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May 5, 2006
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Volume 34
Issue 18
 
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Real Estate
Deck trends for new decks and makeovers
Decks have become a summer staple for the American back yard. In keeping with the trend towards outdoor living spaces that mimic the indoors, decks are dressing up. From decorative railings to drainage systems and a greater variety of building materials, today's decks go way beyond simple wood platforms for a portable grill and some patio furniture.

"You don't need to be a do-it-yourselfer to build a professional deck," says Eric Stalemark, a 15-year experienced deck contractor and founder of Decks.com - www.decks.com. "Deck product manufacturers are responding to consumer demand with increasingly creative products that make it very easy to achieve a great-looking deck."

When planning your deck project, consider incorporating these five hot trends in your project:

1. Double the space benefits of your deck. Flooring systems and under deck mounted drain systems that prevent water from pouring through decks are among the hottest trends right now, Stalemark says. By diverting water away from the area under the deck, you create an opportunity to double your usable outdoor living space.

"The area under a deck that is accessible often goes to waste because water running through the deck can make the ground beneath the deck totally unusable," Stalemark says. "By keeping that area dry, you open up the possibility to turn that space into anything from a tool shed to a second deck, patio or even a screened porch."

Waterproof flooring like those produced by LockDry or Xccent, or a drainage system such as Underdeck, can add as little as another $4 (if you build the deck yourself) to $12 (for a contractor to do the job) per square foot to the overall cost of a new deck, Stalemark says. "It's a very cheap way to double your usable space."

2. Be creative with the rails. Railings and balusters around decks perform an important safety function, especially if your deck will be on the second story. But manufacturers like Fortress, Deckorators and Atlantis are turning them into beautiful design statements as well.

"Decorative railings are one of the easiest ways to add drama and visual impact to a deck," Stalemark says. Railings can now incorporate glass, stainless steel cable and the look of wrought iron without the maintenance. All are available in a variety of styles and colors to suit virtually any outdoor design theme.

3. Less maintenance, more fun. Wood is no longer the exclusive material of choice for deck builders. Alternative materials offer lower maintenance requirements and longevity than wood, but also will increase the cost of a deck by $2 - $4 a square foot, Stalemark says.

"Aluminum, composite, polyethylene, vinyl and other alternative materials all have their advantages, and each will help you achieve a different look for your deck," he says. "What material you use is really a personal choice based on your preferences and budget." When shopping for a low maintenance material, consider appearance (color, wood grain embossment) and durability (does its scratch or flex easily). Before you choose, research all the possibilities and visit www.decks.com link to the DeckRite, CorrectDeck, BearBoard and EverGrain websites and learn more about these different products.

4. Hidden fastening systems complement the concept of an outdoor living space. By hiding the screws used to secure flooring, you can create a deck that will feel and look much more like an interior floor, Stalemark says. When installed, the effect can mimic the tongue and groove appearance of a quality indoor hardwood floor.

"Manufacturers like Eb-Ty and Tiger Claw are producing hidden hardware and fasteners that not only look good, they are easy enough for a do-it-yourselfer to install," he says.

5. Create excitement with multiple levels, unusual floor plans and luxurious amenities. Decks are no longer simple square or rectangular platforms positioned off the back of the house. Modern deck-building techniques allow for a vast range of shapes and floor plans, from octagon to oval and even multiple curves.

"Enhancing your deck with amenities like in-ground pools, firepits, built-in seating and even boat docks for houses on the water, is increasingly popular," Stalemark says. "For example, you can create a multi-level deck, where each level functions as a different 'room' in your outdoor environment. One level could have a seating area with a firepit and built-in benches. Another could house a spa or swimming pool."

To learn more about current trends in deck construction, for tips on how to build your own deck, to find a local "public rated" deck builder, to download free deck plans, view over 1,000 idea photos or learn more about building materials, visit www.decks.com.



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