Friday, March 24, 2006
Decks add value and fun to a home
By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon
With the weather we've had lately, you may doubt if spring will ever come. But it always does, and it's never too early to start planning for a spring and summer of outdoor living.
Last week we talked about how to prep your existing deck for a summer of good use. This week we'll talk about adding a deck. It's a very doable project that most homeowners can do themselves, and you can look forward to enjoying your new deck after just a few weeks.
The first issue is to decide where to locate the deck. Most decks are attached to the house, usually on the side or back. Consider the amount of sun, shade, and wind a potential location receives throughout the year. For many homes there is only one logical place for a deck. If that spot is less than ideal in terms of climatic influences, you can usually still make it a pleasing outdoor space with a little extra effort by using landscaping, trellises or shading devices.
You will also need to check local building codes. Call your local zoning office and ask what your setback requirements are. (This defines the buildable area on your lot.) Then ask about restrictions for decks that project into the setback area. Also, remember to check with Blue Stakes to see if there are any restrictions as to where you can dig to place footings.
Next decide how big your deck will be. Think about the activities you want to take place on the deck and decide how much space you will need to accommodate them. Balance that with the fact that the deck should be designed in proportion to your house then come to a final determination of the size. (A general guideline is that it should not be much larger than the largest room in your house.)
Think about the connection between the house and the deck. A pair of French or sliding doors provide both a view of the deck and easy access. If you are going to install a new door, do this before you build the deck. In addition, consider the connection between the deck and the yard. For instance, a narrow set of stairs will not feel as gracious as a wider expanse and the wider steps can be used for additional seating or a display of potted plants.
There are several materials from which you can choose when building a deck. Cedar, cypress, and redwood are the standard options for natural, untreated wood. While these woods start out with a warm reddish hue, they will weather to silver gray if steps are not taken to preserve the original color. Pressured treated lumber such as pine, fir, and other softwoods are also options for exterior uses.
Man-made materials are also available. Some maintenance-free options include plastic, vinyl, or rubber lumber. They don't look or feel authentic, but the ease of maintenance attracts some homeowners. The best substitute is a wood-plastic composite material made from real wood fibers and resins from recycled plastics. The finish will soften to a weathered appearance, and the product comes in a variety of colors and can be stained.
Decks can be a real asset, not only to your lifestyle but to your property value as well. Quality in design and construction will give years of pleasure to your family and your guests. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.