Our 2017 Guide To Building A Deck In Toronto

Your Guide to Toronto Deck Permits, Materials & Maintenance

When contemplating a new deck, it’s an opportunity to reimagine your backyard.  You may dream of an oasis far from the madding crowd or an outdoor kitchen that would rival any cooking show or a gathering place for all the neighbourhood kids. Like any dream that comes to fruition, it requires good planning and a solid foundation.

This guide will cover several areas that need to be considered before you can fulfill your dream of the perfect backyard deck; ranging from choosing the best materials for your lifestyle and environment, to deck repair and maintenance.

What to Consider Before Building Your Custom Toronto Deck

The best decks begin with a well-built foundation and a good plan or design. Backyard decks are often a destination for relaxation. It’s hard to relax if you are anxious about a broken step or wobbly railing or a frustrating design element. Here is a list of things to consider before building your new deck.

✓ Before You Start

There are issues that may arise when building a deck, especially if you’re planning to build it yourself. Here are some of the issues that need to be considered before you begin building your deck in Toronto:

  • Call before you dig!  This is key – you could accidentally hit anvunderground water, power, and gas line. It’s free – call 1-800-400-2255 Ontario One Call for a report.  They will respond in five business days.

  • Get a permit! It’s essential, we’ll talk more about it later

  • Build it properly!  – when your deck is well-constructed you will avoid:

  • Rotting and Decaying of the wood

  • Sinking and misalignment of the deck

  • Cracking, breaking, splintering of wood

  • Sagging or buckling of floor boards

  • Rusting nails and bolts

Let’s dive into these issues more closely on how to build a deck that is problem free and will serve you and your family for years to come.

✓ Sound Building Practices

When you are planning to build your backyard deck, it’s wise to check with The City of Toronto to find out if you require a building permit. It’s always wise to do it right the first time otherwise you could be in store for future headaches. For example: when selling your home, the buyers demand to see the plans for the deck and know it adheres to Building Code. This will ensure that the deck is safe for your family and friends.

A building permit is required for any verandah or porch that is more than 60 centimetres off the ground. Check out the city of Toronto website.

The city requires:

  • a full site plan

  • details of footings

  • size and locations of beams and columns

  • stair construction details,

  • as well as information about guard construction.  

✓ Choose Your Deck Material

There are four predominant building materials used for decks in Toronto. Each choice differs in price, resilience to damage, required maintenance, aesthetic, quality, and weight. The following choices deserve a good amount of thought.

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Pressure Treated Wood

Cost to build a Pressure Treated Wood deck: Low

Level of maintenance: High

The most affordable option for decks in Canada is pressure treated (PT) lumber. Beware!  Not all pressure treated lumbers are created equally – be sure to check the label.  The label will tell you what type and how much preservative was used.  PT lumber has traditionally been treated with a series of toxic chemicals however, since 2003 they have stopped treating with the suspected carcinogenic chromated copper arsenate(CCA).   Generally speaking, PT lumber is the most cost-effective choice. Before you purchase PT decking material make sure you understand that it will require continual maintenance, mostly likely yearly sanding, staining and sealing, in order for it to look aesthetically appealing.  

Cedar & Redwood

Cost to build a Cedar/Redwood deck: Medium

Level of maintenance: Medium

For many, the best choice for decking are redwood or red cedar. Both western softwoods have rich colour and natural beauty.  Both species contain tannins and oils that make them naturally resistant to rot, decay and boring insects and aren't pumped full of chemicals or preservatives. 

However, not all cedar and redwood are the same.  When considering these woods, you need to understand the difference between heartwood and sapwood. The heartwood grows closer to the centre of the tree, and is harder and more resistant to decay. The sapwood grows in the outer part of the tree, and is generally softer and more susceptible to decay. The cost can be roughly 3x the price than that of a deck built with pressure treated wood.  

Pro Tip: When using a pressure washer on Western Red Cedar or Redwood, use a lower setting because, they are a softer wood and could be easily damaged if too much pressure is applied. The woods will require water-repellant preservative applied every few years.

