What to Know About Installing a Deck

4 Things to Consider Before Adding a DeckA backyard deck is an attractive home feature, adding living space as well as value to a home. But, whether you plan to hire a contractor or tackle the project yourself as a DIY project, there are some things you should consider before getting started:

Zoning and Plan Approvals

Any planned improvement are likely to require approval from local governmental authorities, in addition to the blessing of a Homeowners Association, if one exists. Checking the requirements in advance will smooth the process. It may be as simple as submitted a sketch, or your municipality might require dimensioned plans and a list of materials to be used.

Check the requirements in advance, whether you plan a DIY project or hire a contractor. Even though a contractor will typically secure an actual building permit, plans and payment of fees normally are the homeowner's responsibility.

Aesthetic considerations

Attractive decks today come in all sizes, shapes and configurations. Some popular ideas include:

  • Multi-level covered or uncovered decking with built-in seating or planters that extends into the backyard from a home's patio;
  • A free-standing deck or pavilion that serves as seating or dining area;
  • An upper-level deck accessible by either an outside stairway or the home's second story, or both;
  • A decked pavilion, with or without a roof, adjacent to a pool or hot tub;
  • A roof deck, with the feeling of a treehouse or a private sundeck.

A deck's location and planned use will largely determine its size and the materials to be used, as well as the construction details.


Decks can be built with a variety of materials, from concrete block to steel girders, but most simple decks are framed out of wood. Treated lumber is typically used for the supporting structure, but finishing materials vary widely. Redwood, cedar, cypress, ipe, teak and other exotic hardwoods resist moisture and pest damage, and often weather to an attractive grey tone. Stain and sealers will keep wood looking new longer. But if periodic upkeep is not a problem, wood can be painted or stained almost any color.

Synthetic composite decking materials that resemble wood planking offer maintenance ease and long-term durability, in addition to cost-effective installation. Synthetic decking is often combined with other materials, including metal, steel wire, plastic and plexiglass, rails, windbreaks, arbors and lattices. Create shade over a deck with a rustic timber ramada, a full roof, or a frame topped with metal panels, clear or colored polycarbonate plastic, or even weather-treated canvas.

Coordinate the style and materials of a deck with the home's architecture and design for a seamless transition from interior to outdoor living space. Many homeowners view backyard decks as extensions of the home's square footage; outfitting and furnishing the deck for real comfort.

Safety and Durability

Building a deck requires attention to safety considerations. The deck must be secured anchored to its foundation, typically of either a concrete footing or piers. The deck should be leveled, or in the case of a roof deck, slightly sloped and equipped with proper drains so that water won't pool on the surface. Specific building requirements for a Girdwood home should address the need for support structure and load-bearing needs, as well as rails and/or walls depending on the height above grade. Additional requirement govern stairs, railing height and safety lighting for backyard decks.

General illumination is an important consideration. Solar lighting and motion-controlled fixtures are especially appropriate for outdoor decks, and will also provide attractive ambience for nighttime use. Decks, done right, will add years of enjoyable use to any home.

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