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How to extend your outdoor living space by building a deck

Planning and building a deck is an investment that adds value and enjoyment to your home

Decks are a popular way of extending your living space without moving. They’re also much more affordable than adding a home extension. With Burlington located close to the pristine heart of Lake Ontario, designing and building a deck adds value to your home and gives you a new way to enjoy it.

Before you begin building your deck, it's important to carefully consider the process and take a few factors into account. Thorough planning can help you avoid expensive mistakes that waste both time and money.

Do you need a permit to build a deck in Ontario?

One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make is misunderstanding the need for building permits. Every municipality has its own rules, but in Ontario, you’ll generally only need a permit if:

  • Your deck is taller than 24 inches.
  • You’re making structural renovations to an existing deck.
  • Your deck isn’t connected to your home, is bigger than 10 square metres, or is taller than 24 inches.

If you need planning permission, complete an application form (online or in person). Some people may find it easier to let their building company do it on their behalf.

Six steps to designing the perfect deck

Decks are a popular home improvement and a smart way to improve your home’s value. It’s estimated decks recoup 80% of their initial costs by increasing the value of your home – putting them right up there with kitchen remodels.

Recouping these costs begins with the design stage, though. Follow these steps to design your ideal deck.

1. Budget

Begin with your budget. Generally, professionally built decks cost between $49 and $67 per square foot. Determine what you can afford before getting into the design details.

2. Location

Location may be relatively easy to decide because most homeowners only have one or two options. You’re limited by the size and orientation of your home here, so work with whatever you have.

North-side orientations are the coolest, whereas southern and western will be warmer. However, consider the winds blowing in off Lake Ontario. It can be wise to use your home as a natural windbreaker.

3. Must-have features

A deck isn’t just a platform sticking out from your home. How you furnish your deck adds value to those quiet evenings and summer parties.

Think about chairs, tables, space for grills, lighting, privacy screens, and more. This is where you should contact a professional to brief you on your options. Companies like Premier Fencing can craft a bespoke shopping list to ensure your deck matches your expectations.

4. Size

Size does matter when it comes to your deck, but don’t forget the legal limits. Thankfully, Burlington has no maximum deck size for decks up to 1.2m high, but it can’t cover more than 50% of your backyard.

Try to size your deck in 2-4’ increments. Nail some markers into your yard to get a sense of whether your deck would be too large or too small. However, a professional deck builder can also help with this.

Remember to consider the railings. These may be set into the deck or attached to the rim joists on the side. Any size calculations you make must account for these.

5. Shapes and patterns

Decks can be any shape you like. Patterns are also a great way of creating a focal point for your yard. Adding patterns requires more material and will increase the cost, whether it’s diagonal, checkerboard, or herringbone patterns.

Likewise, expect to pay more if you want a deck in an unconventional shape or one with built-in seats and fences.

6. Materials

Pine, spruce, cedar, redwood, and countless other options exist for building your deck. Standard construction lumber is treated to protect it from rot, but it’s not designed for extreme weather conditions or intense UV rays.

At a minimum, opt for something more durable, such as pressure-treated cedar or redwood. Plus, these woods are soft, which protects them from splintering. If you have the budget, consider some tropical hardwoods, like Tigerwood, Cumaru, or Massaranduba.

How to Build a Deck

After designing your deck, it’s time to get your hands dirty and begin building. Although decks look complex, they have relatively simple structures. It’s why many homeowners choose to build their decks instead of consulting a professional.

The five components of a standard deck include:

  • Vertical posts are set in concrete or on piers set into concrete up to 8’ apart.
  • Horizontal beams are set onto the posts to carry the deck’s weight.
  • Joists are run between the beams up to 24” apart to distribute weight.
  • The decking surface is laid over the joists to create the floor.
  • Railings up to 42” high are added to finish the deck.

Bonus Deck Design Tips from the Experts

Building a deck is an opportunity to craft something unique that adds character to your home. But what if you want something that goes beyond the standard wooden deck?

Follow these expert-endorsed tips.

  • Online Inspiration – Get inspired by looking up online deck image galleries. These may be on specific company websites or social media platforms like Pinterest.
  • Fit the Space—Standard advice is that a deck shouldn’t be bigger than 20% of a home’s total area to avoid looking out of place.
  • Design for You – Too many people choose a deck because they saw it on TV. Don’t follow the trends. Design it based on what you want to use it for.
  • Foot Traffic – Plan for anticipated foot traffic. If it’s just you, this isn’t an issue, but if you like huge outdoor parties, think about where people can walk safely and adjust accordingly.
  • Plan for Furniture – Thinking about furniture after you build your deck limits your options. Incorporate deck furniture into the plans so you never have to compromise.
  • Think Maintenance—Maintenance can be a hassle. Plan based on the maintenance you’d like to undertake. For example, homeowners increasingly opt for premium composite railings to avoid staining their decks annually.

Planning and building a deck can ultimately be more complicated than many think. Instead of tackling the issue alone, consult a professional who can guide you every step of the way. It’s an investment that saves a huge amount of stress and money while ensuring you get the result you expect.

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