Fun in the Sun with Decks!

Renovating your deck and tricking it out with the latest features has never been easier. Remember, adding in a built-in ramp gives a great look to your deck, and there’s the added bonus of making it accessible for everyone!

In Northeast Ohio, we never know what the weather will be like from one day to the next, so it’s important for us to take advantage of every nice moment we get. Whether you’re lounging back with a book trying to get a beach free tan or entertaining guests and grilling burgers, a deck is the perfect summer setting. But if your home has flaky wooden planks with nails sticking out of the boards, it might be the last place you want to be. Renovating your deck and tricking it out with the latest features has never been easier. Remember, adding in a built-in ramp gives a great look to your deck, and there’s the added bonus of making it accessible for everyone!

The important thing to keep in mind when doing any home modification is considering what you want to use it for. What will be the main activity you do on your deck?

If you’re looking for a casual place to play host to family and friends, maybe you want your deck to be an outdoor living room? You can structure everything around a great big table for dining or a fire pit for cozy evening ambience. 

Lounge chairs could serve as the main seating and your railings could even provide additional spots to pull double duty if they’re low enough. Utilizing leftover deck boards are perfect to use for these. This seating can also be used for storage and can cleverly hide blankets, towels, grilling tools, or anything else you might need out there. Similarly, steps can also be used as secret cabinets and drawers.

If you’re a big foodie, the centerpiece of your deck could be your grill with a prep station and serving area. The perimeter seating and dining table could come in handy here, and string lights or lanterns hanging above can give your home an intimate and romantic restaurant feel.

Let’s say you’re designing to fit your dream garden? Your flowers could lead right up to your deck in a foliage filled path. It can either draw you out to explore and give you that chance to take a second to smell the roses, or give you some privacy. A plant wall can make sure no nosy neighbors see you, or if you’re short on space, the wall could even be your garden. The same tucked away feeling can be done with planter boxes or hanging planters. Don’t forget that these could also add a dash of color to liven up your railings.

Pergolas can shield against some strong rays from the sun that still lets some light in, and building beneath trees can also be great for reducing wind or rain. Be sure to think about the direction your deck is facing. Is it going to be in the path of the rising or setting sun? Facing the rain or snow? Wind screens might not be a bad idea to up the comfort level, protect against strong gusts, and allow you to get the most use of your deck despite the unpredictable Ohio weather.

If the deck is merely a platform for something else – like a toolshed, Jacuzzi, pool, kid’s playhouse, or small bar, it’s crucial to accommodate for the weight of the item. You don’t want to overload the deck or make it sag. Before breaking ground, mark any underground cables or pipes. Every locale has their own restrictions that might interfere with your desired design, so contact your municipality before starting anything. Local codes must be followed so you don’t have to make future additional renovations before you sell.

But let’s say there’s something in the way? A tree? A rock? It’s possible to design your deck’s structure around it to make a unique layout. You can even use two or more trees to serve as support for a freestanding pergola. This also allows your deck to expand further into your yard. Make sure you allow enough space for the tree to grow to its mature form before boxing it in. Placing your deck on a corner or even curving the shape will also make it stand out. If you’re able, we recommend creating a staggered, layering of levels to give the edges a striking, modern appearance. If you have steps, make sure you they’re properly illuminated so you don’t slip at night. Railing also need to be sturdy enough to lean on and wide enough for plates and drinks to sit. 

A second floor deck can provide shade over a patio and give you access to a great view. It also allows you to build up instead of out to really make the most of what you’ve got. Beneath a single story deck is just as important as up top – you can use the space underneath as extra storage, or just section it off with lattice. Or, with a few simple hinge attachments, the lattice can open so you can achieve both.

Repurposing discarded items like old shutters or using cotton canvas tarps gives a modern feel to your deck. With metal clips or ties, you can hang something up to serve as an awning or even protect against the elements. Mixing things up with a wide variety of materials used in the construction can make your deck the difference between other homes.

Choosing a color or pattern to add visual interest can spice up an otherwise plain deck. Accented, angled, basketweave, herringbone, or nested squares can break up monotony of the floor.

