It has become a great American tradition to expand one’s outdoor living space by adding a deck to a home. Whether you plan to do it yourself or hire a professional, the key to success is factoring in all the critical design issues, picking the right material for your budget and building a structure that will withstand the test of time.
What Will You Do On Your Deck?
When planning the layout of your new deck, you need to consider what kind of activities you’ll be doing to dictate the size, shape and features. If you plan on eating family meals around the outdoor table, it’s recommended that you add 4 feet around the table, so people can walk behind those who are seated. If hosting barbecues and parties is in your future, you’ll want to accommodate space for a grill as well as a prep station and serving area. To just kick back and relax after a long week, you’ll want to create a zone for lounge chairs and a table, possibly even a fire pit if your local codes allow it.
Test Drive Your Layout
Once you have your deck plan designed, use stakes and string to outline your deck’s footprint and visualize how much yard space it will cover. Arrange furniture within the outline to see if there’s enough clearance, and walk around to see if you like the shape, circulation and views.
Know Your Materials
If you want a deck that’s easy to care for, choose manufactured boards, but if appearance is a driving factor, opt for wood. Here are overviews of some of the most popular decking materials so you can make the best decision for your needs.
• Pressure-Treated Wood: The most affordable option that’s easy to work with and takes stains and waterproofing easily. Requires frequent cleaning, resealing and re-staining.
• Composite: Offered in a range of colors and textures and long-lasting if cared for properly. Won’t splinter, crack or rot. Some products look less wood-like than others. Some brands can scuff and scratch and spills can leave stains. Be sure to research specifications from the manufacturer prior to purchasing. Scuffs and scratches easily and spills can leave stains.
• PVC: Delivers superior resistance to moisture and won’t swell or shrink. Easy to clean and not prone to rot or termites. Some products look less wood-like than others.
• Cedar or Redwood: Easy to work with, offers natural insect resistance and weathers to a gorgeous shade of gray. A relatively expensive option that’s not available everywhere and requires frequent maintenance and waterproofing.
• Tropical Hardwood: The most expensive option. Long-lasting if cared for properly. Offers natural resistance to rot and insects. Quickly dulls cutting blades and installation is labor-intensive.
Don’t Overload It
Most decks are designed to support 60 pounds per square foot, which includes the weight of the deck (the “dead load”) as well as people and furniture (the “live load”). If you plan to host huge bashes or want to add a hot tub or heavy planters, you’ll need to reinforce your deck’s supporting structure for safety’s sake.
Follow the Rules and Regulations
Many aspects of deck design and construction are covered by local codes. Your homeowners association may also have guidelines on aesthetic choices, such as materials, finishes and handrail appearance. Your choices will be visible for all to see, and violations can set your budget back—or worse—if the deck isn’t built correctly.
The right details give each deck its own individuality. Let the style of your house and furniture influence the look of fixtures or woodwork you add. Riser lights, post caps and lattice skirts are common final touches you might wish to consider.
Care and Maintenance
The frequency you’ll need to reseal and re-stain your deck depends on its material and finish. Plan to scrub your deck once a year using a power washer, a brush and a compatible cleaner. Getting rid of mildew may require a specialty product. For daily upkeep, sweep away leaves and debris, and mop up spills right away so they don’t leave stains.
The experts from Boilard Lumber will be available to answer all your deck design and construction questions at the 2018 Western Mass Home & Garden Show at the Eastern States Exposition from March 22–25. Our professionals will even be building a deck at one of our show spaces during the Home & Garden Show.