Well-built decks marry personality and functionality

(BPT) – As temperatures increase, your thoughts may wander to spending time outside sharing conversation, drinks and meals with friends and family.

For many homeowners, that can mean renovating an existing gathering spot or replacing it with a new deck. A well-planned deck can increase a home’s value and usable space.

“We see an awful lot of homebuilders building smaller, more cost-effective homes, especially in the last few years,” says Seattle-based deck builder Ron Spillers, owner of West Coast Decks. “A lot of them don’t have as much space, so people want to capture more outdoor living space, and they do that with a deck.”

Many homes have only a small concrete slab – a bare minimum for outdoor space.  But, according to Spillers, people desire more elaborate decks for relaxing and entertaining, and select natural woods, such as Western Red Cedar, to create the perfect setting.

“The first reason is beauty. It’s a very pretty wood, especially in regions like the Northwest. The wood lends itself to our natural surroundings and the environment,” says Spillers. “Second is cost. It’s very economical, it’s a very well-managed resource, and it’s readily available and easy to work with for a professional or do-it-yourselfer.”

Spillers and New Jersey-based deck builder Sean McAleer, president and CEO at DeckRemodelers.com, say this year’s decks will incorporate greater practicality. Features will include greater use of covered space and privacy walls to expand the usefulness of a home’s outdoor space.

“A roof over a deck, a roof with no walls, dry space under the deck – these are frequent requests from our customers that add to the deck’s usability,” says McAleer. “That means that with these additions, you can use your deck whether it’s raining out or 100 degrees.”

Privacy walls add aesthetic appeal to new and existing decks. They also can function as a backstop to an outdoor grill or kitchen, or relief from the weather.

So, how do you find the perfect deck? Homeowners should consider several questions in order to make the right decision for their specific needs.

What is your budget?

Determining what you can afford will go a long way toward shaping your outdoor space. Consulting a contractor is a good place to start to get an idea of just how far your money will go.

“If you’re going to buy a car, you don’t go to see cars at all different price points,” says McAleer. “You look at all the models in the price range you’re looking for so you’re comparing apples to apples.”

Be sure to consider the deck builder’s reputation, customer reviews and portfolio if you plan to hire a contractor. If you are planning to do it yourself, remember to factor the cost of equipment rental into your budget analysis.

Several websites, such as wrcla.org, also offer online deck-planning tips and tools.

How will you use the deck?

Purpose and functionality are two important factors to consider. Ask yourself the following questions: Do you want to use it year round? Do you do a lot of entertaining? Do you want a quiet space for just the family? Where is your view?

Consider the type, size and how much furniture will go on the deck. When you design a deck, you have an opportunity to say “this is where I want the grill,” and lay out the space to adequately fit very specific needs like traffic flow and gathering places, says McAleer.

Most importantly, look at your backyard to see what you can incorporate. Think about the grade of your property and the views beyond.

“When I design a deck I want to walk through the house to see how they decorate – what’s their style,” says McAleer. “Then I want to walk outside to see what they’re looking at in terms of the view from the house looking out. A lot of people don’t take into account how it looks from the inside out. It’s important to look at the view from more than just the outside looking in.”

As an extension of your home, decks can and should be built to serve specific homeowner needs. No matter how elaborate, your deck will increase usable space, a factor that adds long-term value to your home.

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