Choose the Perfect Outdoor Deck

An outdoor deck extends your living space, boosts curb appeal, and helps you get more from your landscape. Whether you're starting from scratch or need to renovate an existing space, here are questions to help you figure out the right outdoor deck for your yard.


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It's an often-quoted statistic that adding an outdoor deck to a home is a good investment. In fact, in 2014 the Cost Vs. Value study by Remodeling found that a wood outdoor deck addition recouped 87 percent of its value when it came time for a home sale.

But beyond the financial upswing, outdoor decks are places of immeasurable enjoyment for homeowners. Outdoor decks are warm weather days and nights epitomized: They're go-to spots for parties and quiet dinners, welcome escapes to enjoy good books and glasses of lemonade.

If you don't have an outdoor deck but are thinking of adding one, or if you have one that's in need of an update or upgrade, read on to find out how to create your perfect outdoor deck.

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Evaluate your landscape. Before you head to the hardware store with DIY dreams in hand, you need to take a good look at your outdoor spaces. Measure the yard and create a sketch that includes any existing structures -- flowerbeds and vegetable gardens, playsets, garage, storage buildings. Then, think about what you do outside: Do your kids need lots of runaround area? Do you want a vegetable garden? With those tools in hand, add a rough outdoor deck sketch to your landscape plan.

Decide on size. Many people either under- or over-estimate the size of outdoor decks that will work for their needs and be a good fit for their yard. Take the extra step of laying out your proposed outdoor deck's boundaries, using a garden hose or yard string. Then, walk around the area, evaluating traffic flow and setup.

Add amenities. Some outdoor decks are straightforward affairs: a floor, a railing, and that's it. Other homeowners like to include add-ons, such as storage benches, multiple levels, or decorative elements such as trellises.

Choose: attached or detached? Outdoor decks can be directly connected to homes or placed out in the yard and not joined to any structure. What you choose depends on several factors, including how you'll use the space and what added conveniences you would enjoy. For example, if you'll use your outdoor deck primarily for dining, attaching it to your home -- even locating it right outside the kitchen -- may make more sense. If your outdoor deck is detached, you may want to consider a pathway leading to the space from your home.

 

Choose: ground level, elevated, or multi-level? In addition to detached or attached, decks may be created at a variety of elevations. A ground level deck has lots of practical conveniences such as easy, no-worry access to a yard. Elevated decks may allow you to conquer sloped outdoor spaces, while multi-level outdoor decks combine the advantages of both ground level and elevated spaces, and provide separated "rooms" for different zones or functions.

 

Review potential materials. There are multiple materials that can be used for outdoor decks, including wood or composite components. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, including upkeep, cost, and lifespan. Carefully review each before making a decision that's in line with your outdoor deck needs and budget.


Tips for Outdoor Living Spaces
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