Decked Out: A Contractor’s 5 Tips for your Dream Summer Deck
Friday Mar 12th, 2021
Since the pandemic hit, more homeowners have been staying put. Many continue to invest money into their properties, especially their outdoor space, so they can entertain friends and families safely. That means deck-building companies have been very busy.
“The industry has absolutely exploded, with so many customers wanting to build decks,” says Justin Szekely, owner and co-founder of Ace of Decks, which designs and builds custom decks in Beaconsfield, Quebec.
Thinking of improving your outdoor living area by putting in a fabulous new deck? Here are Szekely’s top tips to get the right space for your lifestyle and budget.
Choose the right contractor
“A lot of companies claim to be able to do just about anything under the sun, and they’ll take jobs they’re not used to doing, so make sure your contractor is very comfortable installing the specific products you’re hiring them to build with,” says Szekely. “With products like composite decking, each manufacturer has very specific installation techniques, and if the contractors aren’t familiar with that product, they may install it wrong and void your warranty.”
Also, because municipalities have bylaws and permit processes that vary, you’ll want a contractor who’s familiar with your area. And don’t forget to ask for references and check out their work by inspecting the decks they’ve already built, if possible.
Decide which materials match your lifestyle
Probably the biggest deck decision is cost versus maintenance. A composite deck typically costs twice as much as treated wood, but it lasts at least twice as long, explains Szekely.
“And while you own that deck, you’ll never spend any money or time maintaining it, so for that reason, the cost of ownership is actually less for a composite deck,” he says.
However, if you’re not planning to stay in your house for long, you might not want to invest in composite.
One more thing: Composite decks get a lot warmer in the sun than wood.
“If the deck is being built near a pool where everyone will be barefoot, we recommend either wood or a lighter-coloured composite, because a dark-coloured composite can burn your feet,” says Szekely.
Select a deck size that makes sense and fits your budget
A treated wood deck, big enough for a barbecue, a table and chairs starts at about $3,000-$4,000. More elaborate projects run as high as $80,000-$100,000, says Szekely.
On paper–and on TV–multi-level decks look pretty awesome. But there’s no point building something without lots of usable space.
“Think about whether you need space for a four- or eight-person table and if you want a couch there or lighting? These decisions will forecast how big of a deck you need, but we recommend 12-x-24 feet as the smallest size that makes sense for a multi-level deck.”
Check with your city to see how close your deck can encroach onto your property line. Even if you have enough space for a massive deck, you may not be allowed to build it.
“Privacy is always important, too. A big deck can quickly become a big stage for your neighbours,” explains Szekely.
Get an early start
Believe it or not, now’s the perfect time to plan for your new deck.
“You can build the deck anytime you want, as long as there’s no snow in the way; we start working in March, and we’re already booked until the end of May right now,” says Szekely.
The pandemic has also meant some construction materials are on back-order, so the earlier you start, the better.
If you request a permit to build a deck now, you’ll probably get one within a week or two, adds Szekely. But if you wait until May, it could take up to two months. Booking early means there’s less chance your project will be delayed.
“You also have to think about safety; the city won’t grant a permit for any project missing the proper railing requirements.”
If you want wood, be prepared for the upkeep
Treated wood decks are affordable and beautiful, but be aware that you’ll be committing yourself to maintaining it, says Skekely.
“Upkeep depends on how much sun your deck is exposed to, what product you put on there and just how critical you are of that product fading a little bit,” he explains.
“If you put on an opaque paint, that’s going to be super high-maintenance, because the second a piece chips off, you’ll see it right away. And once you go with the opaque, you’re stuck with it, unless you’re going to sand and strip it all off, which is a huge job.”
If you use a clear oil or a stain that soaks into the wood, you won’t notice it deteriorating and it leaves a rustic patina.
No matter what type of deck you choose, it will definitely boost enjoyment in your backyard for years to come, so it’s an investment you can feel good about.