13 Questions to Ask Before You Build a Deck

Nothing says summer in Wisconsin like relaxing out on your deck. The right deck is the perfect spot for a grill out, a good drink, and enjoying a summer sunset. At least it can be IF you build a deck for the hot Wisconsin summers and all your favorite summer activities.

There are a lot of choices that go into designing that perfect deck, from the type and color of deck materials to the shape and size that fits your backyard. Asking a few questions now can help you make those important decisions so you don’t have any “builder’s regrets” later—and so you can enjoy a wonderful Wisconsin summer day on your new deck.

When Planning Your Deck

“What is the purpose of our deck? How big should a deck be for a table?”

Before you buy any materials or contact a contractor, think about what you need and want out of your deck. Do you need a large deck for parties? Would you prefer a small area just big enough for a table? The answer determines the size of the deck needed and the amount of supports required. If you need a small deck for eating out, a 12-foot by 12-foot deck is just the right size. If you require a larger space, block out the area so you have any idea of the space.

In addition to size, consider any deck add-ons that are suitable for the primary purpose and décor of your deck. For example, a bump out for your grill can give you space for grilling without cutting into your table or entertaining space. Metal balusters and railings can give any deck a very unique and upscale look.

“Do we have time for deck maintenance?”

There are three types of decking materials. Wood decking requires maintenance while composite decking is maintenance-free. Composite decking is the most expensive of the three options:

  • Pressure-treated wood. This wood is the most affordable decking material and can be stained and painted almost any color. Pressure-treated wood is a long-lasting decking material, but requires regular maintenance to preserve the look and durability.
  • Cedar. Cedar is naturally rot-resistant and does not absorb water. This wood is considered the middle of the line price-wise, typically costing more than pressure-treated and less than composite. Cedar does need to be resealed regularly. Because the wood is soft, cedar is prone to scratching.
  • Composite decking. Composite decking is typically the most expensive decking material, but does not require maintenance. This decking material comes in a variety of designs and colors. Composite decking requires different hardware than traditional wood, but can be easily installed by a professional.

“What color do we want our deck?”

Pressure-treated wood and cedar can be stained or painted any color that fits with the exterior décor of the home. Composite decking comes in a variety of colors; different colors of composite decking can be paired for a unique look.

“Do we need steps?”

Once you’ve selected the size, decking material and color, consider the deck design and access points. Do you need a full staircase down to the yard below? Or just a few steps to the yard? Consider the flow of the deck and where it makes the most sense to add steps, gates, and entry points.

“Do we need to think about privacy?”

Privacy screens can be an important part of deck design, especially at condos, townhomes, and homes within close proximity. Thinking about privacy upfront can be a great way to ensure that the privacy features feel like part of the deck instead of a last-minute add-on. Often, decks can be designed so that a privacy screen, pergola, or landscape wall can be included in the plan.

“Can we build the deck on our own or should we hire a contractor?”

There are a lot of factors that go into the decision between building and hiring a contractor. Be realistic. Do you have time to build a deck? Do you have the expertise? Do you know where and how to put in the proper supports? If you decide that a contractor is the best option, contact a contractor for a free quoteas soon as possible.

When Hiring a Contractor

“How much experience do you have? Can you provide references?”

A deck is a long-term investment. Don’t just trust anyone with the project. Instead, hire a trusted contractor with years of expertise and a list of references. If you are considering using composite decking or metal balusters, ask the contractor if they have used the materials before.

“Do you have any suggestions for our deck?”

An experienced contractor may have ideas for deck design that you might not have considered. Don’t hesitate to ask for any ideas or suggestions that can make your deck even better.

“How long do you think it will take to build the deck? Who secures the permit? When can you start?”

Don’t wait to discuss the specifics of the project. Ask about important details, such as when the contractor would be available, the amount of construction time, and financial and permit details. Make sure you are completely clear on who is secures the permit to ensure that all deadlines are met before the construction start.

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