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Planning and Building an Outdoor Deck

Before building a new deck, consider is size, placement, and how it will affect your house—and your neighbors—before you begin.
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The addition of decorative items, like the pergolas seen here, can turn an otherwise ordinary deck into an architectural element.
Few outdoor features add value to the home like new deck. Not only will an outdoor deck boost the financial value of a home, it will provide a new functional activity space for the family. Hosting, lounging, grilling -- these are just some of the ways to pass the time on a new deck.

While building a deck is certainly a DIY project, it requires a good bit of planning and preparation to ensure that it's done right the first time. Deck planning begins with determining size and budget and goes on to include placement, configuration, material decisions, existing landscape considerations and more.

Building a deck may sound like a lot of work (and in truth it is), but with the proper steps taken and equal parts patience and persistence that new deck will be gracing the home's outdoor space in no time.

The Deck Plan

For those coming into the deck construction process with size, material and such already thought out but needing assistance with the deck plan steps, consider using this free Renovate Your World "Deck Designer" Tool. With the Deck Designer you can select the size, shape and color of the deck as well as add multiple levels, stairs, railings and more. Once the deck plan is complete it can be printed out, along with a material list and installation guidelines. The next step will be deck construction!

Deck Material

As most know, options in deck material extend well beyond pressure-treated pine. Alternative decking options are plenty. Homeowners can choose from a number of composite wood brands, fiber cement, PVC and more. Additionally, high-end wood deck materials like redwood, cedar, ipe and the like bring naturally-resistant qualities and a high-class aesthetic to the outdoor feature.

When selecting a decking material it is important to know what specific qualities are high priority. Composites, fiber cement and PVC are all touted for their low-maintenance qualities. Where wood decks require routine sanding and sealing, these alternative materials do not, although the occasional cleaning may be in order. Note that no decking option is truly "no-maintenance," no matter what a manufacturer might say, and there will almost always be a trade-off of some sort.

Homeowners looking to match a decking material to specific needs should take a look at the following resources for more info:
Sizing Up the Deck

As a basic rule of thumb, the bigger the deck, the more expensive it will be. So the size of the new deck will largely be determined by budget. But the purpose of the deck should also be taken into consideration. A deck that will be used for hosting large outdoor parties will obviously need to accommodate guest numbers. What is going on the deck? If it's just a grill and a couple of chairs, a smaller deck will do. Adding a hot tub and a table? It just got bigger.

An oversized deck sprawling off the backside of a small one-story modular is going to look out of place. Be sure to consider the size of the home when deck planning. Other size considerations include traffic patterns, stair placement and available yard space.

It will be helpful to plan the deck dimensions to use standard board lengths. This will help reduce material waste and overall cost.

Deck Planning and Placement

A good deck plan will include more than size and cost. Specifically, the location of the deck will have a significant impact on usage and overall satisfaction. Everyone would love their new deck to be built just outside the kitchen or dining, accessed with a sliding door. But building a deck where there is no shade or no sun isn't necessarily a good thing. The location of the deck should have a little bit of both, depending on the time of day and the season. This will ensure maximum usage during all of the outdoor months.

If the deck plan has the new deck wrapping around the side of the house, it's a good bet that it will receive equal doses of sun and shade throughout the day, providing comfort for everyone.

For homes with sloping landscapes or desiring a flowing access to a ground-level garden or walk-out-basement patio, consider the Multi-Level Deck option.

The Union of Deck and House

The best deck building projects strive to achieve an aesthetic union between the new deck and the existing house. When in the deck plan process, take into account your home's architectural features and style. Deck stairs and railing options can be purchased to complement or off-set what your home already has going on. This will depend on personal preference, but the end result should be an intentional -- and appealing -- one.

Key to a good marriage between house and deck is deck color. While most wooden decks can be stained or painted any number of colors, many composite, pvc and fiber cement decks have the color embedded in the material and are not meant to be painted over. These permanent color choices should not be made lightly. Again, using the Deck Design Tool will help in the visualization process.

Deck Privacy

When the party goes outdoors, privacy and good neighborliness need to be considered. A good deck plan will account for privacy concerns and may include a fence or creative landscaping like hedges or trees. The latter features can pull double-duty by providing shade and wind-break, although be sure to think about sap and falling leaves. Not only will this add to deck clean-up, some of the tannins in tree leaves can stain composite wood decks.

Additional Deck Resources

Whether leaning towards a wood or wood alternative material option, be sure to understand the maintenance needs and steps for the new deck. Here are a couple Deck Maintenance Resources to consider:
Once deck construction is complete, there's still opportunity to make upgrades here or there. Additionally there will be repair needs down the line. Here are two videos that can help:

Text by Renovate Your World




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