Decks are perfect for homes of any size and people of all needs. If you’re concerned that your yard is too tiny, a smaller deck can actually make a space feel larger. And, if you’ve got a large property, a big deck is a great way to connect structures and increase your outdoor space all at the same time.

Walking The Plank: Choosing Decking Materials That Best Suit You

The weather is finally warmer and sunnier here in Ohio. Let’s let ourselves imagine that Summer is actually around the corner (and take those snow shovels out of your car now!). This is the perfect time to start thinking about building a deck for your yard—BBQ season is right around the corner! Where to start?

First, contact a licensed professional renovation and installation service. You may have a friend or family member who is great, but will they know if they need to pull permits or not? Probably not. A professional will also know how to ensure your deck is structurally sound and will weather the years. Professionals (hopefully) also know what materials and design is going to work best for YOU and how you’ll use your deck.

Once you’re ready to start, do some research with your contractor about what materials are best for your new outdoor space. One of the primary considerations should center on the best materials for your home in the northeast climate.

There are an abundance of materials on the market but all choices vary in terms of quality, safety, and value. In general, there are two main categories of materials for you to consider.

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When most people think about construction, the material that comes to mind is wood. It’s a natural material that’s used for everything around the home including fences and backyard furniture (think Adirondack chairs). Real wood decks always win hands down for looks because wood is naturally beautiful. Treated wood is also insect and rot resistant. Hardwoods, like redwood, are stable and warp resistant. The downside? They’re sourced from old growth trees which make them non-sustainable and expensive. Softwoods, like cedar, have an almost light honeyed warmth but tend to be soft and susceptible to splinters and scratches—think about that if you like bare feet outside or will move furniture and a grill around.

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Pressure treated lumber is widely available and has all of the durability of natural wood. Just keep in mind to do your research well because quality can vary with price. Cheaper pressure treated wood will distort when faced with weather changes like extreme cold and heat. Untreated pine is the least expensive option. DIY homeowners often find this material the most attractive because they can keep costs down with some annual elbow grease.

Is it as simple as pressure washing and applying a marine stain like Rustoleum every year? No. Sadly, the truth is that untreated pine ends up costing the homeowner in the long run. On average, untreated pine decks will need to be replaced (sometimes as often as every 2-3 years) because they cannot stand up to Ohio cold and wet as well as their pressure treated counterparts. No amount of staining and maintenance will protect an untreated deck in our climate.

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Next on our list are the latest in wood alternatives. These are either composite materials (a mixture of wood and plastic) or entirely plastic. Trex is arguably one of the highest quality and an industry standard for composite decking materials. It’s sustainable since it is 95% recycled wood. It also offers some of the best durability and appearance (there’s a wide array of patterns and styles to choose from). Maintenance is limited to a quick soap and water cleanup if needed – so no power washing. It’s mold resistant and comes in a variety of colors. This makes Trex an ideal material for high traffic decks because it will withstand heavy use without showing as much wear and tear. Trex will initially cost more to purchase, but the payoff is that there is little maintenance on your part for a beautiful natural wood finish deck, and you’re increasing the resale value of your home by using a trusted brand that is low maintenance.

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For the environmental and green conscious, another advantage of this composite material over wood: you’re limiting your carbon footprint.

Trex has many competitors but the main alternative to it is PVC (polyvinyl chloride). This material is 100% recyclable since it is entirely made of plastic. Like Trex, it mimics the look of real wood and is nearly maintenance free. The downside is that PVC is susceptible to fading and staining. Wait too long to clean up after that barbecue and you’ll be disappointed! Things like spilled wine, coffee, and sunscreen will stain a PVC deck if it is not cleaned up and left in the hot sun. PVC will also change with the weather.  Direct summer sun will make the material heat up uncomfortably underfoot and your deck will actually expand and contract with weather extremes. The result is that you’ll need to watch to make sure decking isn’t loosening over time.

Don’t let the multitude of choices overwhelm you! Here’s a handy summary chart with the pros and cons of each deck material.  Read it then talk to your contractor. In the meantime, plan for a long and enjoyable summer with your friends and family on your outdoor space! Just do a little research and you’ll be on your way to enjoying your new deck that’ll last you for years to come.


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