Summer is fast approaching, and outdoor activities are already getting underway. And what better way to enjoy the outdoors than on a great-looking deck? Whether you’re looking to build one or already have one in place, there are several key factors that should come into play — namely research, design and maintenance. Lanny Jass, president of Green Bay Decking LLC, provides his tips for creating your ideal outdoor space.
1. Do your homework. As with any major home project, good research is imperative to a quality outcome. The Internet is a great starting point. Jass recommends searching for information on factors such as strength, abrasion resistance and ability to withstand high-intensity UV exposure. Another resource: contractor-focused web site forums, where many professionals often post their experience working with different products. Note the dates on such posts, though, Jass cautions. “Lots of products have changed over the years,” he notes. “The old stuff is a bit misleading. Most of the products that companies sell today aren’t what they sold four or five years ago.”
2. Use a decking professional. This may sound like a no-brainer, but employing a skilled decking expert can be the difference between an OK deck and fantastic one. Opt for someone who specializes in decking, rather than someone who dabbles in it as a filler project, and can design a more creative space, Jass says. “Homeowners really get a reward for that,” he adds. “That’s where you get the really spectacular deck jobs people are proud of for years and years.” Be sure to check out the contractor’s prior projects and references, and ensure that the project will be built to code.
3. Design to scale. Balance is critical in a deck project, Jass stresses. Such spaces should be designed to properly fit the lot, house and landscape. “If the deck is too small, it becomes a negative addition. It looks like it doesn’t belong,” he explains. “However, a great big multilayered deck can overwhelm the house if it isn’t designed correctly.” Consumers should look at various design options and consider combining different materials for their own look.
4. Check out alternative materials. In addition to the standard hardwoods, options for decking materials also include several composites. Often comprising wood flour and plastics, these products can mimic more traditional decking products or provide a more modern aesthetic. Green Bay Decking’s GeoDeck product uses reclaimed paper byproduct, called biodac, and recycled rice hulls, along with plastic, to recreate the look of wood, while products such as cellular foam PVC provides a cleaner, polished look. Just make sure you know which best suits your needs, Jass says. High-traffic decks needs to be stronger and more abrasion resistant, while low-traffic spaces provide a little more leeway. “It’s a very complicated mix,” he notes. “The challenge of consumers is to get the right story. There are pluses and minuses of every product.”
5. Clean your deck regularly. Dirt and leaf buildup can wreak havoc on decking materials, so make sure you clean this space a minimum of once a year. Certain circumstances require more rigorous maintenance. For example, a deck that is surrounded by trees, with leaves and sap dripping on it, will need to be cleaned more frequently. Add in the additional shade of such trees, and you’re dealing with a wetter deck more prone to moisture issues such as mold or mildew. “Some of those may have to be washed every month or eight weeks,” Jass suggests. Make sure you use the correct products for each application as well, as many composites are unable to handle the pressure of a power washer.
Upgrade your deck inexpensively with different railings and lighting.
Simple touchups, such as wrung lighting, can create a whole new look for your deck. Check out see-through railing panels, which allow you a less obstructed view of your surroundings, and shop around for great exterior lighting features to incorporate into your railing or the deck itself. “There are a lot of great new lighting products on the market,” Jass says.