achieved this is by adding large amounts of copper to the formula, ACQ. Here’s the battery part, batteries are made possible by the placement of dissimilar metals in an electrolyte to create a current by the corrosion of the metals. The same thing happens when steel or zinc plated hardware and nails come in contact with the high level of copper in treated woods. There are specially coated hardware and stainless steel alternatives to most products you can use on a deck. If you use a standard metal component the level and rate of corrosion is shocking. literally in a couple of weeks a regular zinc plated hanger will look like the battery post on an old car, greenish fuzz and all. One area of particular concern is deck screws. the steel used for screws is less elastic than that of nails and the ACQ treatment causes them to become very brittle and in the case of composite decks which expand and contract slightly the fasteners are highly prone to breakage. Even the ACQ rated screws are not immune to this. I almost exclusively use stainless steel fasteners on my composite or cellular PVC decks and only use stainless nails on fences. Not only is stainless more corrosion resistant but, the steel is more elastic as well resisting the shearing caused by the deck movement. Stainless will cost more on the front end but, save you big in the end.

So what is co-extrusion anyways?

coextruded cross sectionWhen composite deck first came onto the market it was a simple wood fiber plastic mix. Heat and pressure bonded the two components into a durable board. This product changed the decking market forever, less maintenance and no reoccurring staining costs were a great benefit to consumers.

There were some shortcomings though. Traditional composites could be scratched, not easily but, just the same, on a product designed to last at least 25 years, things happen… Color fastness was an issue too, also resistance to staining. Barbeque grease was the bane of composite decking oil-based product meets grease, not good. Azek products introduced their cellular PVC and co-extruded boards and the market changed dramatically. Initially other manufacturers followed with their own PVC boards but soon marketed their traditional composite with the co-extruded layer added.

Ok, so what is co-extrusion anyways. Simply put, when the board is formed, extruded from a machine heated and under pressure, it comes out with a layer of a different material over it. In most cases it appears to be a polymer layer, trade secrets so no manufacturer is forthcoming with it’s exact nature. In the photo you can see quite clearly the outer layer and the inner core.Image

What does this mean for the consumer? The outer layer is a much harder and stain resistant material than the inner core. The polymer layer is also capable of being died in rich and variegated colors that are quite striking. With the exception of Earthwood (see related post) I find it difficult to imagine a scenario where damage could be incurred to a co extruded board. They are just that tough. The color fastness is absolute, I’ve compared long installed material with new pieces and can detect no color shift whatsoever.

I find this development very exciting for the industry. I would encourage any prospective deck buyer to consider using a board of this construction, it really is that good.

Composite decking, is it a better choice than wood?

The most oft asked question I receive as a decking installer is should I use a composite or real wood? Synthetic decking solutions have been on the market for close to 25 years now and are pretty much a known quantity at this point. In the early days there was some trial and error and for a while everyone wanted to be a decking manufacturer. This led to some not so great products. The market has weeded out the wanna-be’s and I feel a composite or synthetic deck is really the way to go. There are certain home styles and individual tastes that really prefer real wood but, if long term cost and ease of maintenance is your primary criteria composite or PVC decking is the best choice.

The major manufacturer’s have very convincing simulated wood grain products available now with some creative fastening methods. I just installed a small deck with Trex Tropical decking in the color Spiced Rum, and it is truly gorgeous. We used the Hideaway hidden fastener system and the lack of screws in the surface really adds to the appearance. Azek’s  PVC Acacia color is great, as well as several colors in TimberTech’s palette. Of course you pay a premium for these cutting edge colors but, many of the more basic patterns are barely more than wood.

Why not wood? I know that some individuals will give loving care to their deck and enjoy meticulously sanding and staining it every year giving them unparalleled beauty however, most customers with today’s busy lifestyles and troubled economy report that their main concerns are ease of maintenance and cost. I have found that with the narrowing of the gap in price between composite/PVC decking and wood decking that the price difference is usually bridged in either the first or second application of stain. Staining and especially re-staining a deck is a laborious and expensive task and that cost continues to accrue throughout the lifespan of the structure. Composite and PVC requires only a twice yearly rinsing with a dilute bleach solution to maintain it’s appearance. It takes about twenty minutes and costs about fifty cents per application. Ten years down the road a owner may have re-stained wood as many as 5-10 times possibly costing several thousand dollars and it will still look like a 10 year old deck whereas the composite/PVC deck will look essentially the same as when it was installed. This preserves the value of the home and is often listed in the bullet points on a realtors listing of a home.

I hope this answers the question for prospective deck buyers and builders, it’s not so much a definitive answer as a question back at the consumer, what are your expectations? your aesthetic tastes? what kind of a commitment are you willing to make to maintenance? are you looking for short or long term expense? Answering those questions should put you much closer to a decision on your best decking type. My next blog post will explore the difference between standard composites and PVC and co-extruded decking choices. Stay tuned or e-mail me your specific questions.brasilla 037