4 Tips to the Perfect Deck

A new deck is a great way to add value and outdoor living space to your home. Some deck projects are easier than others. But whether you plan to build your own deck or hire a deck construction professional to build one for you, a few correct choices can make a big difference.

Here are a few tips to help make sure your deck project turns out great and lasts as long as possible:

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1. Always Get a Building Permit

Sure, getting a permit can be a pain and cost some money – not a lot of money, relatively speaking, as most permit fees I see are under $200 – but it’s definitely worth it. Most cities and towns have a qualified engineer or certified plan reviewer on staff to review your building plans. They’re usually familiar with the best practices and latest code requirements, and they’re usually happy to share their knowledge with you.

Show them a basic drawing with dimensions and they will usually help you fill in the details. Making sure you use the correct beam, joist, post and footing sizes, along with the correct fasteners and hangers is their job and specialty. Getting a permit may be the best insurance that your deck will last a long time and be safe.

2. Get multiple bids for your deck

It’s always a good idea to get more than one bid. Even if you build the deck yourself, getting several bids will help you determine if it’s worth doing the job yourself or better to hire a professional.

In the past, my company has been called on to finish a deck built by a homeowner by just adding stairs or a handrail. In a few cases, I noticed that incorrect materials were being used (and it was built wrong). After talking with the homeowner about the cost of materials, we determined that it would actually cost the homeowner more to build the deck themselves, which goes back to my first point.

3. Get to know the contractor you hire

Most states offer a website an online look-up tool to see if a contractor’s license if current and what type of license the contractor has. Some deck contractors have basic carpenter licenses, while others may have a general contractor’s license.

A general contractor who builds decks usually has experience with other types of building construction that might be useful if you’re building a large deck, adding electrical or the deck features a roof, whereas a deck contractor with a basic carpenter’s license might not have the experience needed.

Also ask your deck contractor for proof of insurance. If they have liability and workers comp insurance, they’ll be happy to prove it. And, of course, check reviews and ask for references.

4. Research your decking materials

There are a lot of choices for decking materials, so find the one that’s right for you. Composite decking is the most popular choice in Utah, which features hot summers and cold winters. It holds up well, it’s low maintenance and most of the newer composite products carry a 25-year warranty.

Traditional redwood or cedar decking materials are less expensive than composite decking to start off with, but they may cost you more over time if you factor in maintenance costs. Exotic hardwoods such as Ipe are becoming popular, but they usually cost more than composite decking and they require annual maintenance.

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