Decks are popular with homeowners for many good reasons - it's a place to relax, enjoy an al fresco meal, play, and entertain. Decks are an excellent way to extend the home beyond the walls, providing a truly seamless experience between indoors and outdoors. On a hilly lot, a deck can add living space to a home that otherwise has limited usable areas around it.
While most decks are directly accessible from the house, in some cases the ideal deck site may actually be elsewhere in the yard or property. A detached deck functions like a patio. For example, a detached deck tucked into a quiet, shady corner might be the perfect place to enjoy a cool respite on a hot day. If kept low to the ground, detached decks normally don't need railings but homeowners should be sure any deck plans meet local building codes.
There are several options when it comes to decking materials. Wood, of course, is the most popular choice, offering beauty, infinite styles, and a look of true craftsmanship. Decking woods include cedar, yellow pine, redwood, and tropical hardwoods such as ipe. It's imperative that wooden decks are regularly and correctly maintained to ensure they'll withstand the elements and look their best. Depending on the type of wood used, splintering and rotting can quickly ruin a deck if proper care is neglected, and a deck in poor condition can be dangerous, too.
Other material choices include composites, polystyrene, and even aluminum, which is required in certain fire-prone areas. Composites have their friends and foes; while available in a range of colors and requiring little to no maintenance, they often have a distinctive look and feel that some people find off-putting. Homeowners should do their homework and take a look at actual sample of materials before making a final decision.
Local building codes and any HOA requirements need to be taken into account when making plans and selecting materials. For safety and quality reasons, homeowners should be sure that their deck is properly constructed and they should retain the construction plans as proof to any potential future buyers that the structure is built to code.
-courtesy of Pillar to Post Home Inspectors