Now that Spring is heading our way, we’re excited to do those outdoor projects we promised ourselves we would do this year, like build a new deck. Hopefully, you’ve been planning for a while before now, but if you’re currently considering building a deck there are some things to figure out first.
Before building a deck, the homeowner or contractor should determine at least the deck zone requirements, size, level, foundation, preferred material, color(s), frame construction, guardrail requirements, deck maintenance, and total cost of the project.
In this article, we’ll provide some helpful advice and need-to-know information on all of these considerations, so read on.
Check Deck Regulations
There are two sets of regulations to be aware of: the Controlled Decking Zone (CDZ) code and the residential codes that apply to structures that are a part of a deck, such as railings.
The CDZ is where access to the zone is managed but there are no fall-prevention systems, such as nets, in place. This is the zone your deck will be in for the bulk of its construction. The requirements for working in a CDZ are:
- You can be no more than 90 feet wide and 90 feet deep from any leading edge.
- There must be no more than 3,000 square feet of unsecured decking.
- There must be clearly marked boundaries with control lines or the equivalent.
- You need to have safety deck attachments placed from the leading edge back to the control line. Two attachments for each metal decking panel you use.
Then you must make sure your deck plans are up to these residential code standards for railings, stairs, treads, footings, ledger boards, framing, etc.
They may differ for each HOA, but samples include, in the U.S., guardrails are required when a deck reaches 30” or higher above grade (above ground level) and ledger boards must be at least 2×8 in size. There are obviously more rules for each piece, the collection of which you can find here.
Decide on the Size
Thankfully, deck sizing doesn’t have a string of codes attached to it so the only question you need to ask is do You know how much square footage you want? This will probably be the easiest question for you to answer since you know the dimensions of your house and yard.
Once you’ve decided on the size of your deck you’ll have to calculate the amount of decking you’ll need to accomplish it. You can calculate this amount by,
- Determine the total area of your deck (LxW)
- Decide what board lengths you want to use
- Calculate the board square footage
- Divide your deck total area by your board total area
- Determine the square footage of the deck spacing
- Buy more than you need to account for mistakes and waste.
If you need more help to determine the amount of decking you will need, our partner, Timbertech, has a very helpful article that explains these steps in more detail.
Decide on the Level
Now you need to figure out if you want a ground-level deck or a raised deck? On the one hand, a ground-level deck is a lot easier to construct, it’s cheaper because it requires less effort and materials, you might not need a permit if you intend to do it yourself (double-check!), and if you have very young children, they’re usually much safer.
On the other hand, raised decks usually look much nicer, they give you, the owner, a better view of the scenery around you, and when they’re built well, the space created below can be used for storage.
So the deciding factors of this question seem to include the desired design and preferred function, but for many of you, you need a raised deck because your house sits on foundation walls that raise it above ground level. But, for the record, both can include a BBQ and/or bar area, no problem.
Decide on Your Foundation
Whether you choose a ground-level deck or a raised deck, you need to decide on what you’ll do for the foundation.
For ground-level decks, they will still need to be raised a bit to allow for ventilation, since you will have wet ground at some point. There is a minimum footing depth of 12 inches for ventilation purposes. Then, you can create a simple foundation with deck blocks, concrete blocks on a layer of gravel for better drainage, or anchor spikes.
For raised decks, you will need to choose between concrete footings, helical piers, and anchored footings. Generally, the footings are chosen for their superior security or for tall decks. Helical piers are good for shorter decks that are still higher than ground level. Whichever foundation you use, check throughout the process that it’s level.
Choose the Right Material Before You Build
This is the toughest decision you will probably make. There are pros and cons with each choice between redwood, pressure-treated lumber, and composite decking.
Plain wood tends to warp and become damaged more easily, but has a variety of color choices and can be sealed and maintained more easily.
Composite comes with a minimum 25-year warranty with TimberTech because it lasts for so long and requires minimal care.
Finally, pressure-treated wood is something in between, with more durability than the redwood, and less cost than composite, but it can easily warp as it goes through its drying process and requires restaining each year.
Choose Your Color Scheme
You may have thought you knew what color, or colors, you wanted to use but there are aspects of color choice that you might not have been aware of. For instance, your color options will be limited or expanded according to the deck material you chose. Generally wood will offer an almost unlimited color palette because it can be painted and stained.
Still, composite decking has expanded, at least where TimberTech is concerned, to include many stained wood hues as well as variations of black, gray, tan, and white.
Another thing you should consider is the temperature your summers tend to reach. High temperatures are more likely to warp dark colors instead of light colors because dark shades absorb more heat.
Calculate the Cost Before Construction
This may be the most important decision. Now that you have a virtually complete understanding of what it will take to construct your deck, you need to calculate the expenses.
How much will it cost to buy the lumber or composite you need? How much for the screws and lags? There’s also the concrete, potentially the stain or paint, the anchors and bolts, the cost of labor if you hire help, and more.
There are also the non-monetary costs. How long will this project take you if you do it yourself or hire a team of professionals? You should calculate at least two different scenarios: the total if you buy and do everything yourself, and the quotes of at least three contractors.
Finally, before you break ground, you should understand the kind of maintenance that your deck will need. Even composite decks require some basic maintenance to prevent permanent stains, but all decks will eventually require such care as mopping, hand scrubbing, power washing, repainting or staining, and/or the replacement of warped, splintered, and broken boards.
Those were the most important things you need to know before building a deck to avoid unnecessary complications, but I can tell you there’s more to know, having constructed decks for more than a decade.So if you are located in the Northern Colorado/ Southern Wyoming area, then give us a call today at 970-663-2868 or fill out the contact form on the deck services page to make an appointment to discuss your next home improvement project to find out EVERYTHING you need to know.