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Modesto, CA Design and Build a Quality Deck or Patio

Modesto, CA Home Improvement Guide


Decks and Patios
Deck Builders; Patio & Deck Builders; Lumber Yards; Patio Construction; Patio Equipment & Supplies; Patio, Porch & Deck Covers & Enclosures

Decks Adding a deck or patio onto a house provides more value than just increased equity. They also provide additional outdoor living space which can be built at a fraction of the cost of building an additional room. Decks and patios create space to entertain, relax, sunbathe or just enjoy the view of nature. Potential home buyers find the additional space a value as well. According to Remodeling Magazine, expect to recoup an average of 87% return on investment. This makes building an outside living space more than an enjoyable benefit for your entire family; it is also a sound investment.

There are a number of factors to consider when designing a deck or patio. A patio is an easier addition to design and build while a deck may require professional assistance. Depending on the size of the deck, hiring a professional can be more valuable than tackling the task yourself. A traditional, average size deck is a good project for the skilled do-it-yourselfer, but if the elevation is sloped, the deck is multi-tiered or larger in size it is worth it to hire some help.



Designing a Deck
Deck Builders; Patio & Deck Builders; Lumber Yards; General Contractors

Before planning begins on a deck, consider the reasons why you want to build one. These factors play an important role in determining the size and style of deck to be built.

Use of Deck
Determine upfront how the deck will be used and why you want to build it. This should be the main consideration in determining the design of the deck. Will it be used as an area for entertainment? If so, will the deck need to accommodate a large number of guests or a smaller, more intimate number? How much seating will it need to provide? Should the seating be built-in or provided by patio furniture? Will lighting need to be included for night events? Will children be using the deck frequently? Does it need to accommodate pet traffic?

Think of every possible usage the deck will provide so it can be considered in the design phase. Whatever the reason for building a deck, the primary objective should never be to add equity to the home. While the return is significant, not every dollar is regained and therefore could be misspent. Make sure the primary motive for building a deck is to bring enjoyment and benefit to your family.

Location of Deck
The size and shape of the deck will be defined by where it is located. The location itself is defined by the size and shape of the house and yard. Most likely, the deck will be built in the back of the house to optimize privacy and for easier access, be located off a door from the house or garage. Review the blueprints for the home to determine easement lines and potential hurdles that dictate the parameters of the deck. The local building department in your area should have a copy of your blueprints on file if you are unable to locate them.

Stepping flush out onto a deck is ideal and dictates the height of the deck. In areas of the country that receive snow, the deck height needs to be lowered a step or two to avoid snow piling up against the door. Take inventory of the side of the house where the deck will be located and account for windows, down spouts, water spigots, and dryer vents. Oftentimes these are overlooked and become a problem during and after the deck is built.

Climate is also a major factor in finalizing the location of the deck. To avoid excessive heat in the summer, opt for a north facing deck. Take advantage of larger trees near the deck that provide decent shade. If direct sunlight cannot be avoided, include an overhead screen or awning into the design to provide additional shade.

Legal Requirements
Once you have a location in mind, review it with the local building department to verify it is within zoning ordinances. They will ensure that the size of the deck, location to lot lines and height of privacy screen are within the legal limitations. Restrictions may also exist on a neighborhood level that will need to be approved as well. Depending on state, county or city restrictions, you may be required to obtain a permit before building.

If a permit is required, a set of plans needs to be submitted and reviewed. An architect or contractor can provide a set of plans if you plan to hire professionals for the project. If you tackle the job yourself, many online design programs can help you design a dream deck. Check with your local building department to verify if this type of design submission is acceptable.


Deck Layout
Deck Builders; Patio & Deck Builders; Lumber Yards; General Contractors

As you contemplate the final design, test the overall layout by placing stakes on the lawn where the proposed edges of the deck are located. Decks For a lot that has a dirt foundation, spray painting the dimensions of the deck provides the same function. Place existing patio furniture within the space to get a feel for the final size of the deck. Walk around the area and determine if there is adequate space. Also account for a barbeque, flower pots, or a kitchen area if they are proposed in the design. Make sure you are comfortable with the allocated space being able to accommodate all potential pieces. At this point, it is fairly easy to add a couple feet to each side of the deck, if space feels tight.

Consider how people will be able to access the deck. In most cases, one entrance will be from the house or garage directly. An alternative access point should be located on the side of the yard that provides the most direct route from the front to the back yard. If a staircase is required, local building departments provide the building code specifications for your area. Railing is required for any deck higher than 18” from the ground and need to surround the deck perimeter. Standard railing is 36” high but can range up to 48” tall for decks that are higher than 10 feet above the ground.


