As the calendar turns to April and spring ushers in
its mild temperatures and blooming trees, it's time to start enjoying
being outside once again. Whether you're planning informal gatherings with
friends and family, hosting the little one's birthday bash or team picnic,
or simply looking for a quiet place away from the constant whoosh of
conditioned air, a deck is the perfect complement to living in Southern
Adding a deck to an existing home is one of the simpler enhancements for a
do-it-yourselfer. Not only will the deck increase your enjoyment of the
outdoors, but it will also increase the value of the home with only
moderate cash expenditure. However, the process for building a deck has
gotten a lot more involved in the last decade or so.
Bill Dean, of Dean Lumber and Supply in Hollywood, said there are three
main rules to keep in mind for any home project: "Number one," he said "is
to get a permit." According to Dean, ten years ago that wasn't true. "You
could put a deck on your house without really anything. Also, check with
the office of planning and zoning to make sure that your deck is not in a
critical area or conflicting with going into a neighbor's yard or causing
a problem with the setback," he added.
"Number two, make sure whatever plans you get or whatever you're going to
do meet with local building code requirements and number three, make sure
if you're going to attempt to do it yourself that you can do it physically
and that you have the know-how."
Whether you're going to build the deck yourself or hire a consultant or a
construction company to do it for you, costs vary depending on the
difficulty of the design.
"You can build something 8 by 10 and call it a deck, or you can build one
that's 16 feet by 50 feet," Dean said. "Generally you can plan on spending
$3.50 to $4 a square foot on up to $20 to $25 a square foot. There are a
lot of new products out that you can get really fancy with, really
creative with. But just a regular old treated lumber deck is $3.50 to $4 a
square foot, and that's just material costs. If you have to pay somebody
to do it, you may as well double that."
Now that composite materials are becoming more and more durable and
affordable, the era of the simple deck are fading into the past.
"I do see in the last four to five years a lot of new materials, synthetic
materials that are longer lasting than treated lumber," Dean said. They
require "less maintenance and look better."
One of the most popular is called Trex, a 50-50 mix of wood fibers and
recycled grocery bags. It can be found anywhere from the neighbor's back
yard to bust-stop and park benches. Another composite that's gaining in
popularity is called Tendura. Both materials have the same basic upsides.
"It lasts forever," Dean said. "There's nothing to go bad in it. It
doesn't shrink, you don't have to seal it, it doesn't splinter up, it
doesn't rot, and termites can't eat it. It basically looks like treated
With decking products that are both cheaper and more durable, additions
that were once considered ornate are now becoming commonplace. Many
Southern Marylanders are adding cupolas, trellises, and Chippendale-style
railings to their decks that not only make them safer, but also offer a
distinctive and appealing look. And, according to Dean, with the area's
mild winters, one other trend is emerging that makes a deck a year-round
"A lot of people building decks now come in and ask how to make their deck
strong enough to put a hot tub on," he said. "A normal deck is not built
strongly enough to hold a hot tub. Water weighs eight pounds a gallon, and
the average hot tub holds 150 gallons. That's over 1,000 pounds of water."
With a vast array of publications available at lumber stores, libraries,
and home service centers coupled with insight from a qualified landscape
designer or home improvement specialist, your deck can be the finishing
touch on the house of your dreams.