Tag: Wood Decks

  • Evaluate Your House for a Pennsylvania Deck

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    Spring is coming. Are you wishing you had a nice deck to sit outside and enjoy it on?  Getting a deck installed doesn't have to be an arduous task.

    In addition, it can bring a nice return on investment.  Adding a deck will give you an average 77% return on your investment, depending on where you live and the size of your deck, according to the 2013 Cost vs. Value Report from Remodeling magazine via HoueLogic.

    Here are some tips, courtesy of HouseLogic on how to decide on the best deck for your home:

    Deciding on the site and size

    Your deck will be a popular place, so give careful thought to where it should be located. Begin by working out how to access it from the house. The ever-handy back door to the kitchen probably won’t do the job; it will force traffic toward the cooking area, making a shambles of any large-group entertaining. A better solution is a French door or slider that gives primary access from a living room, dining room, or family room while being handy to the kitchen. If the doorway can also be positioned to offer an expansive view, all the better.

    Next, make sure the deck neither swamps your yard, nor becomes lost in it. Your local codes may set standards for how much of your lot can be occupied by a deck, and how close a deck can be to your lot line. Check these limitations early in your planning with your city or county building department.

    Decide where to locate stairways off the deck so they provide unobtrusive access to the backyard. Also consider the path of the sun and the location of shade trees; sunlight may be pleasant in the morning but unbearable later in the day — having a shade tree to the west of your deck will help block the harsh late-day sun. Work out how to preserve your privacy and how to screen your deck from prevailing winds.

    How much should you spend?

    If you’re considering a deck the size of a helipad, with all the bells and whistles imaginable, better think again. According to the 2013 Cost vs. Value Report, simple is best. For example, a medium-size (16 x 20-foot) deck made of pressure-treated wood provides the best return, averaging about 77% nationally. (In the Pacific region, where the outdoor-living season is lengthy, a deck add-on will do even better, earning back about 96% of the initial investment.)

    Composite decking (Trex, EverGrain, and TimberTech are some well-known brands) makes great sense from a maintenance point of view but will be more expensive — composites cost about 45% more than pressure-treated wood—and will recoup an average of only 67.5% of your cost. If you own an upscale home, a more elaborate deck may be appropriate to keep pace with the competition, but don’t expect a premium payback: A two-level, 400-sq. ft. deck with upscale features such as composite decking, decorative railings, and built-in lighting offers only about a 59.7% payback.

    Hankering for an even higher return? If you’re reasonably handy, you might want to go for the gold and build the deck yourself. Labor costs typically make up more than half the cost of residential construction. That means you can spend as little as $4,000 in materials for a wood deck of mid-range size and come away with a resale value of more than $8,000 — a handsome return.

    However, plan on spending 4–6 weekends building a 16x20 foot deck yourself. If you choose this route, consider buying a ready-made deck plan. Or, put to use one of the many websites with interactive design aids, such as Lowe’s Deck Designer (registration required), and Deckorators.

    Think local

    To recoup a good portion of your investment, your deck needs to be right for your market. Appraiser Dick Koestner of Davenport, Iowa, recommends the simply checking out other decks in your area. “Don’t make it too extreme [compared with] what’s typical in your market,” he counsels. “Definitely don’t make it less than what is expected in the market.”

    Koestner also emphasizes the importance of obeying local codes. “A lot of potential purchasers are having a home inspection done,” he says. “If the home inspector finds the deck isn’t built to code, most of the purchasers are saying, ‘Hey, fix it.’”

    He emphasizes that codes exist not just to preserve property values, but promote safety. For example, railing balusters spaced too far apart can constitute a falling hazard for small children (most codes stipulate 4-inch maximum gap). In addition, a deck inadequately attached to the house can collapse, often during a party when the structure is loaded with the extra weight of many people, creating mayhem like something out of the Poseidon Adventure. So get a permit from your building department and follow their requirements.

    Of course, by dint of taking out a building permit your tax assessment will rise, but only to the extent that the value of your property is increased. The effect should be minimal: Decks are considered an outdoor improvement much like a new driveway or upgraded landscaping, not additional living space.

