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For when a deck is in the cards

Decks are a way to enjoy morning coffee, share a quick or leisurely meal or savor a spectacular view


Twilight, sunrise, sunset and into the evening hours, an attractive, well-appointed and furnished deck extends your home’s seasonal living space.

Adding property value and curb appeal, decks continue to be a top home improvement option.

As materials and technology up the choice pool for deck construction materials, newer composite planks are lower maintenance, more durable and good looking — all great qualities to have in an outdoor deck.

Tech and techniques

Construction materials continue to change and evolve, adding more and more options for residential projects.

“Technology is always evolving” when it comes to construction materials — including those used for decks, said John Gemmi, owner of Gemmi Construction Inc., in Buckingham.

“I like things to look more natural — like real wood — and newer products and composites have a more natural and realistic look to them,” he said.

Adjusting conventions in how decks are put together — including railings and hardware systems means newer decks have a refreshed look.

Subtle tweaks to construction practices like “picture framing” soften what are naturally hard visual lines.

“And deck railing systems no longer have to look ‘mechanical’” in nature, Gemmi said.

Deck project packages

While some properties may be poised to add a deck, Gemmi said his firm often receives requests to build a new deck as part of a larger package project — such as a new or expanded kitchen or a family room addition to the existing home.

He recommends keeping the home’s overall architecture and aesthetic top of mind along with encouraging clients to have — and communicate — clear ideas about the end goal for the project.

“How will you use the space, which should drive the size of the deck and any levels. If you include separate spaces, how many people do you regularly entertain,” he said.

Consider if your new deck will primarily be used for everyday activities by mostly the immediate family or a few friends.

If your home is “ground zero” for regular large gatherings, you’ll want to incorporate elements into a new or renovated deck to better serve our needs, Gemmi said.

Multilevel decks using newer construction practices take full advantage of deck levels.

“If you have a walkout basement and the deck is overhead, there are waterproof products you can use to give you extra living space under the deck,” Gemmi said.

Deck “levels” or rooms, where you can create different uses for outdoor living should also be part of the client conversation, Gemmi explained.

“You don’t want it too big or too small. If it’s too big it can look wasteful and if too small it won’t function properly for you,” he said.

A professional architect can help clients realize ideas to craft a deck sized “just right,” Gemmi said.

Sun and shaded areas

Because you’ll want to make sure you plan for best-case uses, keep track of sun and shade throughout the deck in any space where one is planned.

Newer engineered boards will be resistant to sun-bleaching and weather. Gemmi said there are manufacturers offering uncolored or “raw” boards, which can be painted any color for a unique and customized look.

Today’s popular deck board colors continue to be gray, sandy beige and an “Ipe” (Brazilian walnut) tone, which is a warm darker wood color, according to Gemmi.

For existing decks, he recommends a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule following product manufacturer’s directions.

Cleaning and care will keep the deck from premature aging as well as remove mold or mildew growth. It’s also the best way to keep your deck looking great — and performing — for many years to come.

“A deck is an investment, and if you’re going with composites they’re expensive, too. You want to make sure you protect your investment,” Gemmi said.

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