Having a deck is an American tradition. However, planning is the key to making the process as simple as possible, whether you are a do-it-your-selfer or you are hiring a contractor, it pays to plan!
The following is a list of things to consider before starting, to help you choose the right deck for you.
1. What is the purpose of your deck/What will you use it for?
Some people may want a deck to extend their indoor living space, others may want an area for entertaining, or a surround for a pool or spa. The purpose is very important in determining the size, height, etc.
2. Where will you put it? Will it attach to your home, surround your pool or stand on its own? Property size is usually a large factor in this equation along with building codes (we will have an upcoming post with local codes for each county we serve). Other factors include, view, privacy, and where the sun hits at certain times of the day.
3. What is your budget? Determine how much you are willing to spend and keep room in your budget for unforeseen issues. Be realistic about what you want and what you can afford. Size, design intricacy, built-in seating, choice of lumber, etc. will all effect the cost.
4. Do you have the DIY skills? If you plan to build your own deck, make sure you have the skills to do it, otherwise you may end up spending more in the long run. Also make sure you know the building codes of your county and state. If you are going to do it, make sure it's on stable ground; no sand, water, mud, clay, or unsuitable soil and preferably do it on a flat surface (no hills). High or multi-level
decks require special engineering. You will also want to be experienced with concrete (concrete will be used for the deck footings).
5. What materials are you going to use? There are many types of wood and wood alternatives to choose from. Research all of them, then choose the best for your lifestyle and budget. We will do a quick run-down of the different choices (we will do a more in depth look at the materials in another post).
a. Weather resistant woods- red wood, cedar, cypress, and ipe (a popular choice among our customers)
b. Pressure-treated woods- treated lumber that contains wood and preservatives
c. Hardwoods- teak, ipe, Brazilian hardwoods
d. Composite- recycled plastic and wood fiber
e. Alternatives- plastic/aluminum (recycled products) /Trex decking
6. What design, size, and shape will your deck be? If you have a small budget you should choose a smaller deck, a larger budget can afford a larger deck. Your deck should compliment the architecture of your home and coordinate with the landscape. A good way to determine the size of your deck is to use stakes and string to outline the area the deck will be in and place the furniture/items you will be putting on the deck into that space, this will help you determine if you need more or less space. A good rule of thumb- there should be at least 4 feet of extra space around each side of a table.
7. What extras will you be adding to your deck? Railings are required if your deck is more than a few feet off of the ground. If you are putting your deck in direct sunlight you may want a roof of some sort. You may also want to put up a screen for privacy or to keep bugs out.
8. Know the building codes! If there is no existing deck or if you are changing the layout of your current deck, legal blueprints MUST be approved by your city/county. Laws vary from cities/states (we will post about these in an upcoming post).
9. What lighting will you have? You don't have to have lighting, but it is usually necessary to add at least one or two for safety reasons. If you will be using your deck in the evening, you will definitely want to add lighting. There are many choices when it comes to lighting, you can choose solar lights, but they may not be bright enough and LED lights still need an electrician to install the wiring. The number of lights and the placement of them will effect your budget.
10. Storage! A deck is a great place for storage and if you plan well you can add storage areas into your design. For example you could have bench seating along the perimeter of your deck (or just along one side) that has lift-top seating, so you can store things inside. You can also add water-tight closets, storage closets, or even shelving underneath your deck. Consider what you will be storing, this will help you decide what storage option is right for you (sports equipment, garden tools/supplies, children's toys, outdoor patio cushions, furniture accessories, etc. ?).