Things to Consider When You’re Building a Deck

Deck, Construction, Planning
There are many structural and design elements to be considered when planning a deck.

Thinking of Building a Deck? Make Sure to Consider These Factors
by John Santos, Island Contracting

With the beautiful summer weather here, you can finally begin to enjoy your yard again. Building a deck is a great way to expand your living space and also add value to your home. But before you build this open-air extension, or hire a contractor to do so, make sure you’ve thought about exactly what you want or need. Thinking it through now will help to you to avoid the headaches and potential added expense of mid-project changes, or worse yet, dissatisfaction and regrets when the project is complete.

While your first thought may be how spacious you want the new deck to be, consider also how much of your yard will be taken up, and how much you would like to have left. The deck should be designed in a style that is consistent with the lines and overall feel of the home so that it blends seamlessly.

Practical considerations begin with the door from the home to the deck: are you using an existing door? Adding sliders? From which room? And stairs to the yard: a standard stair with railing, wide and deep steps, or levels that gradually approach ground level? And consider the style of the railing and spindles, which may be required by Town building code if the deck is above a specified elevation.

There are many options for embellishing your deck, including built-in benches, planters, storage, lighting and electric outlets. Consider which of these are important to you and make sure they’re included in the plan for pricing lumber and labor. And unless you’re planning your deck as part of a new construction, you likely already have landscaping in place. Take inventory of your trees and shrubs and what will stay and what will go to make room for the deck. Think about nearby trees and how much sun or shade your deck will get.

And you have a choice of many materials available today for the construction of decks. Some people like the ease of traditional pressure-treated lumber which is infused with preservatives to improve its longevity. Many decks are still built this way, but weather-resistant woods such as redwood, cedar and cypress, which are naturally resistant to rot, decay and boring insects, are also popular. Some homeowners opt for exotic imported hardwoods, like teak, ipe (pronounced EE-pay) and mahogany. These pricier woods are handsome and durable but also very dense. This makes them expensive, heavy, and difficult to cut and drill, so if you choose one of these, your contractor will need to be experienced in working with these materials.

Very popular today are synthetic materials that look like wood but have many advantages over their natural counterparts. Composites, including Trex and TimberTech, are composed of a blend of wood fibers and recycled plastic. Plastic lumber, such as Azek Deck and Forever Deck, are made entirely of plastic. All these very low maintenance manmade materials are highly resistant to staining, decay and cracks and they will not splinter or warp.

An experienced contractor can help you think through all these factors and more. And a skilled, reputable contractor will ensure that your deck has appropriate footings, that it’s level and structurally sound, and complies with local building codes and regulations.

Do your homework before you Say Yes to the Deck!

When you’re ready to choose a contractor, remember to confirm that the company is licensed and insured. Ask if the owner will be onsite throughout the construction or if he or she has a project manager. Request a written contract that includes a clear description of the work to be done, the cost and payment terms, and a projection of how long the project will take. Make sure that the contractor will secure the appropriate permits from your local Building Department, that he will protect the shrubs and other plants that you plan to keep, and that there will be a thorough clean-up at the conclusion of the job. This preplanning will help pave the way to a successful, surprise-free experience as you plan a great new space for fun and relaxation on your new deck!

This article first appeared in the newspapers of Blank Slate Media.  

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