Tips on Planning a Backyard Deck

An outdoor space should be a continuation of your home’s interior style.

A backyard deck is more than just a place to park the grill for the summer. When done right a deck is an extension of your home, adding space, beauty, enjoyment and value to your property. But building a deck that meets your needs for the long term takes more than a quick sketch and a trip to the lumber store. In fact, planning your deck may take almost as long as building it.

Size Matters
Probably no homeowner has ever complained that they built their deck too big, but no doubt many have regretted building one that’s too small. When planning the size of your deck, consider all the activities you and your family want to use it for. Do you want to include a dining table, a hot tub, room for entertaining, some space for patio plants or a sun-tanning area? It may be helpful to arrange furniture in your yard as though it were your deck and see exactly how much room it takes for all the seating, storage or cooking space you want. Remember that unlike the floor inside your home a deck has edges, and tables and chairs should be placed about three feet away from the edges for safety.

Shape It Up
Curves and unique shapes can elevate the look of your deck to something worthy of a magazine cover, but they also elevate the price. Sticking with square and rectangular shapes keeps material and labor costs down, but may result in a boring design. Strike a balance between style and budget by creating an L-shaped deck or build multi-levels for added interest. Adding even one step to a second level gives the illusion of more space and a high-end design. If you want a large deck but are concerned it won’t look proportionate with your smaller home, a multi-level design provides the opportunity for more space while maintaining visual balance.

Choosing Materials
Building materials affect the overall look, longevity, maintenance requirements and budget of your backyard deck. The primary choices are natural wood, composite wood, plastic or aluminum. Wood is the most commonly used decking material and is the least expensive option. Depending on what type of wood you select a wooden deck can require many hours of maintenance and repair throughout its lifetime. Composite lumber, a blend of plastic and wood, is low-maintenance and long lasting; however, it can’t be sanded and refinished like natural wood so if it does fade or splinter it will have to be replaced. Plastic composite is completely rot- and insect-resistant, but is expensive and looks like, well, plastic. Aluminum decking is the most expensive option, but it outlasts all other materials and is practically maintenance free. The look of aluminum is somewhat sterile and industrial, but for some homeowners that’s a plus.

No doubt your budget will be making many of the decisions about your new backyard deck, but no matter what size, shape or material you decide on keep in mind that an outdoor space should be a continuation of your home’s interior style in order to create a harmonious flow. When your deck looks and feels more like a comfortable indoor space you and your guests will enjoy it to the fullest.

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