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Deck Questions and Answers
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Questions & Answers

  1. How much will a new deck cost?
  2. Where can I find a deck builder?
  3. How can I tell if a builder is licensed or registered?
  4. How long will it take to build a deck?
  5. What deck plans will work best for my home?
  6. What are the best materials to use for a new deck?
  7. When do I need permit?
  8. How can I obtain a building permit?
  9. Who is responsible for the permit?
  10. How can I find out the setbacks for the property?
  11. How many years will a deck last?
  12. Are composite railing systems structurally safe?
  13. Should I paint or side my house before I build a deck?
  14. What should be done with the exposed ground under the deck?
  15. How do I care for a deck?
  16. What railings are considered safe for kids or pets?
  17. Should there be a step down to the deck from my house?
  18. How can I avoid a steep staircase?
  19. Are 2x6's better to use for the decking than 5/4x6?
  20. Is pressure Treated Lumber safe?

1. How much will a new deck cost?

The cost for materials to build a pressure treated deck runs about $7.00 per square foot. To have a deck professionally built including materials starts around $15.00 a square foot, whereas an elaborately built deck using harwoods or composite materials may cost as much as $35.00 per square foot.

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2. Where can I find a deck builder?

A good starting point is to check the neighborhood for recently built decks and see if homeowners will recommend anyone. Check with the local lumberyards, newspapers and phone book.

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3. How can I tell if a builder is licensed or registered?

Check with the local Consumer Protection Agency. Also, the local building department may require builders to register with them before they do any work.

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4. How long will it take to build a deck?

This varies a great deal by the complexity of the project including any mishaps and weather conditions but in general a 12 x 24 foot elevated deck with a staircase and railing should take a carpenter and laborer between one and three weeks to build.

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5. What deck plans will work best for my home?

A good starting point in plan decision making is to measure the proposed deck area and then measure some other spaces such as rooms to get a feel for the size deck appropriate for your home and liking. An average size deck is approximately 12 x 20 feet whereas a 16 x 26 foot deck is considered large in comparison to most deck projects. The larger the deck and more difficult in construction equates into more cost. Once an approximate size is determined look through this website for deck plans and check deck magazines to refine your ideas.

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6. What are the best materials to use for a new deck?

One of the least costly and most used materials for building a deck is Pressure Treated Lumber. If you would like a premium looking wood deck that will hold up better than pressure treated lumber you may want to look into Cedar or Redwood. Imported hardwoods such as Ipe or Mahogany are more costly but tend to be very durable and used in many high-end deck projects. If you're looking for a maintenance free deck then man-made materials may be best for you. Trex, one of the oldest and well known, and Evergrain decking are popular products with a large variety of colors and styles to choose from. TimberTech and Fiberon are also two others worth mentioning

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7. When do I need permit?

Building onto a home or making structural changes will almost always require a construction permit. Building a deck or even replacing an existing one is no exception and may even require more than one permit.

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8. How can I obtain a building permit?

The best place to start is by calling your local building department or municipal offices. Obtaining a permit for a deck is relatively a simple process. A permit application will need to be filled out and submitted to the building department along with a deck plan, copy a of the property survey and a small filing fee.

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9. Who is responsible for the permit?

Because of their understanding of the town and permit application process, many contactors will obtain the permits for the homeowner. However, the property owner is ultimately responsible for permits and other legal obligations done to their property. It's always a good idea to review permit applications prior to submitting them to the town.

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10. How can I find out the setbacks for the property?

The Building Department will be able to provide you with the setbacks and any other additional information for building a deck. Contact them early in the planning stages.

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11. How many years will a deck last?

Older decks made from untreated lumber such as Douglas Fur last about 30 years. Pressure treated lumber last 50 years or longer. Redwood all heart grade or Clear Cedar can last longer than 50 years whereas the less costly knotty grades may last only 40. Hardwoods may last longer than 40 years. Man-made materials come with their own limited warrantees which can range anywhere from 25 to 100 years.

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12. Are composite railing systems structurally safe?

Until recently the only way to have a safe railing was to have it built with lumber. Now man-made railing materials sold under the brand names Carefree and Excel are among others that look great and can be used in most deck projects.

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13. Should I paint or side my house before I build a deck?

If you are going to have your house sided, put the siding on first and box around where the ledger board will be located. If the deck will be installed first, leave enough room between where the railing posts and any staircase meet the house so the siding can easily be installed. If you are painting or staining the house, build the deck first and paint or stain last. A good painter will have drop cloths and take the necessary precautions to do a professional and clean job. On the other hand if you don't mind the likelihood of getting the new paint job dirty in some spots and having to touch it up then you can paint first.

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14. What should be done with the exposed ground under the deck?

Very little will grow under a deck and relatively few decks have anything underneath them besides dirt. If anything, pitching the grade the correct way for water run off and making sure leader pipes are secured and draining properly are more important. If you like more of an assurance that nothing will grow or would like to dress up the underneath of a deck, landscaping fabric can be installed with a layer 2-3 inch layer of 3/4 inch crush stone on top. For elevated decks that are high enough, concrete patios or pavers are sometimes installed

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15. How do I care for a deck?

If you have a wood deck it should be periodically cleaned and sealed to prevent the wood from splitting and degrading. Virtually maintenance free decks will need to be cleaned periodically to remove any stains and dirt.

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16. What railings are considered safe for kids or pets?

Local town and state codes mandate what is usually a safe railing for a deck. Four inch spindle spaces are becoming more common among codes. Also, 36 inches in height from the decking to the top of the railing are becoming standard practice in the United States. Railings should be constructed so a child will have a hard time climbing up. Check with your local town building official for railing requirements for you town.

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17. Should there be a step down to the deck from my house?

In most cases it's a good idea to have the deck installed a couple of inches lower than the house floor. This helps prevent rain, snow and ice from backing up under the door threshold and into the house. Decks with swing doors may have more of a step down particularly if you are in a snow region with no awning overhanging the door.

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18. How can I avoid a steep staircase?

The steepness of a staircase is determined by the rise of each step and the run of the treads used. A deck staircase that rises 8 inches per step or less and uses 2x12 treads will be within code and help avoid the steepness associated with staircases. A long staircase may seem less steep if divided into two smaller staircases with a landing in between.

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19. Are 2x6's better to use for the decking than 5/4x6?

A 2x6, although thicker, may in fact be a lesser grade of wood when compared to wood used for decking. Lumber mills tend to use the better grades of lumber for 5/4x6 deck boards, spindles and wood trim. In addition, using 2x6's as decking may do little to improve the overall strength of a deck which is more related to the underneath substructure.

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20. Is pressure Treated Lumber safe?

There was some health concerns related to pressure treated lumber that contain copper arsenic as a preservative. This preservative has already been phased out and replaced with a safe alternative.

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