With summer on its way, nothing will enable you to get outside and enjoy those summer afternoons and evenings more than a good, solid, beautiful deck. You can build a deck yourself or hire someone to do it for you.
Before building or even planning a deck, make sure to learn about your local building codes and what the permitting requirements are for decks in your area. The building codes may influence the style of deck, railing, and stairs that you use. Remember, the building codes are there to help you make sure your deck is safe and adds long-term value to your house.
There are four basic parts of any deck project:
The foundation portion of your deck is the part that makes contact with the ground or the house. It is important to keep your local building codes in mind as you plan the foundation.
The base of the deck is the part between the foundation and the decking. Usually made from larger and thicker boards, such as 2″ x 10″ or 4″ x 4″, these boards hold the decking in place, and they provide your deck with a solid feel.
Decking refers to the boards that you actually walk on. There are a wide variety of materials available for decking in both natural wood and composite decking. Make sure that whatever you select has been treated to resist the elements, rotting, and termites. If you choose a darker wood or stain, be aware that your deck may heat up in the sunlight to the point that it may be uncomfortable for your feet!
If you choose to go with natural wood, keep in mind that, over time, the wood will fade to a grayish color if left untreated. It is a good idea to treat the wood every 2-3 years to keep it well-conditioned. If you do regular maintenance on your decking, staining the wood with a weather-resistant finish regularly, for example, your decking may last you 15-20 years.
If you choose to go with composite decking, there are a variety of colors and styles to choose from. You won’t be staining your composite decking, as it is typically maintenance-free, so picking a color that works with your home’s color is an important consideration. Some composite decking has a hollow core, which helps keep it cooler on your feet and makes it weigh less but may be less durable over time.
In this context, “finish” refers to railings and anything above the level of the decking. If you go with wooden railings and finishing pieces, it is a good idea to use the same wood that was used for the decking. But you don’t have to use wood for finishing: There are many composite or vinyl finishing ocmponents that can give your deck a classy look. If you go with composite finishing components, try to get all of your oomponents at the same time, as there can sometimes be color variations between batches of the products.
When it comes to railings, this is another place where your local building codes may come into place. There may be regulations on the height of railings, the distance between “spindles” (the wood pieces that connect the railing to the deck) and on the type of railings that you can use. These regulations may vary based on how high your deck is above the ground, whether it is attached to the house, so make sure you are looking at the right building codes.