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Want to increase your living space and enjoy the open air more? Learn the requirements, costs and other considerations for building a deck.
Good weather should be enjoyed to its fullest extent. To do that you have to actually go outside. But if your home lacks an enticing outdoor living space, there’s little incentive to venture out.
Outdoor living is seeing a bit of an explosion lately: Adding a deck is one of the most requested home projects today, and demand is steadily rising.
New durable outdoor materials, furniture and accessories plus unique shade options and smart tech that lets us watch movies and have full kitchens have no doubt fueled the interest. So if you’re hoping to make the most of good weather in your area, a new deck has likely crossed your mind. Here’s what you’ll need to know about finally getting one.
Project: Adding a Deck
Why. To extend living space and enjoy the outdoors with an area for dining, grilling or lounging.
First thing to consider. You’ll want to decide whether your property is good for a deck or patio — or a combination of both.
Deck. A deck is a platform with decking boards or tiles, usually made of either wood or a composite material. A deck is ideal for sloped yards where you want a flat area. It’s also good for homes that sit high above the ground or atop a basement, because they can be built as high as you need. If your home sits higher than about 14 inches off the ground, a platform deck is probably for you.
Patio. A patio is on flat ground and is usually made of concrete, pavers, flagstone, wood or another hardscaping material. Doing a patio on a sloped lot is costlier and much more difficult, because retaining walls must be built to create a level surface. If your door opens right at the ground level, then a patio is the option for you.
Many people choose to build a deck that steps down to a patio.
What do you want your deck to do? Typically, people want a deck that’s multipurpose, with areas for eating, cooking and hanging out. But, as with most things, the sky is the limit. So depending on your budget, consider things like an outdoor TV, a fireplace, a fire pit, a hot tub, a kitchen, a water feature and more.
Figuring out what you want your deck to do will also help determine its size, safety measures and traffic flow. Do you host a lot of parties, or is it just you and a partner? Do you have a lot of kids? The last thing you want or need is a deck that’s too small or too large for your needs.
Also consider privacy on your deck. If you don’t want to feel like you’re on a stage performing for your neighbors, you’ll want to think about adding an arbor, a pergola, latticework or something else to create privacy.
How will you access the deck? If you currently have a door that leads outside to where you’ll want your deck, then congratulations — you’re in good shape. But if you’re adding a deck to a portion of your house that doesn’t have a door, then you’ll have to add an opening, which can increase costs drastically depending on whether you’re planning for a door in a load-bearing wall or not.
If you’re using your deck for dining (which you should), you’ll want it located as close to your kitchen as possible. “You don’t want to have to climb a bunch of stairs just to go back in for some salt,” says Clemens Jellema, who runs Fine Decks and has been building decks for 20 years.
Consider how it will look. When adding a deck, it’s best to consider the style and architecture of your house so that the addition either blends in with or at least complements your home. An experienced professional will be best suited to make recommendations on deck style, materials, color and more.
Know Your Material Options
The two main options for decks are wood and composite boards. Historically, wood has dominated decks, but lately composite boards are more in demand. Jellema says there was a time when many homeowner’s associations didn’t allow composite decks, because they looked too plasticky and had other problems. Now it’s the complete opposite. “Many developments don’t allow wood decks,” Jellema says. “People don’t take care of them, and they can start to look ugly in five or six years when they start to weather.”
Composite boards. Composite boards, seen here, are engineered products that are a mixture of wood fibers and plastic; a lot of the material comes from recycled plastic grocery bags. Some companies use old shredded carpets for wood fillers. Newer composite boards are wrapped in a thin plastic layer so they won’t stain or fade. These are more expensive than wood boards but often come with a warranty of 20 to 25 years, are low maintenance and can be made to look almost identical to any species of wood out there. Plus, they stay the same color as the day you installed them.
“A lot of contractors have had problems with composites in the past, but they’re getting pretty good now,” Jellema says. Composite is about 40 to 50 percent more expensive than real wood, but because you don’t have to keep restaining it and paying for upkeep, the cost over time can be equal to or less than real wood.
To clean composite decking, just rub some detergent on it and hose it off.