Structural Foundation
Deck Builders; Patio & Deck Builders; Lumber Yards; General Contractors

As a deck does not have to be perfectly constructed or leak proof, it is considered a good job for a do-it-yourselfer. Depending on the size and complexity of the deck, the project can be both physically demanding and stressful. Structural integrity is critical to determining the life of the deck. Therefore, unless you have a good understanding of what is required, this may be a job that is best left to professionals. Protecting the deck from water and natural elements is crucial and the structural integrity of the deck will need to be able to support a significant amount of weight. Ensuring it is built properly allows you to enjoy the space for years to come.

A combination of concrete footings, anchors, and posts need to support the ledger and joists. The number of footings and spacing between each joist is dependent on the total size of the deck and the size and type of the decking. Deck designing programs, home improvement centers, lumber yards, and local building departments can provide guidance on what is required.



Decking Materials
Deck Builders; Patio & Deck Builders; Lumber Yards; Building Materials Retail

Within the last 25 years, the number of choices for decking materials has significantly increased. In addition to the traditional natural wood options, composite and vinyl decking are becoming popular choices for building decks. Each material has a number of advantages and disadvantages depending on budget, maintenance, and overall appearance. Take the time to study each option and determine the one that is right for your circumstances.

Natural Wood
Advantage: Wood provides a beauty and richness no other product can offer. Different wood choices also offer a variety of colors and looks that can match any home. The most common wood used for decking is redwood, cedar, mahogany, cypress, and Southern pine (pressure treated lumber). As a natural resource, the majority of wood products are readily available and can be refinished multiple times as required. Wood lends itself to a variety of colors as it is easily painted or stained. If properly maintained, wood ages gracefully and lasts for years. Any damaged or worn planks can easily be removed and replaced.

Disadvantage: As it is exposed to year round elements, yearly sealing and maintenance is required to keep it looking good. While wood is a less expensive option upfront, adding in the cost of yearly maintenance over time makes it one of the more expensive decking materials. Higher quality woods hold up to the elements better but are also more expensive upfront to install. Wood has a tendency to warp, split, splinter, or crack over time. Exposure to extreme temperatures causes the wood to significantly expand and contract.

Cost: Lower cost alternative than composite to install depending on the type of wood. Higher quality woods can be fairly expensive. Over the life of the deck, including the cost of yearly maintenance, natural wood is more expensive than composite or vinyl.

Composites
Advantage: Consisting of a mixture of wood fiber and plastic resin, composite decking materials offer a durable, almost maintenance free alternative to wood. These materials are also more weather and pest resistant than wood and do not warp, split or splinter. Manufacturers offer a variety of colors to mimic various natural woods and some can be painted or stained to match a specific color. As the industry matures and technology advances, product offerings closely mimic the look of natural wood. Composite is easy to work with and holds up to temperature extremes with less expansion and contraction. Most products are made from recyclable materials providing a green product alternative. Backing the durability of their products, a few quality manufactures offer 20-25 year warranties on the life of their products.

Disadvantage: Some plastics are more durable and stronger than others. Some companies use a combination of wood and polyethylene which is a stronger plastic, making the plank more rigid, similar to real wood. Other companies use wood and polypropylene which is a softer plastic, making planks springy. The percentage of wood included in the product also varies by manufacturer. Some include up to 60% and some as low as 10%. Do your homework to ensure the composite you select is made of quality materials. Installation is slightly more difficult than natural wood and often requires specialized manufacturer hardware. The strength of composites is less than wood and they cannot be refinished. While offering a similar look to wood, it is not the real thing and provides a slightly different appearance.

Cost: More expensive than wood, sometimes double the cost per square foot to install. Once the deck is installed, yearly maintenance is almost minimal. Over the lifespan of the deck, composite is less expensive than wood.

Vinyl
Advantage: Similar to composites, vinyl decking offers a durable, low maintenance product. Made exclusively from PVC, it doesn’t crack, peel, or fade over time. It provides a clean, uniform appearance that also can mimic the look of real wood. This material is available in two forms, hollow and solid, hollow PVC is strengthened by including glass or carbon fibers. Solid PVC is made from cellular PVC that is an extruded material with similar characteristics of wood and is available in a wider variety of colors.

Disadvantage: Contains no wood fiber and is made of a non-recyclable product making it a less environmentally desirable option. While made to look like wood, the overall appearance may not look similar to real natural wood. The structural strength is less than wood and some sagging can occur. At higher temperatures the product tends to expand and become brittle.

Cost: Like composite, the cost of PVC is higher than natural wood initially but with lower required maintenance over the years, the cost is lower over the lifetime of the deck.



