Before You Build: Tips for Tackling Design Challenges
Now that you’ve carefully thought about what you want in a deck, you need to study the lay of your land and see whether you can work your preferred design elements into the overall scheme of things. If not, what design alternatives can you fall back on?
The thought of hiring a professional can scare off a lot of homeowners who think that the extra expense will be too prohibitive. The truth is, many a DIY-er ends up wishing that a contractor had taken care of the project from the very start. Someone who absolutely knows what he’s doing will trump an amateur any time: he’s likely to be more efficient in running the project and managing workflow, and can save you from making expensive mistakes—in fact, contractors usually have a lot of brilliant ideas to offer to help you cut costs.
Here are some tips from some designers who specialize in decks:
- Build when the weather is nice; also, consider doing other complementary projects, such as building a swimming pool, an outdoor patio, or doing a garden or yard landscaping project at the same time.
- Add elements that protect you from both the sun and the rain. Think a pergola, or large umbrellas and retractable awnings that will make the outdoor living space more inviting and livable.
- For sloping terrain, consider building a multi-level deck. Also, use your natural environment to enhance your design—for instance, you can build around trees—just leave around 3 inches’ clearance around the trunk to allow for growth, and make sure that the roots can be watered and fertilized as needed.
- Install privacy screens against curious eyes. Make sure they’re built sturdy against the wind.
- Make sure that your deck has the appropriate load-bearing capacity for its purpose. Shore up the foundation if you expect to hold big bashes pretty regularly, for instance.
- Install good lighting. Plan your lighting needs well so that you can maximize use of your deck. Add practical lighting to stairs and pathways, spot lighting to properly illuminate cooking and preparation areas, and ambient lighting for your lounging and relaxation spots.
- Follow local codes. Make sure to follow local building codes—and secure the necessary permits—before you even start building. Deck additions—as long as they pass code—can be solid investments. Recovery values can be as high as 70 to 80 of cost when you resell your home.
Another thing that increases your deck’s value is the materials you choose to build it. Part III, coming soon, breaks down the different material choices for you.