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Planning a Deck This Summer? Here's What You Need to Know

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Summer is coming, and you're dreaming of a big, beautiful deck. If this sounds like you, we've got some inside information you should think about first. A deck can be a luxurious and functional addition to any home. But making sure you get it right from the start will reduce headaches—and hidden costs—down the line.

Planning a Deck This Summer - Here's What You Need to Know [infographic]

Match Your Deck to Your Home

You may have big plans for your deck or at least big dreams. But it's important to think about the shape, size, and style of your home, too. The last thing you want is a deck that looks like it was slapped onto your home as an afterthought. If you were expecting your deck to add value to your home, which most decks should, this is one way to actually decrease your home's value. A deck that doesn't match your home is worse than no deck at all.

To plan a deck that will complement your home, think first about the size. You may want a huge deck, but a deck should be no more than half the square footage of the level on which you are adding the deck.

The size of your deck should also be proportional to your outdoor space. Your deck doesn't necessarily need to be a certain percentage of your yard. But consider how much of your outdoor space you really want to give up to put in a deck. In some cases, it may make sense to install a deck that fills almost all of a small backyard. There is no rule, but make sure that you at least consider how your deck will affect the rest of your outdoor space.

Choose a Material

The most traditional material for building a deck is wood, of course. But that leaves a lot of room for choices. Pressure-treated pine is a common choice because it is relatively cheap and lasts longer than untreated wood. If you have a little more room in your budget, consider cedar or redwood. Both of these are naturally insect-resistant and tend to last longer than pine. However, all of these woods are relatively soft and will succumb to wear and tear over the years. A well-maintained cedar or redwood deck has a life expectancy of about 25 years. If you have room in your budget, some new hardwood options are growing in popularity. For example, Brazilian hardwoods can last longer than even cedar or pine and offer a unique look. Some of these hardwoods are so sturdy that they need to be predrilled before they are screwed into place.

Any wood, even a hardwood, needs to be stained and sealed every two to three years. If that kind of maintenance seems daunting, there are other options that require only minimal maintenance. Wood composite is made of a blend of plastic and wood fibers left over from the milling process. It is heavier than most types of wood, so it may need a slightly more robust frame to hold it up. However, it doesn't splinter like wood and requires almost no maintenance. The most significant upkeep for a composite wood deck is washing it with water two or three times a year as needed to keep it clean.

If you're not tied to the idea of a wood deck, new materials offer minimal maintenance and extra longevity. Aluminum and vinyl decking doesn't look exactly like wood, but it provides excellent value because it lasts so long and doesn't need to be stained or sealed like wood.

Get Your Permits Early On

Once you have decided on a design and material for your deck, the first thing to do is look into what permits are required. Almost all cities and counties have some permit requirements for building a deck. The permitting process allows the city or county to review your plans and make sure that you are building a safe deck. In addition to reviewing plans, the city or county may require a visit from an inspector to make sure the footings and other features are up to code.

Permits can be a headache, but forgoing permits can be an even bigger headache. First, permits are there to keep everyone safe, so skipping them could be dangerous. Second, if a neighbor or anyone else tips off the local government that you are building a deck without a permit, you could face fines. If the deck is already built, you could even be required to take it down.

Even if you don't get caught, a non-permitted deck can cause problems when you try to sell your home. Part of selling a home is ensuring that any work on the home that required a permit got one. If you have a deck that was never permitted, it could cause a whole load of trouble when you try to sell your home.

Getting your permits early on, before you even purchase materials, allows you to modify your plans if the city requires it. Sometimes, the plan that you thought made sense won't make sense to the city planners. In that case, the city may ask you to update some of your plans. If you haven't bought any materials or started work, the city can work with you to find the best solution. If you've already purchased materials, changes may mean going back and buying different materials.

Hire a Qualified Contractor

A quick search on your favorite search engine will turn up loads of DIY tutorials on deck building. It can seem enticing to save money by doing the work yourself. But unless you are an experienced carpenter or construction worker, it's time to pick up the phone and call the pros. A deck is an addition to your home that should last for decades. If you wouldn't add a room to your home yourself, don't try to add a deck. Experience in this arena counts. And if your deck is raised off the ground, any small mistakes in the construction could lead to disaster. The last thing you want is a second-floor deck that slopes, sags, or even collapses.

Luckily, finding a reliable deck builder isn't hard. In fact, you are already right where you need to be. Contact one of our TrustDALE certified deck builders to get reliable service, competitive pricing, excellent warranties, and a deck you can trust. When you hire a TrustDALE certified deck builder, Dale has already done the research for you. You get a deck builder who is thoroughly vetted and investigated. And you are backed by Dale's trademark $10,000 Make-It-Right Guarantee.

Once you've selected your design and your materials, and you've secured your permits and a reliable builder, you're well on your way. It's time to start construction. And you can be enjoying your deck just in time for summer!