This could be the year to tackle the great outdoors—or at least to tackle the back yard and finally put up a deck. As usual, picking up a hammer and barreling out the back door won’t happen immediately. Creating a plan and breaking down the task into steps will undoubtedly work best.
A profusion of deck design programs are available, and many are accessible simply by conducting a computer search for free deck design software. Many of the programs let the user experiment with colors, grain patterns, textures, shapes and levels, along with stairs and railings. Wood continues to be the most popular decking material.
Once the deck design has been tweaked, maybe by adding an outdoor fireplace or food prep station, the plan can be printed out and paired with a picture of the space it will occupy. When final plans have been modified and reviewed, the software will usually allow for printing of the plans in color, along with a 3-D rendering and material list.
The plans went the only feature that needs to be double-checked—there’s still a little more checking to do—starting with the piggy bank.
Does the deck not only fit the yard but fit the budget? The cost of most do-it-yourself wood decks ranges from $10 to $25 per square foot, depending on the plans. According to one home-advice website, the national average spent to have a deck built is $7,000, as determined by a cost analysis of around 8,000 deck projects. On the low-end, some homeowners were able to get by with spending only about $2,000 for a deck size of 200 square feet or smaller. On the high-end, homeowners might spend about $20,000 for a “decked-out” deck of more than 500 square feet. For a deck size of 200-500 square feet, most spent somewhere between $5,200 and $11,100.
The next checking needs to be done at city hall, or at least on the city website. Building codes must be adhered to—such as equipping any deck 30 inches above grade or higher with a railing that’s at least 36 inches in height measured from the deck surface to the top of the rail. Another code requirement is to properly secure a deck to a home using structural fasteners rather than nails. Inspectors universally report that most deck failures are caused by attaching a ledger board to a home using nails.
While some unincorporated or rural areas may not require a permit, anyone building a deck in a more densely populated area is mandated to procure a permit. Permits can start at $100 to $1,000 or more, but the deck wont pass inspection unless it is safe and has been properly built. And in some areas, municipalities also require a review of the plans from an engineer.
The right tools make any job go more smoothly and quickly. Plus, it’s an excuse to buy more tools. Some of the tools on the deck-building list include framing hammers, circular saw, cordless drill, string lines, chalk lines, a level, clamshell post hole digger or power auger (for digging post holes) and clamps.
If the tool list sounds intimidating—or worse—like a foreign language, it may mean that this do-it-yourself project might be best left to the professionals.
But if not, it, showtime, or at least time to make a top to the building supply store to check out deck material. Not all woods are suited for building a deck because they won’t stand up to the elements and insects, year after year. Some of the best choices for decking lumber are pressure-treated lumber, cedar or redwood, depending on the cost, location, and conditions the wood will be subjected to. Generally, pressure-treated lumber is most cost-effective and long-lasting.
When the hard work of measuring, hammering and digging and pouring are finally finished, adding a decorator’s flair is part of the enjoyment. The use of paint and color enhance the creation of a unique outdoor living space that the entire family—or neighborhood—can enjoy.
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