A deck doesn’t just increase the quality of your family’s outdoor life – it’s also an attractive addition to your home that can help add to its resale value in the future. But before you get ahead of yourself, there’s one question you need to ask, says John Esteves of Downtown Lumber Home Building Centre: “What are you going to be using your deck and backyard for?” Is it going to be for entertaining? Or are you just hanging out?
Figuring out what you’ll actually use your deck for – whether it’s dining and entertaining, relaxing or occasional lounging – will help you determine how large your deck should be, and what it should feature.
Also consider your existing outdoor elements, whether it’s a pool, a stunning view or a robust garden, and plan your deck accordingly. Ideally, you should also consider your backyard’s landscape – or how you might want to landscape it after you’ve built your deck. If your backyard lacks trees or other natural shade, consider a pergola or trellising to provide some protection from the sun.
1. Dining and Entertaining
If you like to cook and eat outside, the first thing you should do is figure out how many people (on average) will be dining on a daily basis, says Esteves. And if you frequently entertain guests, consider how many more people you might regularly accommodate for.
If your budget allows and you know you’ll use it, an outdoor kitchen with a granite countertop is both stunning and handy. If an entire kitchen is a little too much for right now, you can still cook outdoors with an appropriately-sized barbecue for your grilling needs.
Smaller barbecues have given way in the past few years to larger grills with features such as rotisseries, warm-up areas and built-in drawers. Of course, a larger barbecue costs more than a smaller one – but if you’re constantly cooking outside all summer long, it can work out to be a worthy investment.
If you’d just like to lounge and take it easy on your deck, you’ll need to incorporate a bigger area, Esteves advises. When you have seating, it requires a larger deck because you’re going to need bigger chairs. Similarly, outdoor couches and lounge chairs are increasingly popular – and they require more real estate. If you want to add an outdoor fire pit, that will also increase your deck’s area.
If relaxation is your goal, then landscaping can make an important contribution here. There are several different kinds of bushes and trees you can plant to accent your deck (and provide shade, too).
3. Too Big, Too Small or Just Right
How big should your deck be? That’s all a matter of your perspective and your property. Those who live in urban areas may not have a lot of backyard to begin with; others with more land can afford to let their deck spread out farther. A simple way to determine the rough coordinates of your deck is by laying out rope to figure out what size and shape it could potentially be. Remember that landscaping with a brick or stone walkway can help bridge the gap between backyard and deck, too.
4. Permit, Please
Before you begin, check with your municipality to see if you’ll require a building permit. Some communities don’t require a building permit if your deck is less than 100 sq. ft.; others require a permit if your deck is over 10 feet above ground level. Always check with your local building department first so you don’t end up paying a fine in addition to your building costs.
5. Materially Speaking
In Esteves’ experience, the most common material used to build a deck is still pressure-treated lumber. “It’s economical, it’s easy to work with and it can be stained any colour you like.” It’s also eco-friendly and pretty much the best value for your dollar, he says.
If you’ve got a bigger budget – about two and a half times bigger – then you might consider cedar. But it requires more maintenance and it’s a softer wood. Even the pebbles that get stuff in your shoe can mark up your deck. “In terms of workability, though, it’s fantastic and it looks beautiful as well,” says Esteves
Lastly, there are your composite woods: virtually maintenance-free, durable, insect-free and eco-friendly. However, you’ll still need to have a wood frame as composite materials are strictly for deckboards and railings. “Some people feel that if they’re spending the money for cedar, then they might as well spend a bit more to go for the composite and not have to worry about maintenance,” Esteves adds.
Can the average person build his or her own deck? “It all depends on ability,” says Esteves. “You can do a really good job if you’re a half-decent do-it-yourselfer – and Home has lots of great DIY deck project packages to choose from. You just have to take your time and you’ll get there.”
But if you’re not so confident in your DIY skills, then consider consulting with professionals such as the Installation Experts at Home Installs Installation Services. They can offer complete services that include landscaping as well as building decks and fences.
A Home Installs professional has seen dozens (if not hundreds) of decks and backyards with varying degrees of slope, size and elevation. They can provide some vision and ideas while also incorporating the concepts you have for your deck. And what’s more, they can help keep your plans within the realm of possibility and your budget.
At the end of the day, it’s ultimately about what you want your deck to do for you and your family. As long as you truthfully assess your needs and wants, you should be able to determine the right deck for your home. Now all you have to do is build it!