    Looking good

    Although it’s hard to put a dollar value on aesthetics, looks count. Give thought to how the deck will meld with the architecture of your house. Railings offer a good opportunity to pull in color and detail that complements your home. Consider how the deck fits in with your backyard; it should make a smooth transition from the house to the landscape.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your pennsylvania deck building, deck installation, deck repair and deck inspection needs.  Call us today at (215) 453-9180 for your FREE estimate!

     

     

     

  • Deck Maintenance Tips

    Courtesy of HGTV

    Courtesy of HGTV

    When the winter weather subsides, you may notice that your deck is starting to show some wear.  Make it look like new again by following these deck maintenance tips, courtesy of HGTV:

    Wash

    Before making any repairs to the deck, remove dirt and wood fibers with a pressure washer. When using one, be sure to keep the pressure stream moving. Otherwise, you could gouge the wood. Allow the deck to dry overnight.

    Fix nail pops

    If you encounter a nail that has worked loose from a board, remove the nail with a cat's paw or a hammer. Use a screw that's longer than the nail to reattach the board.

    Repair split wood

    If you have a board that's split down the middle, mark the damaged board next to the leading edge of the first support joist that's completely past the split. Be sure not to mark an area that's directly over a joist or you could damage your saw when you begin cutting.

    Cut the board with a jigsaw, remove the nails or deck screws and remove the damaged wood. Use deck screws to attach a pressure-treated 2-by-4-inch support block to the joist. The support block will hold the replacement board in position. Cut a replacement board to size, pre-drill and fasten it to the support block and joists with deck screws.

    Your replacement board may appear to be higher and wider than the existing wood, but it should shrink as it loses moisture. If the board still appears to be higher than the surrounding boards after being in place for a few weeks, you can smooth it down with a belt sander. Be sure that all nail or screw heads are recessed into the wood before you begin sanding.

    Stain and seal

    Even though pressure-treated lumber resists insects and decay, it's still vulnerable to moisture and the sun's rays. To preserve it without changing the color, use s clear wood preservative that contains a UV protector, which will bring new life to the surface while protecting it from the elements. If you want to add color, use an exterior stain first. Exterior stains come in both solid and semi-transparent finishes. Always use the semi-transparent for the decking area, but try a solid color if you want to highlight railings or banisters; it ends up looking like a painted finish. Exterior stains are available in oil or latex, and both provide fade and mildew resistance.

    Wearing protective eyewear and gloves, apply preservative or stain with a roller or a brush. Let the product sit on the wood decking for about 20 minutes so that it has time to penetrate, and then go back over the surface with a brush to give the deck a more consistent finish (this also helps get rid of any puddles that will dry as shiny patches). Apply a second coat for good coverage and protection.

    Allow the deck to dry for 48 hours, and then apply a sealant.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck maintenance, deck repair, deck building, deck installation and deck inspection needs.  Call us today at 215-453-9180 for your FREE estimate.

  • How to Tell if Your Deck Needs Help

    Courtesy of fairfaxcounty.gov

    With changing temperatures and recent storms, lack of deck maintenance can increase the risk of deck-related injury.

    Check your deck with these following safety guidelines courtesy of HouseLogic:

    Boards: Check deck boards for rot, softness, or major cracking.

    Every Connection: Inspect every hardware connection on the deck. Look for screws and/or nails backing out, red rust, and other signs of corrosion on metal connectors that can weaken the integrity of the deck.

    Structure: Look at the posts, beams, and joists that provide the structural framework of the deck. Is there any noticeable sagging between supports?

    Attachments: Most deck failures occur at the attachment site to the home. Ensure that the deck is properly attached to the house with bolts (not nails) and proper flashing for water protection.

    Foundation/Footings: The foundation and footings support the weight, or load, on a deck and the columns that bear on them. Look for sinking or a noticeable sag.

    Exits: Check deck’s exit areas, usually stairs. Are the stair stringers, treads, and risers ok? Do the stairs require a handrail? Is there adequate lighting to safely use the exits at night?

