Julia and Dave Bodell must have good karma. How else to explain their great luck in being asked to build one of the most remarkable decks in their careers, a $250,000 multi-toned, multilevel Trex deck (www.trex.com) and arbor at the Los Angeles Arboretum?

Also known as the “Zen deck,” or the “yin and yang deck,” the Bodells' curvy creation took about 45 days to build at the end of 2005 and is a living testament to the fact that, yes, you can bend composite decking. “We're very proud of it,” says Julia Bodell, co-owner with her husband of The Wood Master, in Tustin, Calif.

To bend 20-foot lengths of Trex boards (the longest size available), the company built a makeshift cabinet with a 25,000 BTU forced-air heater at each end. Following specifications on the Trex Web site, the boards were heated to about 250° F before being lifted onto the deck foundation and blocked in place to cool. The foundation is traditional construction of pressure-treated wood, with the addition of 2x4 sleeper boards over the joists.

After the boards cooled completely, they were screwed from the bottom, through the sleepers, with 3-inch TrapEase deck screws (www.fastenmaster.com). The railing posts, which have metal cores to handle the tension of the cable railing system, were then also clad with Trex.

The largest part of the deck was made using Trex Accents in woodland brown. The yin-and-yang symbol was made with Trex's Brasilia product, using cayenne for the darker portion and burnished amber for the lighter part. The deck was an enormous amount of work and there was a large learning curve. Still, Julia Bodell says, “It was a really fun project.”

SMALL BUT SPECIAL For Meridian, Idaho, deck builder Jack Hanson, the biggest challenges aren't the biggest decks. Rather, Hanson, owner of Woodpile Construction, finds satisfaction in trying to fit all his clients' desires into relatively small decks.

In this deck (above), the clients wanted a dining area with an open feeling, a sitting area with benches, and a spa area with privacy and wind protection. For a not-so-big deck, Hanson says, “it accomplishes a lot.”

Hanson relies on level changes and varying the direction of the boards to define specific deck areas. This also helps him work with shorter spans to avoid butt joints, which are expensive to create and generally problematic. This deck features Aurora low-voltage lighting in the railing posts, a necessity when the deck is too far from the house, as this one is, for the home's exterior lights to provide much illumination. The redwood railing defines the dining area while preserving the open feeling, and the cedar privacy fence on two sides of the spa screens the space from the neighbors.

Hanson uses one of his favorite design techniques in this project: setting the spa at ground level to minimize its visual bulk.

As for the choice of decking, Hanson says that whenever he's designing to accommodate a water feature, such as a spa or pool, he always pushes the homeowners toward a composite material — usually LP WeatherBest (www.lpcorp.com). The product holds up better than wood finishes to water with a high chemical content, he says, and also has a better slip rating than wood. Plus, when your clients will be using the deck barefoot “you don't want to worry about splinters.”