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Building a deck

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Summers on the deck

It is the quintessential summer project and a popular undertaking for many do-it-yourself homeowners. But, if you don't do your homework it can also turn into an absolute nightmare of a renovation, and one that could be costly.

That's because building a deck requires more research than watching a few home renovation television shows and then picking up some lumber; it's an extremely laborious project that requires patience, lots of planning and a significant time commitment from start to finish. If you don't take care to understand the fundamentals of building a deck you could end up with a design you detest, or perhaps even a structure that is unsafe to use.

If your summer project this year is to finally build your dream deck, here are a few things that you should take into consideration in order to help make your deck one you'll be proud to show off.

Find out if you need to get a building permit

Check with your municipality to find out if your deck plan will need a permit, which is often a requirement for decks larger than 100 square feet and/or higher than 23 inches off the ground. This is worth the research, since failure to get a building permit could result in your deck being ripped out after all of your hard work if it does not comply with local building codes.

Take time figuring out a design that works for you

If you are looking to construct a large deck, think about using a couple different levels rather than having one massive surface. Levels will give your deck some visual interest, while creating separate areas for grilling, eating and lounging. This can also be useful with elevated decks, as levels will minimize the height of stairs.

It may seem premature, but during the design phase for your deck make sure you find an appropriate spot for your barbecue. All too often the treasured outdoor grill is forgotten about during the design process, leading its eventual placement to look like a complete afterthought. Keep in mind that if you have, or plan to purchase, a gas barbecue, the gas line needs to run to its location.

Test your layout

So, your plan looks good on paper, but how will it look in your backyard? Using stakes and string, mark out your deck to see how it will fit in your yard. Is it large enough? Too large? Too close to your prized rose garden? Use this as a method to determine if any elements need to be tweaked before you start the construction.

Look at the location

Once you've figured out where your deck will go, take note of how much direct sun the area gets throughout the day. If it is in a spot that will get a lot of sun exposure you might want to consider incorporating some sort of shade covering to make your deck more enjoyable to use during the hot days in July and August. An elegant pergola or awning can create shade while also adding some creative flair.

Pick your materials carefully

It's important to consider the level of maintenance you are committed to undertaking on your deck in the years to come when deciding on materials. Composite decking has become extremely popular in recent years as it mitigates the need to constantly stain and replace rotten boards, however it can increase the cost of your deck project compared to other products. Cedar is a popular option for deck builders since it is easy to work with and resistant to warping, but it will fade to a shade of grey if not cared for on a regular basis. Though cost-effective and extremely durable, pressure-treated wood is also known for being prone to warping and splitting meaning inevitable imperfections in the future.

Don't forget about the finishing touches

Once your deck is constructed, look into some of the finishing touches that will really give your deck its own character and help it serve as a true extension of your house, such as decorative lighting to provide your deck space with a relaxing ambiance during summer evenings. If you want to add a creative impact to your structure, but don't have a lot of room for a unique design, then look at installing eye-catching railings. There are endless innovative railing designs available in glass, metal and cables, among others. Other finishing touches to consider: lattice skirting, post caps and post trim.

By Erin Kelly

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