Adding a Deck? Here’s What to Consider.
Updated June 2023. Originally published May 2017.
Adding a deck is a great way to expand your living space and add value to your home. The key to successfully adding an outdoor deck is to factor in all the critical design issues that go into the project.
Elements such as picking the right material for your budget, climate, and lifestyle are important. You also want to make sure you end up with a structure that will stand the test of time (and weather).
What will you do on your deck?
Have your contractor use stakes or cones to plan out its size, shape, and features based on your favorite outdoor activities. Remember to consider the following:
- Eat Family Meals?
If you plan on using your deck for summer dining, make sure your table will fit comfortably. A good rule of thumb is to add 4 feet all the way around the table so that people can walk behind those who are seated.
- Host BBQs or cocktail parties?
Be sure to leave room for a food preparation station and serving area, as well as a grill. Think about adding built-in seating along the perimeter. Consider using handrails that have a wide, flat cap where guests can rest their drinks.
- Just kick back and relax?
You might want to try creating an area for lounge chairs and a low table or two. If local codes allow it, a nice fire pit makes those cooler nights more cozy while adding ambiance to your deck.
Once you have an idea of what your deck will be used for, make sure to test your layout. Use stakes or cones to string an outline of the size and shape of your new deck. Try to visualize how much yard space it will cover.
Put some furniture inside the outlined space to make sure there’s enough clearance, and walk around the area a few times to make sure you like the shape, circulation, and views.
Know your materials.
Deck materials vary widely based on price and durability. If you want super easy to care for decking, choose a manufactured board. If looks are of most importance to you, opt for wood.
Check out these tips to help pick what’s right for you:
- Pressure-Treated Wood
Pros: Easy to work with and takes well to stains and waterproofing
Cons: May corrode unprotected metal fasteners, or connectors and boards might warp or crack if not treated correctly. It requires frequent cleaning, resealing, and re-staining to remain in good condition.
Pros: Comes in a wide range of colors and textures and will last several years if properly cared for. This material won’t splinter, crack, or rot.
Cons: Depending on the manufacturer, some products may look less wood-like than others. Scuffs, scratches, and stains occur more easily than other materials.
Pros: Amazing resistance to moisture ensure this material won’t swell or shrink, plus it’s not prone to rot or termites. It’s also super easy to clean.
Cons: Depending on the manufacturer, some products look less wood-like than others.
- Cedar or Redwood
Pros: This wood type is naturally insect resistant and will weather to a handsome shade of gray. It is very easy to work with.
Cons: Depending on your area, this material may not be available everywhere and requires frequent maintenance and waterproofing.
Price: $$–$$$, depending on location.
- Tropical Hardwood
Pros: A long-lasting material if properly cared for, this wood offers natural resistance to rot and insects.
Cons: Installation is labor-intensive due to the fact that the wood tends to dull cutting blades quickly.
Follow the rules.
Many aspects of deck design and construction – everything from structural requirements to size limits – are covered by local codes. If you are part of a homeowners association, they may also have guidelines for aesthetic choices, such as materials, finishes, and size.
This is not the time to ignore or challenge authority. Your choices may be visible for everyone to see, and HOA violations can cost quite a bit. And remember, local codes are usually there for safety reasons.
Care and maintenance
The time and frequency you’ll need to reseal or stain your deck depends mainly on its material and finish. Cleaning, however, doesn’t. Make sure you plan to scrub your deck AT LEAST once per year. Power washing on a low-pressure setting, a brush, and a compatible cleaner will work best.
If your deck has mildew, it may require a specialty product for proper removal. For daily upkeep, it would be a good idea to sweep away leaves and debris, and mop up spills right away so that they don’t leave stains.
Remember, planning to add an outdoor deck starts with making smart decisions about your budget, space, and expectations. JM Construction would be happy to speak with you about your deck planning ideas and can offer expert advice on all aspects of the project. Schedule a project consult today!