Adding a deck to the back (or sides!) or your home is a wonderful way to not only increase your enjoyment of the time you spend outside, but to increase your home's resale value. Decks come in all shapes and sizes. Elaborate, two-story structures dominate the backs of many homes, sometimes leading down to a patio, a pool or a hot tub. On the other hand, even a very simple platform design can give you years of outdoor fun!
Your options are limited only by your imagination, budget and available space. In this article, we'll review some of the most popular current deck designs, as well as some innovations and old standbys in the world of decking materials. We'll also review some simple guidelines for proper deck maintenance, to keep your deck looking beautiful for years to come.
As more and more homeowners are deciding to indulge in a private pool, pool decks are gaining in popularity. This is simply a deck which encloses, or partially encloses, a swimming pool. For above-ground pools, wood is the best choice. If you're installing or adding to an in-ground pool, you have many more options. However, concrete pool decks are really more like patios, and so these will be discussed in another article.
Your pool deck can be a completely free-standing structure. Many homeowners like the look of placing the pool, surrounded by a deck, in a far corner of their yard, giving swimmers and sunbathers a bit of privacy. Others prefer to construct the deck more traditionally, attached to the home itself. This is a wonderful option for those with small children who need to be monitored during pool use.
Simple and Traditional
The most classic deck design is still very popular today. This consists of an elevated wooden platform, usually extending from a back or side door. A few stairs usually connect this type of deck to the yard itself. A railing is popular, though not necessary.
A simple deck like this, when built and maintained properly, can give you years of enjoyment. Be sure to include plenty of room for seating, at the very least. Many homeowners keep a grill on the deck, and often a full table-and-chair arrangement. This lends itself very nicely to outdoor entertaining. Consider how you plan to use your deck when planning its size.
For those with the money and the space, a two-story deck is a true show-stopper. These decks usually have a rather traditional lower tier, with access from a door on the back or side of the house. The lower tier usually extends further into the yard than the upper tier. A staircase links the two tiers for accessibility.
On the upper level, it's popular to install a sliding glass door in one or more rooms for accessibility. After all, it's a bit annoying to clamber out a window every time you want to enjoy your deck! This upper tier is usually narrower than the lower portion, offering enough space for lounge chairs and perhaps a small table. A railing is a must, for safety's sake.
These decks are often rather elaborate. Some feature spiral staircases linking the tiers, while others play host to hot tubs or even full outdoor kitchens on the lower level. With this much space, your only limit is your imagination. Often referred to as outdoor living areas, decks like these are wonderful ways to enlarge the usable space in your home.
Building Materials and Maintenance
No matter what you choose to build the rest of your deck from, your best choice for posts, beams and joists is treated lumber. This material is resistant to mildewing, cracking, rotting and splitting, and will likely last for years and years protected underneath the deck itself. Be sure to find lumber which has been treated with the lowest number chemicals as possible, for the environment's sake.
For many years, redwood was the material of choice for building a deck. However, this is no longer the case. Redwood, while beautiful, has several draw backs. Sustainability is becoming an issue, as is pricing. It's also much more difficult to properly maintain a redwood deck than it is a composite deck, leading to many incidences of splitting, rotting and cracking.
Cedar has also been a popular choice for years, and still has some dedicated followers. Cedar is less expensive than redwood, and will weather to a beautiful silvery-gray color after a few seasons of exposure to the elements. Sustainability is still an issue, however, in this era of â€œgoing green,â€ and for this reason cedar is being edged out by more environmentally-friendly options.
Composite materials are fast becoming the material of choice for deck building. These materials are usually composed of half plastic and half fiber. The plastic which makes up composites is usually recycled, adding to the environmentally friendliness of this option. This reduces or eliminates the need for chemical treatments. The fiber portion is usually wood, hopefully reclaimed or re-purposed scrap lumber. However, some companies use materials like crushed nutshells.
There is a dizzying array of choices when it comes to composite lumber. Ask your contractor or a knowledgeable professional about the best choices for your particular style of deck, as well as what materials work best in your climate.
Proper maintenance of your new deck is essential to keeping it looking beautiful for years to come. In the case of a natural wood deck, this involves properly sealing and staining (if desired) immediately, then following up every year with a quality sealant that keeps water out.
Maintenance of composite materials differs from company to company. Some require a sealant like natural wood, while others claim to be entirely maintenance-free. Always ask a professional, preferably somebody who has worked with the material in the past.
Adding a deck to your home is a classic home-improvement project, and it's one that anybody can enjoy. Backyard barbecues, pool parties or simple, quiet evenings watching the sunset with a drink in hand all become more enjoyable with the addition of a deck. These projects certainly aren't small, but they're not excessively complicated, either. With some professional guidance, quality labor and quality materials, you'll end up with a strong and beautiful backyard addition the entire family will love.