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Things to know before building a deck

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Things to know before building a deck

Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau Housing Survey indicate that homeowners annually spend billions of dollars improving outdoor living areas.

One of the most popular ways to do just that is to add a deck to a home. Decks are beneficial in many ways. Grillmasters love decks because they make the perfect place to set up a grill and a table and cook for family and friends. Those who simply love being outdoors find decks the perfect place to relax and soak up some sun or idle away the evening hours.

But homeowners who want to build a deck should know a few things before that process begins.

• Permits are necessary. Unless the deck is going to be especially small, you will likely need a permit to build it. Before buying any materials or consulting any contractors, make certain you know which permits you need and how to get them. If the proper permits are not secured before the project begins, you might have to tear down the whole project and start all over again.

• Decks don't have to go on the back of the house. If the back of your house sits in the blazing sun all day, then it's probably best to build the deck elsewhere, and that's perfectly alright. So long as the property and permits allow, decks can be built on the side of a home as well, and putting a deck on the side might be more comfortable.

• Decks don't have to be made of wood. It's easy to assume all decks are made of plain wood. However, decks can be made out of a wide variety of materials, natural or synthetic. Manmade materials that are a mixture of recycled plastic and wood bits or sawdust are popular because they require no maintenance. But homeowners should know that manmade materials can get hot in the sun, which will require those enjoying the deck to wear shoes.

• Expect to do some digging. If you're going to build your own deck, expect to do some serious digging. Local building codes will dictate how deep you will need to dig for the pier footings, which support the deck's weight. Just how deep you'll dig depends on your climate's specific frost line, but it's safe to assume you'll get a workout in when digging.

• The deck can have multiple levels. Though many people associate decks with one level, it's possible to have a multi-level deck if you simply don't have enough room to build a deck that will be big enough to meet all of your needs. A multi-level deck can break up those long flights of stairs while ensuring you will always have somewhere to go to escape the sun on a hot day.

• You will want to protect the deck. Decks are a costly investment, and you will want to protect that investment. If you're building a wood deck, keep in mind the sun will beat down on the deck for most of the year. You can protect the deck by painting it. Paint provides sunscreen for the deck, stopping the sun from breaking down the material. Once you've finished painting, apply sealant, whether it's oil- or water-based.

• Don't forget fasteners. Fasteners will hide the screws for aesthetic appeal. But not all woods and fasteners are the right fit, as certain woods are only compatible with certain fasteners. Find out which fasteners make the right fit ahead of time. Because fasteners conceal the screws, they also make it possible to go barefoot on the deck.

A deck makes a great addition to many homes, but homeowners should learn as much as possible about decks and what goes into building them before making any decking decisions.

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Now's the time to think about building a deck for summertime enjoyment.