Many homeowners today see outdoor living space as a must-have amenity, as a well-planned deck or patio can add a lot of enjoyment to their home. But the wrong deck or patio can become unused dead space. Just like the people who say they MUST have a wet bar and entertaining space in their home, ensure that the design and choice made for outdoors is worth the expense, and overall, is thought out to be utilized as intended.
Sometimes, local building codes or the terrain of the site dictates whether you build a deck or patio. In addition to code and topography consideration, contractors often must assist clients in deciding if a deck or patio is what they want and need. In those cases, contractors need to know how their clients plan to use the new space.
A good contractor will ask the right questions. Be HONEST about your budget and know how you plan to use the space. Understand the maintenance involved with a new deck or patio.
A deck is usually the most affordable option, and concrete is often the most durable and lowest maintenance. With all the different material and design options out there now, it shouldn't be hard to settle on something you will love.
Certain factors can help determine if a deck is more suitable than a patio:
Capacity: How much weight will the deck need to hold? A deck can be beefed up to hold a huge spa, but might sacrifice the aesthetic the homeowner wants.
Climate: Will the deck become too hot to walk on? Concrete definitely gets hot in the Summer months so plan for flip flops while outdoors most of the time. Will snow and rain runoff create a problem on a solid patio surface?
Site: Rough, sloping terrain almost always dictates a deck. Are you willing to pay for the extra excavation to provide a patio surface?
Ask yourself if you plan to make any future changes that might require connection or working around the new deck or patio? Do you have a pool in mind or plan to expand your landscaping, maybe put in an irrigation system? Think ahead so it does cost more money down the road or prohibit future ideas in mind.
Beyond building codes, terrain and engineering issues, there are issues with each individual material of which clients should be made aware:
Composite and vinyl decking: These materials require less maintenance than wood and are more resistant to insects, warping and splintering. Although many of these materials don't shrink or swell, some can swell in hot and sunny climates. This can be much more expensive than wood, especially if coordinating railing and balustrade systems are used.
Wood decking: The low cost, availability and rot resistance makes pressure-treated pine and fir popular decking choices. Even with the periodic maintenance that is absolutely necessary, though, warping, twisting, shrinking and swelling will still occur. Other species such as red cedar, redwood and tropical hardwoods are more durable and have no chemical treatments, but maintenance is still required and those options can be pricey.
Pavers: Brick, stone and concrete pavers are available in a range of styles and colors and are extremely durable. Very little maintenance is required from the homeowner, but contractors should convey that significant site preparation may be needed to ensure proper placement, grade and drainage.
Concrete: No longer just a drab gray slab, concrete is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Designs are nearly limitless. A periodic resealing may be required, but otherwise an occasional pressure wash is the only maintenance required. Stamped concrete is a very popular choice over brushed like you see in driveways and patios. Keep the use in mind when making a selection. If you intend to put a lot of furniture on the patio, selecting a stamp that doesn't have a lot of indentations and a "rocky" pattern may be best so furniture sits more level. Stamps vary drastically in price and the less busy, typically the less costly.
No matter the choice, a new deck or patio adds value to your home and creates an area to entertain, likely helping you spend a lot more time outdoors.
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