    Rails: Look at rail posts and railing sections to make sure that they aren’t loose or wobbly. All pickets/balusters should be fastened securely and spaced no more than four inches apart.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck construction, deck maintenance, deck repair and deck inspection needs.  Call us today at (215) 773-9181 for your FREE estimate.

     

  • Preparing Your Deck for Winter

    In order to keep your deck in tip-top shape for next spring, take a little bit of time and do some preventative maintenance on it before the winter hits.

    Here are some tips courtesy of localhelpfinder.com:

    Tip #1: Clean it Thoroughly

    The first thing you need to do to prepare your deck or patio for winter is to simply clean it thoroughly. Be sure to remove all of the fungus, dirt, mildew, algae, rust stains and anything else that has accumulated on the deck or patio. Use a formulated deck cleaner to thoroughly remove the grime before doing anything else to prep your deck or patio.

    Tip #2: Strip Away Unwanted Finish

    After cleaning the deck or patio thoroughly, you should strip away any finish that is deteriorated or otherwise unwanted. Again, there are products available that you can use to remove oil or latex paints as well as semi-transparent stains and clear finishes that might need to be removed.

    Tip #3: Reapply Finish and Stain

    If you had to remove finish that was deteriorating, you will need to replace it in order to protect the wood and to keep your deck or patio looking great.

    Tip #4: Seal it Up

    Finally, you should seal your deck or patio with a water repellant. This way, it will be able to withstand all of the moisture, snow and ice that it will endure throughout the winter months. If you do not seal your deck or patio, the wood surface may start to crack and become warped.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck maintenance, deck repair and deck construction needs. Call us today at (215) 773-9181 for your FREE Estimate!

  • How to Spice Up your Deck

    Improving or replacing your deck is one of the most cost-effective home improvement projects that can be done.  According to Remodeling Magazine’s 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report via Houselogic:

    a wood deck project returns an average of about 70% of the investment cost — one of the highest values in the survey.

    In order to make sure you get the biggest return on your investment, look into these low-cost add-ons, courtesy of Houselogic:

    Hidden fasteners for decking

    For years now, deck screws have been the fastener of choice. (Nails, prone to popping out over time, are old news.) Deck screws come in a useful range of colors, won’t corrode, and hold exceptionally well. However, even when installed carefully, they cover the deck with rows of little pockmarks—tiny depressions that may have splintered edges and trap dirt.

    Enter the hidden fastener. This clever innovation holds deck planks down while leaving the surface looking sleek and minimalist. There are scores of hidden fasteners on the market, each of a slightly different design. One category fastens with a screw to the framing and grips the side of each plank with barbs. Another fits into a groove in the side of the plank (some composite planks come with this groove) before being fastened to the joist. Yet another type fastens from underneath the deck, firmly snugging the decking onto the joists.

    Hidden fasteners are labor intensive to install, which adds a premium of about $4 per square foot compared with the cost of an installation using deck screws. However, many deck owners find the investment worthwhile, especially if they have selected composite, vinyl, or premium wood decking and want to show off these materials to best advantage.

    Adding style with planters

    Planters give a deck character. The various shapes and sizes of planters add texture and color. Built-in versions, often made of the same material as the decking, can be positioned to separate seating areas from cooking areas. When planted with tall plants, such as ornamental grasses, they can act as living privacy screens.

    Wood planters typically are lined with galvanized sheet metal, plastic containers, or are built to conceal standard pots that are easily removed for cleaning or planting. Planters made of pressure-treated wood sometimes forego the liner altogether.

    With all built-ins, some means of drainage is necessary, which may mean you’ll have to bore holes in the bottom of the container. Because excess water will drain from the bottom of your planter, you’ll need to be mindful of where you position the planter. If you hire a pro to custom build your deck planters, assume a cost of $150 to $250 labor and materials for each lineal foot of a 2-foot deep and 2-foot high built-in planter.

    Built-ins aren’t your only option. Home centers offer a wide variety of planters available at prices from $10 to $200. Ceramic or cement pots can be a decorative feature, running $50 and up for a 2-foot tall container. Hanging planters (about $25 each) are a great addition to a pergola or trellis. Planters that attach to the railing ($70 for a 40-inch-long terracotta planter with metal holder) all but disappear when filled with plants.