EXOTIC IMPORT: TROPICAL HARDWOODS

Cost to build a Tropical Hardwood deck: High

Level of maintenance: Medium

Ipe (pronounced EE-pay), and Philippine Mahogany are just a couple of the tropical hardwoods that are available for building a deck. These woods are exotic and have a rich-grain, they are also extremely hard, very durable and naturally resistant to rot and insects.  Since they are incredibly dense woods – they tend to be heavy and difficult to cut and drill. In fact, they are typically installed with some sort of hidden fastener that clips or screws into the edge of the boards since it’s virtually impossible to drive a nail or screw without first boring a pilot hole. If this is a DIY project, you’re looking at a high sweat equity cost.  As for maintenance, you should apply a UV-blocking preservative every few years.

Composite Decking

Cost to build a Composite deck: High

Level of maintenance: Low

When compared to the previous options, composite decking is the most expensive alternative. This is a popular option for those who lament having to maintain their deck. Composite lumber is made from a mixture of wood fiber, plastic, and some type of binding agent. These ingredients are put together to form a material that is denser, stronger, and heavier than wood alone, a wood-plastic composite. The composite decking material often closely resembles natural wood-grain, while providing peace of mind that the material won’t crack, warp, rot, or splinter like natural wood decks. Washing periodically with water and soap will help keep your composite deck fresh and new. While initial costs of composite decking are high, the cost of future maintenance and deck repair are traditionally lower.

Best Deck Material For You?

Ultimately the choice comes down to personal taste and your dedication to regularly protecting, maintaining, and revitalizing your deck.  Ultimately, there is no wrong choice with any of the materials listed above.

✓ Design with the future in mind

Make sure your custom deck has the ability to adapt with the changing needs of your family and lifestyle.  You may see a hot tub or outdoor kitchen in your future, make sure the deck you are building will allow you to grow.

✓ Maintenance & Repairs

For many, the deck is the favourite part of their home. It’s also very vulnerable to seasonal weather damage and other harmful elements. So, it’s important that you are well acquainted with proper deck repair techniques and procedures remember, a well-maintained deck can last for many years.

Spring is a good time to evaluate how well your deck stood up to the Toronto winter. In our previous blog post “Spring Time Deck Repair and Revitalization” we explore the methods of cleaning, painting/staining, and protecting/sealing your wood deck.

Again, composite decking only requires periodic washing with soap and water, making it ideal for the Toronto climate.

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Preserve your deck

Rot and damage from boring insects can significantly compromise the integrity of your deck’s structure.  Pressure treated and exotic woods are generally more resistant to rot and insect infestation, than the cedars and redwoods.  The best way to ensure that your deck has a long life is good construction. Poor construction could be the determining factor regarding the longevity of you deck.

Poor construction can create moisture traps in areas that aren’t noticeable – such as the junctions between joists, beams, joint ends and other hidden structural sections.   

Keep a strict maintenance regimen, whether it’s every year or every few years.  Let’s face it – it’s best to give your deck a yearly inspection every spring, as I noted previously, and address all the little issues before they become big issues.

Replace your current deck

Your deck may need to be replaced when – it is in a state of disrepair or, it feels unsafe or, it no longer suits your needs. It may be time to call your local professional Toronto deck contractor. Letting issues persist will only create more headaches and end up costing you more money in the long run, not to mention the danger of the deck collapsing and injuring someone.

✓ Hire a Toronto Deck-Building Professional

There are several deck builders in Toronto you can choose, but how do you know you’re choosing the right one for your backyard project?

The deck contractor you hire should have a long list of references, several years of experience, a keen eye for design and detail, and a firm understanding of how to build the best deck for your backyard. They will also have a great understanding of the Toronto deck building code and how to obtain a city of Toronto deck building permit for you.


If you’re looking through a list of Toronto deck builders, consider the one with over 25 years of deck-building experience. Bryant Renovations in Toronto knows how to create your dream custom deck that turns your backyard into a paradise. Look at our gallery of previous projects on our website and contact our deck contractor experts today!