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Child-friendly decking

It seems everyone with even a smidgen of outdoor space has a deck these days.

It is not difficult to see why – they can enhance a property aesthetically as well as provide a great area for the whole family to hang out on. Like any other structure they do need to be built to the regulations that apply in your state or territory, which are all informed by the Building Code of Australia (BCA). If you have small children then you need to consider a few additional measures when planning a new deck or upgrading your existing structure.

Children – prone as they are to climbing and clambering on anything – simply see decks as another play structure conveniently located in their own backyard. Balustrades and railings are prime climbing territory, as are any outdoor furniture on the deck. These elements are most commonly linked to accidents that involve children and decking.

Child-friendly decking tips

The following pointers are all designed to help ensure that your deck is child friendly – ideally paired with adult supervision.

Slipping and Sliding

Decking surfaces can often get slippery when wet or from extended exposure to moisture when mould and mildew can appear. There are a number of measures that can ensure that your decking surface is firm underfoot. These include decking timber that has grooves engineered into it; slip resistant strips and anti-slip additives that can be mixed into stains and coatings. Regularly cleaning your deck with a dedicated soap or cleaning agent can also help minimise slips and falls.

Railings

The BCA requires all structures higher than one metre (1m) to have a handrail. Depending on your specific circumstances I would suggest fitting a handrail if there is any element of height associated with your deck. If it is higher than four metres (4m) the BCA stipulates that there be no horizontal footholds between 150mm and 760mm on the surface. Spacing’s between vertical balustrading must also be narrow enough so children are not able to climb through (125mm). If you have stairs that access your deck then these should also have railings to provide additional support. Also consider limiting access to a deck with gates and latches and keeping climbable furniture away from railings.

Deck Fasteners

The traditional method of attaching decking timbers has been to use nails or screws, though the industry is slowly and surely moving away from the former. Any parent will confirm that an exposed rusty nail and a bare child’s foot are surely destined to meet. A variety of innovative techniques mean that timbers can now be fixed in place using hidden fasteners that leave the surface smooth while also eliminating any splitting and splintering of timber. While these do cost more, your deck surface will be safer and look fantastic using such a system.

Materials

You can’t beat the warmth and character of a natural timber deck, though consumers are beginning to embrace other options. Recycled plastic and PVC options are finding more market share as consumers begin to appreciate the low maintenance and splinter-free experience of composite decking. It also looks pretty much like the real thing!

Lighting

Lighting can be a passive safety feature which can ensure that children are safe when the sun goes down. This is especially true for stairs where LED kits make lighting your deck an energy and cost-effective exercise.

As mentioned nothing beats a pair of adult eyes while your children are on your deck, especially if it is raised. Unsupervised children, especially the toddler variety, can be a disaster waiting to happen.

– this post was supplied by Craig Gibson
Editor of hipages.com.au

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