Decks and porches can kick up your quality of life several notches. Done right, they add to the look and value of your home and create outdoor spaces for parties, stargazing or just hanging out, cocktail in hand, watching the world go by.
Porches are generally in front of the home, and they have a roof that might or might not be separate from that of the rest of the house. Decks are usually open air and built in the back or sides of the home. Porches are extensions of your home, while decks are like escapes from your home. Consequently, porches tend to blend more with the style and materials used in your house. Adding a porch, which can enhance a house's curb appeal, can be particularly involved because of the complexities in extending the roof and framing a structure that will put your front door at porch-floor level. Continue Reading
Porches used to be considered old school, but they're making a comeback with the New Urbanism trend, which puts a premium on spaces that encourage you to socialize with your neighbor.
Both porches and decks represent serious investments. If you sell your home within a year after the build, you might recoup at least half of your expenses. But that assumes the project goes smoothly and you don't make costly mistakes along the way.
Working out a budget before you start is essential, and before you can nail down the costs, you'll want to make some decisions about the direction of the project.
Determine Your Needs
Why do you want a new porch or deck? Do you want to take advantage of the view? Are you planning to throw barbecues or neighborhood parties? Are you looking for a quiet retreat after a busy day at work? Thinking about how you're going to use this outdoor (or semi-outdoor) space will help you and your contractor determine a design, location and materials. If you're just doing a repair or updates, of course, coming up with a plan and a budget will be much easier.
Type of Material for Decks and Porches
Depending on the project, you may want to use many different types of materials: one for framing, another for flooring, another for roofing and maybe something else for screening. Even a simple deck can present a myriad of material choices. Wood is a popular choice, but even once you decide on going that route, you still must decide on the type of wood with the more rare varieties tending to cost more than the more common.
Pressure-treated Southern yellow pine is the most common wood for decking. It's affordable and durable if treated with water repellant every two years. But without proper maintenance, pine can splinter as it dries. Also, keep in mind that the residue from pressure-treated wood can cause health problems, so if you're doing any cutting or sanding, make sure you wear a dust mask.
Redwood, cedar and tropical hard woods generally cost more but look fabulous and require less maintenance.
Alternatives to standard wood can take the project in other directions. You might consider plastic-wood composites, which blend wood fibers with 30 to 50% recycled plastic. They're even stronger than standard wood, they don't rot, and they're easy to work with. The biggest drawback is the look. Many are made to simulate a natural wood, but they often maintain a slight plastic appearance. The same can be said about vinyl, which can be cheaper but usually looks it.
For the flooring of your deck or porch, you might consider concrete. We're not talking about the gray basketball court look. Modern concrete displays tremendous versatility. It's affordable, extremely durable and can be colored or textured to fit many styles. It's a fun way to go.
Whatever materials you decide on, remember that for a new deck or porch, you will need framing, the decking materials themselves as well as any railings or additional features you are going to add.
If you want something more than the standard deck or porch, you might want to hire an architect. It'll add to the upfront costs. But architects can take your wacky and inventive notions and work with a contractor to make them a reality. Their advice about design, location and materials could end up saving you money in the long run. They will help you with questions big and small: Should the deck be directly in the sun or shade or should it be near the pool? What type of access should it have to the house and how does it relate to the neighbor's house? If you have an especially great view from one part of your home, proper positioning of your new deck can take full advantage of it. If you are considering adding a hot tub, a gazebo or wood deck railing, put some thought into where on your deck you'll want them. Other enhancements that will add a tiny bit to the cost, but potentially a lot to the value of the project: flower boxes and benches.
Another important consideration, particularly if you're doing the work yourself, is that you'll need to factor in the cost of building permits and inspections. It all must be built to code, and it may have to meet requirements of your home owners' association as well.
Sealing and/or Staining Your Deck or Porch
Both sealing and staining protect wood in the same way by repelling damaging water but still allowing the wood to breathe with the transfer of moisture. Clear sealants are mainly water repellents that don't carry UV light protection. They have no pigments in their formula that filter out damaging sun light. Colored stains carry all the benefits of deck protection, including a UV light inhibitor. (General rule: the more color, the more pigment, the more UV protection). Without the UV protection, your wood deck may turn gray. Both are about the same price, you will just need to decide what's right for your deck, the location of the deck and your geographical area.
Budget for Decks and Porches
Work with your contractor on a budget and stick to it. If you know that eventually you might want to add a hot tub, you might build the space for it now and purchase the hot tub at a different time when you can better afford it. Making purchases like hot tubs and flower beds are best done on your time. Look for sales and end-of-year closeouts. Buy last year's model. There are many things you can do to keep your costs down and still build a deck or porch that will last and look beautiful for years to come.