    Cable railings

    Railings are typically required on any deck when the decking surface is more than 2 feet above ground. Railings are the most visible part of the deck from ground level and offer a great opportunity to echo the colors and architectural details of your house. However, if you are lucky enough to a have a scenic vista (or just an awfully nice yard) you won’t want the railing in the way.

    One solution is a cable railing—thin stainless steel cables strung tautly between wood or metal posts. This alternative looks great, preserves the view and, at a cost of about $70 per lineal foot for a pro installation, is about $1,200 more expensive than a standard wood railing for a 16x20-foot deck. To further spare the budget, consider using cable only where the view is important and use wood elsewhere. Or, if you are handy, do it yourself for a materials cost of about $25 a lineal foot.

    Taming the sun with shade sails

    Overhead structures like wood pergolas and trellises help shield a deck from the sun, adding a pleasantly dappled shade pattern. However, they can be costly to install and challenging to maintain over the years.

    Shade sails are a cool, eye-catching alternative. Made of UV-resistant polyethylene knit fabric, sails are triangular, square, and rectangular, and come in a variety of colors. They produce a muted, diffuse light, cutting the glare of full sunlight while still permitting light into windows adjacent to the deck. Shade is not all the sails offer. Many homeowners consider shade sails a form of aerial sculpture and delight in watching them rise and fall gently in the evening breeze.

    Shade sails for a 16 x 20-foot deck would cost about $5,500 when professionally installed. (Expect to pay at least 30% more for a custom-built pergola of comparable size.) If you have a smaller installation in mind, you can buy a 12-foot triangular shade at your home center for as little as $200. However, bear in mind that a sail can exert a mighty force on a windy day and must be attached to the framing of the house or to steel or wooden poles set in concrete. A professional installation is recommended.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck construction, deck repair and deck building needs. Call us today at (215) 773-9181 for a FREE estimate!

     

  • Does your Deck Need Repairs or Replacing?

    After using your deck all summer, it may be a good idea to check out your deck before the winter months to see if you'll have to make any repairs on it. According to Houselogic "There are more than 40 million decks in the United States that are more than 20 years or older, according to the North American Deck & Railing Association, and hundreds of reported deck accidents occur annually."

    Here are 7 deck safety inspection tips courtesy of Houselogic:

    Boards: Check deck boards for rot, softness, or major cracking.

    Every Connection: Inspect every hardware connection on the deck. Look for screws and/or nails backing out, red rust, and other signs of corrosion on metal connectors that can weaken the integrity of the deck.

    Structure: Look at the posts, beams, and joists that provide the structural framework of the deck. Is there any noticeable sagging between supports?

    Attachments: Most deck failures occur at the attachment site to the home. Ensure that the deck is properly attached to the house with bolts (not nails) and proper flashing for water protection.

    Foundation/Footings: The foundation and footings support the weight, or load, on a deck and the columns that bear on them. Look for sinking or a noticeable sag.

    Exits: Check deck’s exit areas, usually stairs. Are the stair stringers, treads, and risers ok? Do the stairs require a handrail? Is there adequate lighting to safely use the exits at night?

    Rails: Look at rail posts and railing sections to make sure that they aren’t loose or wobbly. All pickets/balusters should be fastened securely and spaced no more than four inches apart.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here for all of your deck repair, deck replacement and deck construction needs.  Call us at  215-773-9180 for your FREE estimate

  • Should I go with Wood or Composite?

    One of the major questions for people building a deck these days is whether it is better to go with wood or composite material for it's construction. Which one is the best in terms of maintenance? In terms of longevity? In terms of aesthetics?

    The answer, although it depends on your individual preferences, is that going with composite is probably the best choice.

    Although wood decks are often aesthetically pleasing, they require an increased amount of maintenance. You have to reguarly sand and paint your deck just to maintain it. With composite, this is not necessary. Although it may cost more during the construction phase, it actually saves you money in the long run. Plus, today's composite materials offer a great variety of designs, including ones that mimic the look of wood.

    When comparing the two, composite is almost always the better choice. However, at Exterior Specialties of PA we can and will build any deck you desire! Call us today for a free estimate!