Building A New Deck

Spring has officially arrived, and summer is just around the corner! OK, maybe it doesn't seem that way for some of us who continue to deal with snow and freezing temperatures. But the hour of sleep we lost the first Sunday morning in April signifies the time of year when homeowners feel inspired to build decks. But before you arbitrarily flip through the Yellow Pages or pick up your hammer and nails, you're going to want to consider a few factors first.

What will you be using your deck for? Will you be using it simply for relaxing in your favorite lawn chair? Setting up a table and chairs for dining al fresco? Both perhaps? And just how much of a sun worshipper are you?

As you can see, there are so many things to consider. Depending upon the time of year, your home could block the sun. Or, if you live in a hot climate, you might want to build your deck at an angle that provides you with some degree of insulation from the hot sun. Also, consider that some trees lose their leaves in winter and will allow the winter sun access to your deck. Other trees, such as evergreens, however, won't lose their leaves, and will continue to provide shade and cooler temperatures on your deck when you won't necessarily want them. Particularly now, when the public is extremely aware of the need to protect the skin from the sun's potentially harmful ultraviolet rays, shade is necessary. So you're probably going to need an umbrella that you can adjust as the sun changes direction over the course of the day. When the winter months roll in, however, you're going to need a place to store that large umbrella.

Consider the most common wind direction in your yard. You may want to consider building an ivy-covered screen or hedge to block out annoying breezes (imagine what a strong wind can do to your outdoor dinner party). And how about noise? Does your home back up to a major thoroughfare? While it's nearly impossible to insulate yourself from all surrounding noise pollution, planting trees or hedges or building screens can help to some degree. Which part of your backyard is most scenic? Would you like to be able to see it from your deck?

Make sure you don't block the view with high screens or hedges, or construct them in designs that allow for partial views. And speaking of views, make sure that your neighbors won't be able to wave at you while you're enjoying your deck. Construct your hedges or screens to maintain your privacy.

Do you plan to sit outdoors on your deck at night? Then you're going to need to wire the outside area to accommodate lighting and waterproof electrical outlets. Most people don't consider it, but decks often become 'catch-alls' for garden tools, hoses, empty pots, children's toys and/or pool accessories. Before long, your deck becomes an unsightly mess. It's worth your while then to plan to build a storage space along with your deck. Place it in a hidden space away from your deck if possible, or if you use those items frequently, plan to build yourself an attractive or perhaps camouflaged storage space near or on the deck.

The most common form of entry onto a deck is through a pair of French doors. However some homeowners elect to build sliding glass doors, although they are becoming a bit outdated, and their safety has been questioned because burglars have had success in forcing them open. French doors are a more visually attractive choice, and if you plan to entertain on your deck, you'll want to provide entry through them via the kitchen if possible. And if your back yard slopes down from your home, you're going to need to build your deck upon posts - a job which no homeowner should attempt to pursue on his or her own. Call an expert.

Amidst contemplating all these choices, don't forget one of the most important things you need to do - consult your city's building department regarding your property lines. And do this BEFORE you get slapped with fine, angry neighbors or both! It's best to get out your pen and paper, and write down your "wish list" for a deck - what its design will be like, what you'll be using it for and the views you'd like to see from the deck. And like any other home improvement project, interview several builders before you select one. Shop around and don't rush yourself. With a little preparation, you can turn an ordinary back yard into a peaceful, scenic respite.