One of the easiest, and the most inexpensive, ways to gain living space for you home is building a deck. Because unlike a patio a deck usually has a wood frame and can be placed at ground level, flush with your second-story bedroom or as high as the roof-line of your home. It can be a small, useful space for your enjoyment or a massive testament to style and recreation. And an already-existing deck can be enlarged, resurfaced or re-colored with a weekend's contribution of time because it's just wood.
A deck is also one of the very few builds or renovations that can be accomplished within a budget. If the ground is stable a contractor can usually come in at a definite price because the material prices and labor costs are fairly stable. In other words if the deck estimate is $3600 you can pretty well be assured that the final cost will be the same. This is because there are very few variables to move the price around.
However, before building you dream deck there are a few considerations you might want to address:
The amount of money you can afford directly affects the size and scope of your deck. If there is a lot of preparation work to be done – old deck torn out, ground leveled – then this will affect the price. But if it is just a regular square deck built within 4' of the ground, the rule-of-thumb is: Take the cost of materials and double it. So if you go down to the store and price out the materials for deck and they come to $1200 then, with labor and other considerations, the deck will most likely come out to around $2400. This is also a good number to keep in your head when contractors give you estimates.
Shape, Size and Levels
This is actually a very important consideration because the shape affects both the usage and the cost. For example, a rectangular deck in front of the home with diamond-shape end pieces will require extra cutting and shaping to get the right effect. A good carpenter will take more time to make sure that the shape and angles are right and this will cost more.
Now, add to this the levels. Many decks are built into spectacular structures of two or three levels with grilling and cooking stations as well as spas. Fireplaces with large chimneys are finding their way out to the decks allowing a great deck life even when the weather gets cold. To fill this space homeowners are adding posh, waterproof furniture and TV screens just like in the den.
If you live in an area that is very hot in the summer a misting system, fine water drops propelled by a fan, can take the heat away.
Railings and Posts
Decks have railings mainly for safety. But just like window trim and shrubs set off the front of the home, railings and posts define what is otherwise a flat, boring platform. Railings are the functional supports and the balusters, although providing protection, are structural decorations. In older-style homes the posts are a 4” X 4”carved, Victorian style column with matching carved balusters whereas a modern deck may have tempered-glass panels between the posts. The former is more for decoration but the glass, although modernistic, is protection from the wind.
One of the breakthroughs in railing design is the type of materials. Rather than the high-maintenance that wood railings require, these long guard-rails are now being made from powder-coated aluminum, composites and vinyl. In addition, these railings can come in 4' and 8' assembled panels that can easily be attached to posts bolted into the decking. These are more expensive but you can recoup most of the price from the labor savings over the installation of wooden posts and balusters. And then there is the saving in time and money you would have had to invest in painting.
One of the newest movements in deck building is to provide a usable space underneath the deck. This means instead of a dead space where water trickles down between the decking boards the area is used for storage. Of course, to make this area functional the surface of the deck would have be at least 6’ high ,or 4' if you don't mind bending over.
The decking is covered with a waterproofing to divert the water into a small gutter system and away from the home. In many cases the deckwood can be used as a platform for fiberglass sheeting which is then saturated with the epoxy to make it a hard surface. Then this surface is painted with non-stick paint or covered with an outdoor carpet. For a more realistic deck waterproofing is stretched over the joists and then vinyl or composite decking is placed down over that with a sealing solution on the bottom sides.