A deck is a great way to add extra living space to your home on a limited budget. Unlike a new living room, it’s a project you can do yourself to save money and customize to your exact specifications. These tips from This Old House’s website will help you make it easier on yourself and save you headaches and expenses down the road.
Know Your Codes
Before you start designing your dream deck, find out what’s allowed by local building codes and homeowners’ associations. These regulations may have limitations on size, materials, finishes, and overall appearance. Check on any necessary permits before you start construction. It’s better to know these restrictions during the design phase, not when your friends are toasting your new deck.
Design for Your Needs
What will you be doing on your new deck? People who plan to grill and entertain frequently will need more space than a couple who just need a place to drink coffee and read. A deck that holds a hot tub will need more structural support than one with just a couple of lawn chairs. Be sure to design the deck to accommodate these activities.
Flat handrails around the perimeter allow guests to place their glasses anywhere. Plan to have a prep table near the grill and situate them away from the house and guests in case of fire. Install hooks or a towel rack near a hot tub and make sure there are plenty of tables to hold coffee and other essentials.
Test It Before You Build It
Use stakes and string to mark out your planned deck area. This will show you if there’s anything that would need to be moved/trimmed or if it’s too big/small for the area and your needs. If you can, place the furniture you plan to use on the deck in the area so you can see if everything fits with enough room to move around. Leave the stakes in place for a day or two so you can see how the light will hit the deck during different times of day; you may find out that the best place to have the chairs is the opposite side of the deck from where you originally planned.
Decide on Materials
Each type has its own advantages and disadvantages. Pressure treated wood is inexpensive, easy to work with, and takes stain well, but boards can warp over time. Unprotected hardware can corrode, and the wood requires frequent re-staining or protecting. Composite comes in many colors and textures and won’t splinter, crack or rot. It’s mid-priced, but some products look less wood-like, and it can scratch and stain easily. PVC is also mid-priced and isn’t prone to rot or termites.
Some products can look artificial and boards can squeak. Cedar can be difficult to find and pricey, but it offers natural protection from insects and is easy to use. Plan to spend plenty of time deciding on details like post caps, trims, solar lights, railing and skirting to make your deck one of a kind.
Choose A Finish
Even if you use treated wood, you still must apply some sort of protectant to your finished deck to protect it from the elements. At the very least, apply a penetrating sealer to protect boards from rot. If you used attractive lumber, you may want to stay with a clear protectant, but you can add color and protection with stains in a wide variety of colors. Composite decking materials need to be finished according to the manufacturer’s instructions; check their website for more information.