How to Add a Deck


A deck adds more living space to your home. It combines the out­doors with the indoors. And, if properly designed and built, it can enhance the design of the property.

Adding a deck, however, is usually a poor investment in terms of getting back all the money when you resell. Indeed a deck can be expected to return only about a third of the money you invest.

Still, a deck adds enormously to the livability of a home. And, if you have dead area in the back (or front) of your home, you may need a deck simply to make the property more salable (in the same way you need a heating system).

Deck

Where Should the Deck Go?

You may be lucky and not have to decide on a location. An open area right at the back of your home may be naturally suited to a deck. On the other hand, perhaps the right spot is not so obvious. Your options may include the side yards as well.

When deciding on the location of the deck, try to imagine how it will change the appearance of the exterior of your home—for good—or for bad. Also, try to keep in mind what rooms you’ll need to go through to get to it.

Look up when you’re locating your deck. You don’t want it where water or snow come off the roof.

Finally, think of what you’ll use the deck for when planning its location. Many people like to barbecue on their decks, so easy access from the kitchen may be desirable. Also, children like to play on decks, so perhaps you’d like to be able to see what’s going on out there. That means access from your family room, where you spend a lot of time, would be desirable.

How Big Should I Make the Deck?

Again, the size of the deck depends on what you want to use it for, and there are certain rules to keep in mind. If your deck is going to serve as a walkway, either out the back or into the front of the home, you’ll want to leave an area at least 4 feet wide for access. If you’re going to have a barbecue, you’ll need at least 6 or 7 feet of space. If you’re going to add an umbrella with chairs, you’ll want 10 or 12 feet.

Be sure to consider appearance along with size. A huge deck on a small house will seem awkward, as will a small deck on a huge house. Try to match the deck to the home and the landscaping.

Decks are cheap, when compared with the cost of building a home. You might pay only a tenth as much for a deck as for additional interior space. Therefore, don’t scrimp. Build the deck as large as is appropriate.

If your deck is more than a few feet off the ground, your building department will require that you put a safety railing around it. Usually the railing must be at ™ least 3 feet high, with no openings larger than 5 or 6 inches (so small children can’t slip through). Check your local building code for the exact requirements in your area.

What Materials Should I Use to Build the Deck?

These days, you have a wide variety of choices. Usually the supports for the deck should be made from a sturdy wood—such as Douglas fir, hemlock, larch, and certain pines. Check to see what’s available in your area. Look for wood that’s been pressure-treated to reduce pests and rotting.

For the deck surface and railings, your first consideration should be durability. Remember, your deck will need to withstand heat and sunlight in summer, and rain, wind, and possibly snow in winter. Redwood is probably the best of the natural woods, followed by cedar. However, most of the redwood forests have been cut down, and good redwood is both hard to find and expensive. Heart wood (without knots) is difficult to come by at any price.

Be way of using pressure-treated wood on the deck sur­faces. The toxic chemicals that remain in the wood could pose a health hazard, particularly for children. ™ For example, a simple splinter or sliver could introduce toxins into the blood system. For this reason, you may want to consider natural woods for all deck sur­faces (although they have their own natural toxins!).

An alternative to wood is a type of fiberglass that comes in 2×4 and 2×6 sizes. It can be painted or stained to look like wood, and it holds up almost forever. Also, as wood prices increase, its price compares more and more favorably.

How Arc Decks Constructed?

In a sense, decks are constructed much like houses. First there is a foundation, then framing, and then a top. However, whereas a house has a peripheral foundation running around the edges, a typ­ical deck has only concrete footings with wooden posts on top.

The footings are usually poured concrete. In simplest form, they are created by digging a hole and then putting a form (often a hol­low tube) into it. The concrete is then poured, and rebar is used for added strength.

A metal bracket is bolted to the top of the concrete to provide a more solid footing and to keep moisture (and termites) from trav­eling up into the wood and rotting it. The wood posts form the basic supports of the deck. Joists are laid across them at regular intervals (such as 16 or 24 inches), and the surface decking is placed on top.

A deck must be engineered. That means that the size of the posts and joists and the distances between them must be sufficient to ensure that the deck will hold a minimum amount of weight (usually 40 pounds per square foot) without collapsing.

Deck

However, a variety of books offer “preengineered” deck designs for you to follow. Further, since decks are so often do-it-yourself projects, many building departments will have sketches showing the basic structure and requirements.

If your deck is more than 18 inches off the ground, f| you’ll probably need a permit. If it is closer than that, you probably won’t. However, check with your local building department to be sure. If you do need a per­mit, you can usually get one by supplying a rough sketch of the deck along with a sheet describing the type of wood and its size. (Plus, of course, the fee!)

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About the Author: Jason Prickett loves to write about home maintenance and stuff you can do yourself instead of hiring any professional. His step by step guides will assist you in completing your home maintenance tasks.

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