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What to Consider When Building a Deck

by Rachel Lyon, Assistant Editorial Director for The House Designers

If you’re thinking about adding a deck to your home, whether it be your existing property or new construction, there’s little wonder why! Not only will you enjoy this breezy outdoor living space, but depending on your region and the likelihood of selling in the future, a deck can add value to your home. So make sure you build a great one! It’s one of the most cost-effective expansions you can make to a house, and that’s all the more reason to ensure that you do it the best way possible. Here are some things to keep in mind as you think about adding a deck to your home.

The magnificent back deck of THD-4445 is one of its most notable features, and it makes the most out of this sloped lot. Homes on similar terrain benefit greatly from the inclusion of such a space, which expands living area, connects to the outdoors, and makes a great place to host.

Understanding Deck Options

All kinds of homes can benefit from the addition of a deck, but the nature of the most appropriate deck will vary. For example, a home on a beautifully sloped lot naturally accommodates a deck, in both form and function. The grade of the land creates a raised position for outdoor living, which is perfect for taking in views and also allows the deck to connect to the ground with stairs. Many homes on sloped lots appear single-story in the front, but two-story in the back, and incorporating an egress by way of a deck allows people to access the yard without having to go through the front door and walk around the house. Homes with walk-out basements and/or drive-under garages easily incorporate decks over these features.

A deck is still a great option for homes situated on flatter lots, too. An on-grade deck—that is, one built just above the ground—provides the same exterior living option that today’s homeowners love. The land should be cleared and excavated for drainage depending on the climate, and it might even require a sloped concrete slab to make sure water doesn’t pool just under the wooden boards. There should be space for air to circulate to minimize the risk of rot.

Southern pine from Weyerhaeuser is the perfect lumber for exterior building. Pictured is the Pro Series™ Lumber, which is treated to resist mold and stains.

Choosing Lumber

Your home is primarily constructed with lumber, but there are different considerations when you’re looking for wood that will be exposed to the elements for years. Some people are choosing to go with dense tropical hardwoods, which are exotic and offer a unique finishing touch to a home, while others focus on the domestic products that can lend their hardiness and beauty from closer to home. The favored species on the West Coast is cedar, which is full of natural oils that resist insects and molds, but it is much more expensive in other locations. For most, southern pine offers the perfect lumber solution; it can be grown sustainably, resists wear, and accepts preservative treatments easily, making it an all-around good choice.

The grade of the lumber should also be considered. The deck is a high-visibility area, so the general consensus is that clear wood is the best. The ring of wood just inside the bark of a log is the clearest part since it generally doesn’t have knots, and you can request this cut to ensure a more uniform and smooth deck.

Genovations PVC Deck

This deck from Genovations® has beautiful woodgrain texture and a strong earthy color, but it is actually made from weather-resistant polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and is very low-maintenance. The glass pickets on the railing allow for unobstructed views. This product is available through Weyerhaeuser Distribution’s St. Paul location.

Expanding Deck Possibilities

Your options for decks are greater now than ever before. Not only are there multiple lumber choices that allow you to create just the right look for your home, but you can also go the synthetic route and choose a beautiful deck that has the appearance of wood, but that is actually made of a durable polymer material that resists wear and tear as well as damage from mold. For the busy homeowner, this is an increasingly attractive option, and the warranties available on such products are extremely attractive, too!

Whether you choose to use natural wood or a synthetic, you can still customize the deck with your railing selection. While many people love the traditional look of wood pickets to complete their rails—and this does look perfect on many homes—there are other products out there that will open up the view even more. For instance, you can buy pickets made of metal like aluminum, which are thinner than wooden ones, or even glass, which offer a window to the sights to be seen between the top and bottom rails. This is particularly favored for homes with water views.

If you’re ready to seriously consider building a deck, contact a contractor who will help make your vision a reality! An experienced professional will be knowledgeable about what works best in your area and what other people have been doing, and you’ll benefit from the expertise.