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Getting All Decked Out

Paul Lafrance hammers home the basics

By Jacquie De Almeida

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So you’re planning on building a deck, something on which you can enjoy lazy afternoons, cook up a scrumptious dinner, and entertain friends and family in style. You’ve got lots of ideas about what you’d like, but an expert opinion on all facets of design and construction would also be welcome.

Enter Paul Lafrance. With myriad television programs like HGTV’s Decked Out, Disaster Decks, and Deck Wars under his tool belt, this ‘rock star’ designer and carpenter has seen it all, from do-it-yourself decks ending in well, disaster, to spaces he’s helped design and build you can’t help but settle into. And if that’s not enough, he’s also a celebrity judge on Canada’s Handyman Challenge.

It’s no wonder Pools, Spas & Patios checked in with this charismatic contractor for his expert advice on building a backyard deck.

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PSP: For backyard decks, do you recommend people hire a contractor, or can these projects be handled by an everyday handyman?

Lafrance: I always recommend that someone build their own deck if they can. Keep in mind, though, the most important part of doing so is to not bypass the design phase. Anybody can build a square deck if they’ve got some skill and the ability to operate power tools without hurting themselves. However, there’s a big difference between building something that is going to draw you into that outdoor space and a square deck everyone else has with absolutely no appeal whatsoever.

PSP: What steps should you take before you/your contractor start to construct the deck? (e.g. checking local bylaws, permits, inspecting property, etc.)

Lafrance: Unfortunately, it’s been my experience that most homeowners skip getting a permit. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard that someone has built a deck without checking their local bylaws for setbacks—either rear yard setbacks or side yard setbacks—only to discover they’ve built something that is actually illegal. They then have to apply for a variance; if they are denied, the deck must be torn down. So do your homework and make sure you don’t spend all kinds of time and money building something you end up having to put into the wood chipper.

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