You don’t need to consult the weather forecaster to know that it’s backyard barbecue season. Spending the summer outside in your backyard is one of the best ways to enjoy family, friends and those neighbors who keep stopping by with a delicious bottle of wine.

If you’re thinking about a new deck to make the long summer days and nights even better, here are six things to consider.

  1. What are you going to use it for?

Envision yourself lounging on a deck in your backyard or whatever space you have available to build a deck. What are you doing? How you’re going to use that deck informs the design. If you see yourself dining outside all summer long, then make room for a dining suite. If you’re the best barbecue chef in the neighborhood, make sure the deck is set up for your smoker and grill. Like to laze around in a hammock? Plan out where those hooks are going to go.

  1. Check code and permit rules

Resist the temptation to build your deck “under the radar.” Protect yourself and your family by getting the necessary building permits to fit the codes in your town. If you’re planning on working with a contractor or local builder, chances are they’re quite aware of local code and can help you obtain the proper go-ahead. Plus, working with a professional will likely mean that you’ll be relaxing on your new deck must faster than if the project is a complete DIY.

  1. Think about the materials

Your choice of materials for a deck is arguably the most important aspect of the building project and, because deck materials can run the gamut in terms of price, can have a big effect on your budget. Decking material may be the biggest portion of the budget, but when you consider labor and framing, investing in quality materials doesn’t mean the job overall is drastically more expensive.

Some materials to consider:

Exotic hardwood and tropical wood — Exotic woods have multiple layers that help them resist scratches and fading. There’s also tropical hardwood like Ipe which can be allowed to weather to a natural gray you tend to see on oceanside decks, Red Balau with its rich red color and Meranti Batu are all durable woods that resist insects, decay and mold.

Composite decking — Made from recycled materials, composite decking material is a good choice if you want to keep the cost down but still have a great looking deck. It looks like real wood and is water, mold and mildew resistant, which means there’s no need to seal or paint. Many composite products are made of high percentages of recycled materials, which makes them environmentally friendly decking option.

Pressure-treated wood decking — Pressure treated lumber provides protection against fungal decay and termites. It’s lighter and has a more natural wood appearance with improved painting and staining qualities. Pressure-treated boards are made with real wood that’s treated with a formula to repel water and reduce cracking.

  1. Consider how much maintenance it will need

Another important aspect to enjoying your new deck is how much work it’s going to be. If you’re not someone who likes to putter around and fix things around the house on the weekends, then think about having the deck built with more low-maintenance materials. If you like giving TLC to beautiful exotic wood and aren’t concerned with the possibility that it might take more effort to look after, then go for something more high maintenance.

  1. Holding it all together

Talk to your builder not only about how the whole project is going to come together but how it’s literally going to fit together. Don’t skimp on the fasteners — low-quality connectors and hardware will shorten the lifespan of your deck, corrode and discolor. Consider stainless-steel or coated screws or a hidden system, which can be an affordable way to have a fastener-free deck surface. The system can be used with treated lumber, hardwood, cedar, composite or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) deck boards.

  1. Think about the extras

Lighting, rails and roofing are all great additions to your deck. Consider a product that integrates easily into new or existing railings, requires no fasteners and can be hidden from view. Trex lighting includes optional timers and dimmers and can be installed on stairs or around the entire deck. With roofing, your new deck can become an all-weather backyard oasis you might not ever want to leave.

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