Oh, the wonders of a deck during summertime! It’s where the family gathers to enjoy the great weather, grill up a few burgers and wile away the hours before a spectacular sunset.
Whether you are planning on a behemoth that will make your friends envious or a simple deck that blends in with the landscape, it all starts with an idea. Put that idea down on paper and you’ve taken the first big step: Designing a deck that fits your lifestyle, home aesthetics and budget.
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How to get started planning
Start with the two elements that matter most in planning: Space and budget.
You probably have some idea of what you want your deck to look like, but in order to get started, you need to know exactly what you’re working with. Use a tape measure to figure out how much space you have. Sketch out the initial plan, making sure to note windows and doors, pertinent landscaping and other details.
Then consider your budget. How much do you have to realistically spend on a deck? This is a rough estimate — for instance, if you know you have $20,000 to work with, you will have many options. If your limit is $2,000, that means a lot of bells and whistles might not happen.
Then follow these next steps to create the design of your dreams!
- Will it be freestanding or attached? A freestanding deck, such as one around a pool or landscape element, will need several support beams. An attached deck uses the structure as one of those beams, which can cut down on material costs, but can leave your home more vulnerable to pests and rot.
- What about privacy? Does your deck give the neighbors a perfect line of sight to your family outing? Do you hate being able to see traffic? Consider a privacy fence, rows of shrubs or small trees that can help make your oasis truly yours.
- What’s your style? There are more than a few styles out there, from rustic to sleek metal to everything in between. Consider not only what style of deck fits your vision, but what will look best with your home. For instance, a modern deck is probably not going to fit in well with an old-fashioned Colonial.
- Look at materials. Remember that your deck will be subject to the whims of the weather for decades, so choosing excellent materials is important. Pressure-treated lumber is affordable but might not be the best look. Some types of wood, such as cedar and redwood, are resistant to the elements, while others require regular maintenance. Composite decks are good for extreme climates.
- Time to color it up. What color do you want your deck to be? Look for a wood that can be stained or painted to your liking, or look for colored composites. Another point to consider: darker colors absorb and then radiate heat, while lighter colors mean a cooler deck.
- Figure out the bells and whistles. Now it’s time to turn on the dream machine! Consider various types of railings, balusters, gates, built-ins and more. Add these to your design but be willing to compromise if those extras inflate your budget too much.
Speaking of budget, go back and review it. Given what you have learned about materials, colors, styles and the like, does your budget still stand up to what you really want? If not, it’s time for a design overhaul. But don’t be discouraged — designing a deck is a process that will go through many iterations before it’s done.
Keep in mind that there might be certain requirements for your particular area. Some areas require a permit; others don’t. Some require certain codes and regulations to be met, while other areas take the ‘don’t encroach on others and it’s all good’ approach. Before finalizing your design, make sure you know the exact rules and regulations regarding what you can do with your property.
If your deck will be opulent, have more than one level, be raised more than a few feet off the ground or otherwise have a tricky portion or two, it might be best to hire a contractor. Contractors can tell you if your design is feasible, help you get the proper permits (if necessary) and possibly spot key points in the design that you might have missed.
When choosing a contractor, make sure they are properly licensed and insured. Look for those with great recommendations. Their estimate should fall right within your budget range, and you should be comfortable with them and their work. A deck is a big job that can affect the value of your home and your enjoyment of it, so be sure to choose someone you trust!