Tag: deck building

  • Composite Decks Can Be Beautiful

    There is a certain allure to a wood deck, but they can take more to maintain and may not be in your price range.  But just because you want a composite deck, doesn't mean your deck can't have the same aesthetic.

    Composite decks can look natural.  According to BobVila.com, "EverNew by CertainTeed features distinctive grain patterns in a variety of dimensional, natural colors that capture the beauty of real wood at a fraction of the cost."

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Also, "Trex decking offers a protective shell that blocks out stains and scratches, so you can enjoy your deck worry-free! Their new Transcend product comes in three tropical-inspired shades and five rich earth tones that won’t fade like real wood can," according to the site.

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    You won't have to worry about splinters with composite decking, like the one below offered by Wolf.  It won’t warp or splinter, so you can enjoy your deck sans sandals!


    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Courtesy of BobVila.com

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





  • Redwood Decks a Green Alternative

    Fairfax Deck Builder

    Courtesy of BobVIla.com

    You wouldn't think that using redwood for your deck would be very eco-friendly.  But if you are yearning to be green, but don't like the look of composite materials, redwood may be the prefect fit for you.

    According to the California Redwood Association, via BobVila.com,"Redwood is grown and harvested in accordance with the highest environmental standards in the world, tapping the sun for energy and soaking in California’s famed North Coast fog. Roughly 90 percent of all product-producing redwood forests are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or Sustainable Forestry Initiative as sources of environmentally-sound building materials. In addition, redwood uses 97% less energy to produce than plastic."

    In fact, redwood may be more environmentally-friendly than those composite materials, which take a lot of chemicals to create. In addition, many composite materials aren't recycled and end up sitting in landfills.

    And, redwood isn't that expensive.  According to BobVila.com, premium woods like redwood and red cedar cost $18 to $22 per square foot. Not bad considering composite materials can cost $20 a square foot.

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

  • Porch 101: Porch Styles and Types

    Porches are a great place for relaxation.  A place where you can be outdoors without being too far from home.  So, it only stands to reason that we take a lot of time to make our porch look nice.

    There are many different porch styles that can fit your home.  Here are some explanations of these different styles so that you can see what will work best for your home, courtesy of BobVila.com.

    Farmhouse Porch StyleCourtesy of BobVila.com

    Farmhouse Porch Style
    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    It doesn’t get much more inviting than the old-fashioned farmhouse porch, with its expansive wrap-around layout and unpretentious style. Initially created to help cool the home’s interior and provide a comfortable respite at day’s end, these covered porches are practical, comfortable, and simple in their trim and design.

    Country-style porches generally open to the yard, and many are so low that you can safely step off the side to the ground. Raised designs typically feature wood railings and decorative lattice underneath. Screen porches are a nice farmhouse option, and these can sometimes be fashioned using salvagedscreen doors. Or opt for a semi-screened look by adding trellises and railing planters between porch posts. Finish out the space with stained or painted wood floors and ceilings personalized with paint or pressed tin. Choose furnishings for comfort and personal style. Wicker is a traditional favorite, but wood, cast iron, and repurposed found objects also work well. Finally, don’t forget the nostalgic finishing touches—a porch swing and a slamming screen door.

    Colonial Style PorchCourtesy of BobVIla.com

    Colonial Style Porch
    Courtesy of BobVIla.com

    America’s Colonial period brought a melting pot of home design ideas, which in turn produced Dutch Colonial, French Colonial, and other styles. Generally speaking, homes of this era were two stories and symmetrical. As settlers moved onward, however, the style was modified to suit the environment. For instance, in the steamy South, generously sized porches with bold, classical columns were added across the entire front of the house to help people beat the heat. The result? A coveted retreat for Southerners and the birth of one of America’s most beloved porch styles.

    Colonial porches keep to the architecture’s overall principles of symmetry, formality, and elegant restraint. Columns accomplish much of the visual design work, from massive two-story pillars to simpler paired columns stretching across the home’s facade. If used, wood or aluminum railings typically showcase tasteful Chippendale-style fretwork or herringbone patterns. A central door with fanlight and sidelights add balance.

    As for palette, crisp white, gray blues, and tans depict classic Colonial colors, as do ceilings that are brushed in haint blue. Furnishings should be gracious and plentiful, including rocking chairs, settees, planters and even lighting. Chandeliers sparkle on grand porches; period-appropriate lanterns and sconces enhance more modest and Early American houses. To ensure a pleasant breeze, you might also consider adding one or more ceiling fans overhead.

    Queen Anne Style PorchCourtesy of BobVila.com

    Queen Anne Style Porch
    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    Echoing Victorian-era tastes, Queen Anne architecture reflects a penchant for personal expressiveness and over-the-top decoration. Forget any notion that “less is more.” The ornate wraparound porches and recessed second-story retreats adorning the asymmetrical fronts of Queen Anne homes were designed to impress. Propitiously, advancements in woodworking machinery in the late 1800s made previously expensive ornate porch pieces suddenly affordable, meaning homeowners could now pile it on with eclectic abandon.

    Among the fanciful options: delicately turned posts with beveled corners and attached fretwork, railings with flat-sawn balusters, elaborate spindle work, finials, spandrels, corner brackets and friezes. (Victorian millwork is still readily available, but if you want to avoid the painting upkeep of these intricate patterns, consider porch pieces made of high-density urethane instead.) Other embellishments include walls covered with fish-scale shingles or patterned masonry and doors and windows of etched or stained glass, enhanced with generous decorative trim. Bold paint palettes further the busy look.

    Fortunately, all the fuss on a Queen Anne porch is put to good use, as the space is considered an important outdoor room for entertaining. Look for wrought iron and wicker pieces to seat guests with old-fashioned charm. Containers and colorful plantings add a nice finishing touch, too.

    Bungalow Style PorchCourtesy of BobVila.com

    Bungalow Style Porch
    Courtesy of BobVila.com

    A notable departure from the mass-produced elements and design excess of the Queen Anne style,Bungalow architecture grew out of California’s Arts and Crafts movement. These affordable cottages with low-pitched roofs feature expansive front porches that open to the yard and garden, expanding the home’s modest living space while also encouraging a strong connection with nature and the neighborhood.

    In general, Bungalow craftspersons utilize natural and handcrafted materials. The prominent oversize porch columns or pillars, for instance, are usually crafted from brick, wood, or stone (such as local river rock). Also common are battered, or tapered, posts atop a raised brick, stone, or wood pier. Concrete-capped brick knee walls or low, simple railings link the columns.

    Decorated as though an extension of the adjacent living room, Bungalow porches can be fairly rustic with earthtone palettes, twig or Mission-style furniture, and artisan lighting. Floors are typically wood, plain concrete, or concrete overlaid with ceramic tile, bluestone, fieldstone or brick.

    Exterior Specialties of PA is here to help with all of your deck building, deck installation and help you choose the best of these porch styles for your home.  Call us today at 215-453-9180 for your FREE estimate!


  • Evaluate Your House for a Pennsylvania Deck


    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:


    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.