Angie's LIST Guide to
Decks and porches

Adding a deck or porch to your home provides your family with additional space to enjoy. These spaces provide families a place to gather, entertain, cool and spend quality time together.
 

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Decks can provide families a place to gather and enjoy the outdoors. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sherry L.)
Decks can provide families a place to gather and enjoy the outdoors. (Photo courtesy of Angie's List member Sherry L.)
 
 
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Anatomy of a deck

Decks are usually located in the back of the home. These structures are raised from the ground and attached to the home. Most decks are constructed from wood building materials; however, there are other construction materials now available for the purpose of constructing a deck. Composite materials, which are manufactured from plastic and wood fibers, as well as plastic and vinyl selections are all used in residential deck designs.

Deck components
These outdoor structures can be built to any size or design for unique areas around the home. Since decks are designed to be attached to the home, they are considered to be permanent structures of the property.

For this reason, it is necessary for your contractor to obtain building permits and follow strict zoning regulations that are in place concerning deck construction. A well-constructed deck should add value to the home once complete.

Properly maintaining your deck can help ensure that you are able to enjoy it for a long time. Regular cleaning and sealing can significantly decrease the negative effects of time, weather and traffic.

The deck floor and the handrails are the most prone to damage because they get the most direct sunlight and water, and snow and wet leaves collect on them. These areas will wear at a much quicker rate than the posts and railings and require more frequent attention.

If you’re not sure about the condition of your deck, call a licensed contractor to take a look. The contractor should also inspect it during yearly maintenance. They should check and see if any part of the deck — the decking, the beams, stairs and railings — is coming loose, and repair it if need be.

Deck material

This Oregon deck is constructed from synthetic deck boards. Composite material comes in many styles, some that look like real wood. (Photo courtesy of Alex Bilbrey)

There are many different materials to choose from when building a deck. If you’re looking to expand your outdoor space, consider using these materials:

Pressure-treated lumber. Pine that has been chemically conditioned to resist the elements and fungus, pressure-treated lumber is still the most commonly used decking material for homes. Pressure-treated lumber is among the most affordable decking materials and easiest to install. However, it is susceptible to splintering, warping and cracking. Homeowners should take care to properly maintain it through regular cleanings and wood preservation.

Rot-resistant woods. Some homeowners prefer woods, like redwood and cedar, that don’t have to be treated with chemicals. However, these woods, which are naturally resistant to insects and decay, are more expensive. To maintain these types of decks, it’s important to keep them regularly cleaned, preserved and stained.

Tropical hardwoods. Even more expensive woods are now being used for decking material, including Ipe, Brazilian cherry, tigerwood and cumaru. These woods are considered more aesthetically pleasing and provide durability and resistance to rotting. As with redwood and cedar, it’s important to regularly clean, preserve and stain these woods.

Recycled plastic lumber. For the environmentally conscious, decking material that has had a previous life is becoming an increasingly popular choice. This product, which is made from 100 percent plastic, is highly resistant to the elements, decay and won’t give you problems with splintering, warping or cracking.

Composites. The options in composite decking, typically a combination of recycled plastics and wood fibers, are steadily expanding. One bamboo decking product, for example, is made from recycled bamboo fibers and recycled plastics. The final product combines the attractiveness of wood and the weather- and stain-resistance of plastics.

If wood decks are not properly maintained, they can begin to discolor, collect water, attract insects, warp and crack. Decks in direct sunlight will require more maintenance than those in shaded areas. Regular cleaning with a water hose can help, but try a bleach-water solution if you have a mildew spot.

Open-air porches

Open-air porches provide space to sit and relax while enjoying the outdoors. (Photo courtesy of Angelique Hays)

They're no longer as common in the age of air conditioning, but for generations open-air porches provided a respite on summer days.

Although porches have typically been located either at the front entrance or rear entrance of the home, second-story porches were sometimes stacked on top. Though they are no longer quite so essential, open porches still provide shelter from the weather for anyone entering or exiting the home and can be a pleasant place to rest on a breezy summer day.

They are typically made of the same materials as the rest of the house, though it's also common to have a wooden porch attached to a brick home.

If adding a porch to an existing home, it may be necessary to hire an architect to ensure that the porch roof blends properly with the main house roof. An architecth can draw designs which will not take away from the appearance of the home by creating natural looking roof coverings for the open-air porch.

Hiring a pro

Building a porch or deck takes a decent amount of carpentry skills as well as knowledge of power tool use. For those unfamiliar with construction, it might be best to hire a professional. This way, you’re sure to achieve quality results without putting your safety at risk. While contractors might be able to purchase materials at a discounted cost, you will end up paying for the labor, so be sure to budget accordingly.

Professional contractors can create most deck designs that homeowners may want constructed on their home. These individuals can draw up sophisticated design plans while working with the homeowner in a manner that all of the intended purposes of the porch or deck will meet. Overhangs and coverings for the deck can also be included in the design plans if the homeowner wants these features added.

Construction of a new porch or deck can cost between several thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, depending on the size and materials used. When looking for a contractor, ask about free estimates and scale drawings. It's recommended to get three estimates from licensed contractors in your area. Contractors should take care of obtaining all the necessary permits required to build in your area.

Comments

I have purchased all that I need for a floating deck , I have gotten sick and we now need someone who knows about these decks to help construct it. Please Help

building a new raised deck

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