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Deck Building 101

Increase the space, value and enjoyment of your home with a backyard deck

By Brent Gwatney

Transforming the backyard into an outdoor living room has become an increasingly popular trend among homeowners. The addition of a deck provides a relatively simple, cost-effective way to increase the size and value of your home, while maximizing the time and enjoyment of outdoor living.

Studies indicate a deck addition is among the top remodelling projects which results in a beneficial return on investment. According to a 2008 Appraisal Institute of Canada RENOVA survey, homeowners can receive a 50 to 75 per cent return on investment (ROI) on their deck additions.

Although adding a deck is easier than many home remodelling projects, it still requires thoughtful planning and creative thinking.

Planning your deck

Planning is one of the most important elements of a deck project. As with other home renovations and additions, the more thought the design stage receives, the faster and easier the installation will be. Whether you are creating your own custom designed deck or working with a contractor, thoughtful preparation can reduce time, money and challenges during the construction process.

Start by consulting local building codes and zoning bylaws, which can limit heights, location or other such factors related to the construction of the deck. The building code also indicates whether or not a building permit is required. For most areas, if the deck is going to be attached to the house, a permit is needed. Additionally, if you are a member of a homeowners' association, you will need to be aware of its specific guidelines for deck size, product type and design.

Your deck should complement your home, as well as your personality, so it should be designed to accommodate your lifestyle. Will it be used for entertaining? Do you want it to be divided into smaller sections, or left as an open common area? Do you want built-in benches or patio furniture, a kitchen or fireplace? Determining how you will use the additional space can significantly affect the layout.

The size of your home and backyard will also help determine the size and configuration of your deck. For instance, if your backyard gradually slopes down, a multi-level deck may look and function better than a raised one-level deck, as varied levels provide a smoother transition from the home to the yard. Traffic flow is another factor to keep in mind. A deck may be less usable or feel crowded without enough space for outdoor activities and guests.

The shape and board patterns of your deck can create visual appeal and creatively break up a large area. A deck can be virtually any shape you want, but keep in mind the more complicated the design, the more materials will be needed. This impacts the cost and level of effort required in building the deck.

Other ways to add visual interest include wrapping the deck around a corner of the home, building a pergola or arbour, adding built-in benches, integrating a fence or screen on one side, or even adding an overhead screen.

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