Deck dreaming: 5 easy steps to plan the perfect deck

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Posted: Wednesday, July 2, 2014 1:00 am | Updated: 3:32 am, Wed Jul 9, 2014.

(BPT) - With warm summer days in full swing, it is time to make your dream of a backyard deck transformation a reality. If you are like many homeowners who are interested in revamping outdoor living spaces, a lack of time and decking know-how may be preventing you from getting started.

The good news is that breathing new life into an outdated deck or updating an outdoor living area does not have to be complicated or time consuming, if you have the right plan. Start with these five easy steps and you’ll be enjoying your deck oasis in no time.

1. Research inspiring deck projects

Before tackling a deck project, set aside time to discover your deck design style. Flip through your favorite magazines or browse design sites like Houzz and Pinterest to help spark your imagination. As you look at different color combinations and configurations, be sure to evaluate which designs will fit your family’s lifestyle and backyard parameters.

2. Find your perfect materials

When deciding on the colors and layout of your deck, keep in mind the variety of materials available. Decking choices range from traditional wood to plastic PVC boards with multiple options in between, like wood-plastic composites.

Some composites can be pricy, but brands like ChoiceDek offer the same durability at an affordable price and are backed by a 25-year warranty. It’s also available in stock at Lowe’s stores, making it easy to purchase and get your project started quickly.

Durable composite boards are available in various colors and do not require the sealing, staining and painting of traditional wood decking. Some plastic capped boards have a shiny surface finish, while boards with fully encapsulated wood fibers offer a more wood-like appearance and improved moisture resistance. “The boards work like wood, but are better. They can be cut, drilled and screwed without creating a pathway for water intrusion. This helps homeowners keep their deck looking good – rain or shine,” says Scott Spencer, ChoiceDek national account manager.

3. Do-it-yourself or hire a contractor?

As you begin to consider costs and availability, you’ll need to decide if you want to build this deck yourself or prefer to work with a contractor. If the DIY approach is right for you, start reviewing installation how-to’s and videos to be sure you feel comfortable with the necessary steps. Product websites typically have guidelines that outline required tools, material quantities and installation tips.

If building a deck still looms as a chore that cuts into summer fun, consider hiring a contractor. Some home improvement stores and decking manufacturers certify decking contractors and can suggest one in your area. Store associates can also help you figure out the cost of different building material options and provide building advice.

Whether you plan to do-it-yourself or hire out your deck transformation, be sure to contact your local building department or homeowners’ association to get details on their requirements and restrictions.

4. Design your deck

Once you have a clear vision of your dream deck, start drawing out the details. You can even use deck design programs, like the one on Lowes.com, to explore different deck layouts and color options. Some programs can even print a material list specific to your design to simplify ordering.

Whether you’re building a multi-level deck or a small porch, evaluate how to modify the design to better suite your tastes. For example, adding curved elements can enhance visual interest, while contrasting deck board colors can add personality. If a smooth deck surface is important for kids and pets, consider hidden fastening systems as an alternative to surface screws. Hidden fasteners use specialized clips that fit into grooves on the side of composite deck boards for a clean, even surface.

5. Finishing touches

With your deck design in place, it is time to increase the style and function of your outdoor space. If you envision long evenings on the deck, a little extra lighting can go a long way to extending hours outside. Or, consider adding built-in seating or a feature piece like a fire pit or water fountain. By focusing on how friends and family plan to use your outdoor space, you can create a beautiful, fun deck that can be enjoyed for years to come.

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