Planning Your Backyard Deck Planning Your Backyard Deck

An attractive and well built deck makes a great addition to any back yard. Not only does it add living space to your home, when it comes time to sell it can add thousands of dollars to home's value. However, like any home improvement project getting the deck you want requires some up front planning and decision making. Here's some tips on planning your own backyard deck.

How do you want to use your new deck?

  • Unless you have a gigantic yard and an unlimited budget, you're going to have to make some choices. For example, is your deck going to be a place for the family to relax and enjoy the sun, or do you want an outdoor spa including a hot tub that requires a more substantial structure to hold the weight.
  • Most people want to barbecue on their decks, but are you looking for a place to set up a small grill or do you want your deck to include a full outdoor kitchen complete with a fridge and a bar - along with the potential cost issues.
  • You can get lots of ideas to help you decide how to use your deck by looking in home improvement magazines, searching online or simply watching Home and Garden shows on TV.

What size and shape make sense for you?

  • In general, a larger deck is better than a smaller one while a square or rectangular design is more practical and adaptable than a long, narrow one.
  • Your deck needs to be elevated off the ground to allow air circulation underneath so you don't end up trapping water under the deck that can rot wood and lead to the growth of mold. However, once your deck is a few feet high, you will need to include stairs, handrails and railings for safety.

Other potential issues

  • Depending on your deck design and local building codes, you will probably need to get a building permit for your deck. You should also contact your local utility companies and have them mark their underground wires, pipes, easements and rights of way before you decide on your deck locations and start doing any building.
  • If you have a Home Owners Association in your area , check with them as well, since HOA's often have rules on the size of deck, color and even building materials for a deck.

Material Options

  • Traditionally decks are built from cedar, redwood or pressure treated lumber . Recently, other woods such as mahogany or even Ipe ( a very hard wood from Brazil that resists rotting) have gained popularity.
  • Other options include composite lumber (made from recycled plastic and wood fibers), plastic lumber that contains absolutely no wood or even aluminum decking. All of these need less maintenance than wood, plus they won't splinter or rot over time. However, they do cost more than traditional wood and while the plastic and aluminum are recyclable, the composite lumber is made from a combination of recycled plastic and wood that can't be recycled at the end of its useful life.

Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer whose work has appeared on numerous web sites, as well as in newspapers and books in both the US and Canada. He is often cited as an expert on home related topics.

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