How to Build a Maintenance Free Deck

Like a patio or garage, a deck is a valuable multipurpose extension of the house.

Home Remodeling and ConstructionHome Remodeling and Construction
Homeowners build decks for their use as additional entertainment and dining areas, variety of styles, their height above the ground, and their relaxing ambiance under trees and sun. A high deck can provide a breathtaking view of backyard gardens, calming waters, or majestic mountains. Like patios, low decks engender comfort and a transitional living space between the home's exterior and interior. They enhance the look and feel of the outdoor space and are useful when you have to jump up and look after your kids. Deck plans can include a variety of shapes including rectangles, squares, or octagons. Like a porch, they can wrap around a corner of the house; or, they can be constructed with an eye-catching series of 45-degree angles. Decking can also be enclosed and screened, fastened with safety rails, or partially covered by an awning or pergola for greenery and colorful flower displays. Built-in trellises, benches, planters, and even spas are very popular in today's deck designs. Deck plans don't restrict the homeowner to pine, redwood, or oak wood decking, which must be periodically sanded and stained. Aluminum, composite, exotic hardwoods, and plastic are alternatives that feature the added benefit of easy maintenance. Here's how to build a carefree deck.

Aluminum. The first thing that comes to mind upon mention of an aluminum deck is a cold, industrial feel as compared to the warmth and comfort of pressure treated wood. However, aluminum does have certain advantages over wood that make it appealing to some homeowners. The obvious upsides are elimination of rot and insect damage and the need to sand and stain, thus making the material care-free. Some aluminum decking materials are manufactured with a special coating to make the surface softer on the feet and cooler in the sun. They are also manufactured to eliminate the "ping" noise associated with this type of metal.

Aluminum decking is sold in numerous colors and types. You can chose from colors including brown wood, terra cotta, or gray slate. Types include planks, modular, or waterproof. Planks are essentially the same as you'd find on a wood deck, only aluminum; and they are spaced with gaps in between each plank. Modular aluminum decking is sold with plans to quickly create deck designs such as octagons, triangles, and rectangles. Waterproof aluminum types are made with planks that feature specialized channels to direct water off any part of the construction (great for higher decks and commercial applications). This allows you to keep the space below dry and mildew-free.

Composite. Composite decking is made from a combination of post-manufacturing recycled lumber and plastic products. This type of material is becoming a popular alternative to pressure treated wood for its ease of maintenance which includes protection against moisture damage, rot, splintering, warping, and insect damage. Furthermore, a composite deck requires only a periodic cleaning - no sanding or staining required.

Exotic hardwood decking. For natural pest control and rot resistance, choose a Brazilian hardwood such as Cherry or Ipe (Brazilian Walnut). Not only is the wood beautiful, it is easy to care for since it doesn't require staining or other chemical applications to preserve it. Teak is likewise striking in appearance and contains natural oils that make it resistant to rot, weathering, and insect damage.

Plastic. Most homeowners would be amazed to discover that plastic deck material is not only completely care-free, it is also colored and textured to mimic real wood. Those interested in preserving the environment would be happy to learn that the plastic is derived from the post-manufacturing process such as recycled milk containers and grocery bags, making this type of decking a good choice for green building. To care for a plastic deck, simply sweep and hose down periodically. Stains can be removed using a rust and stain remover.

Consider financing. You can finance your new deck in a variety of ways. In recent years, the home equity loan line of credit has been popular for additions and improvements to the home. The traditional bank loan is another option. Or, contact the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for information on its 203(k) Home Improvement Loan Program. From the HUD website: "Luxury items and improvements are not eligible as a cost rehabilitation. However, the homeowner can use the 203(k) program to finance such items as painting, room additions, decks and other items even if the home does not need any other improvements."

Call around for price estimates. Consider the carefree deck material you want to use along with other factors including height and size, style, options, and financing. Get some referrals - ask friends, family, coworkers, and industry insiders which deck builders or remodeling contractors are competent and reliable. Look them up on the internet, then place a few phone calls for price estimates. Make sure you tell the construction professionals exactly what you are looking for in a new deck, and what type of carefree decking you have selected.

Things You Will Need

  • House with a backyard
  • Carefree deck materials including aluminum, composite, exotic hardwoods, or plastic
  • Financing
  • Phone numbers of deck builders and/or remodeling contractors

Tips

  • Pressure treated wood is but one of several deck materials. Before calling deck builders or remodeling contractors for a price estimate, consider the range of carefree options including aluminum, composite, Brazilian hardwood, and plastic.
  • Finance your new deck through a home equity line of credit, bank loan, or through HUD's 203(k) Home Improvement Loan Program.

Warning

  • Make sure the deck builder or remodeling contractor has a solid reputation and is recognized in the industry for quality work done in a timely manner.