Designing Your Dream Deck

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You've wanted a functional and attractive deck on your home to entertain friends and relax with your family. Now you're ready to plan that ideal home addition. Here are a number of items to consider when putting together the plan, so your deck will be safe and a neighborhood conversation piece.

1. Use modern construction materials so you'll spend less time maintaining and more time enjoying your deck.

Traditional wood deck materials fade and turn gray in the sun. Areas kept in the shade can stay damp and allow algae and moss to grow on the wood. You need to clean and seal a wooden deck periodically to keep it looking nice.

Moderns composite decking materials are made of plastic and vinyl-clad aluminum. These are easy to clean and are unaffected by the sun or rain. Some of these materials are made to look like wood deck planks so you can have the traditional wood deck look without the maintenance hassles.

2. Include multiple levels in your deck plan for more versatility.

Having two or three levels on your deck allows you to divide up the space into functional areas. One level may hold the hot tub and lounge chairs for relaxing after a strenuous day. Another level may include your grill and sitting areas for having meals out on the deck. A third can include benches and seats where a large gathering of friends can mingle.

3. Use the space under the deck, which is often wasted.

The area under the deck can be used a number of ways, such as:

4. Open up the space with modern railing designs.

The traditional wood railings on a deck are heavy and block the view. You'll find railing materials in plastic, glass and metal that are thin, strong and not as much of an obstruction.

5. Creative use of lighting enhances the deck's appearance and makes it safer.

Install LED strips under the railings and along the stair risers. Hang halogen spot lights over those dark corners of the deck. Soft non-glare CFLs can be used for general lighting at night to keep people safe without the glare of harsh incandescent lighting.

6. Keep safety in mind with every design feature.

Have a local structural engineer review your deck plans to make sure all of the city codes and safety concerns are addressed. These professionals will give you advice on such items as the type of foundation you'll need and the way the deck attaches to the house. Make sure that your dream deck is also a safe place for you and your guests.