Deck Maintenance
Deck Builders; Patio & Deck Builders; Lumber Yards; General Contractors

As a deck is fully exposed to the year round elements of nature, it requires some maintenance regardless of the material. Keeping a deck properly maintained extends its life and keeps it looking its best. In order to keep it protected throughout the year, follow these guidelines to keep your new deck looking its best.

  • Remove fallen leaves, pine cones, pine needles or other branches from the deck. Standing debris can cause standing water to remain on the deck or cause it to stain. Tree debris also contains tree sap which causes permanent staining to man-made decking.
  • Remove mildew or mold immediately.
  • During colder weather, put away pots or planters that hold excess water and can create rings or stains.
  • If snow settles on the deck, shovel the deck lengthwise. This prevents scratches and cuts being placed in the deck, sometimes formed by shoveling crosswise.

Regular cleaning removes dirt, algae, and mildew that will lead to long term problems. Review the information included below to learn how to maintain your natural wood or man-made deck.

Natural Wood
Cleaning: There are a variety of deck cleaning solutions that can be picked up at hardware or home improvement stores. Bleach is also a common product for cleaning decks to remove mold and mildew but used in too high of a concentration it can bleach the color of the wood. Make sure to test the solution on a hidden part of the deck before applying it liberally. Using a gets the job done quickly but if used with excessive pressure it can strip or cut into the deck. Maintain the pressure between 900-1000 psi and ensure the nozzle is at least 4” above the surface of the deck.

Decks

Stripping: If the deck starts to absorb water, it is time to strip it and re-seal it. Test an area of the deck by placing water on the surface. If the water remains beaded at the top, the deck still has its seal and can go a little longer before stripping. If the water absorbs into the deck, it is time for stripping and resealing.

In order to ensure the sealant adheres properly to the deck, all of the old sealant needs to be removed. Make sure the deck is properly cleaned prior to applying a stripping product. Purchase a stripping product that is specifically designed to remove the type of sealant currently on the deck. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and ensure the sealant is completely removed before continuing to the next step.

Sealant: A variety of sealants are available depending on the desired look. A sealer that fully penetrates into the wood lasts the longest and provides the greatest protection. Be sure to apply it according to manufacturer’s instructions and that it is evenly coated across the entire surface of the deck. If properly sealed, the deck will be protected for years.

Man-made (Composite and Vinyl)
Cleaning: While man-made decks do not require stripping or sealing, they do require a good cleaning once or twice a year. A good pressure wash eliminates dirt, mold, mildew, and algae. Unlike the more sensitive wood materials, composites can handle a little pressure. It is still important to maintain a distance of 4” between the nozzle and the deck as the high water pressure can cut into the planks. If some staining occurs, check with manufacturer specifications to verify what cleaning solutions work to remove certain stains. As many man-made decking materials are made from a variety of products, it is best to consult the manufacturer to determine the best way of cleaning tough stains


Deck Features
Deck Builders; Patio & Deck Builders; Lumber Yards

Consider adding a few features to your deck to make it more enjoyable. As decks provide increased living space, ensure the area is as pleasant and creative as possible.

Lighting
Accenting the deck using spotlight lighting makes it just as enjoyable at night as it is during the day. Installing LED lights into railing, posts, and stairs provides mood lighting that highlights the deck as well as makes it practical for walking at night. Using a less intrusive light to highlight the deck also draws fewer bugs to the space.

Benches
Increase the amount of seating by installing benches along the railings. Further increase their usability by making the benches storage units as well. During the summer months, pool toys, floating devices, and barbeque equipment can be stored inside these units to keep the deck and pool looking clutter free.

Outdoor Fireplace Outdoor Fireplace
Increase the ambiance of the deck by including the elegance and beauty of an outdoor fireplace. This keeps everyone warm on cooler summer nights and increases the usage during the fall and winter months. It also provides a quick and cleaner opportunity for year round Smores.


Designing a Patio
Patio Construction; Patio & Deck Builders; Patio Equipment & Supplies; Patio, Porch & Deck Covers & Enclosures; Landscape Contractors

Like a deck, a patio also offers an extension of living space. A patio however, does not require the structural foundation a deck requires and can be added directly to the land surrounding the home. Before you begin, consider the following to help design a patio that is ideal for your home.

Use of Patio
As you contemplate the size and look of your patio, think about how it will be used. Is entertaining friends and family the primary purpose or is creating a quiet, peaceful retreat a higher objective? Would you like to create an outdoor kitchen area for summer barbeques and enjoy outdoor dining? Whatever your desire, allow enough room to accommodate the objective. The biggest mistake made by do-it-yourselfers and landscape contractors is not providing adequate room for the patio. A minimum of 500-600 square feet of patio space is required to create an enjoyable space, especially if the patio includes outdoor furniture.

Decks Location of Patio
After determining the size of the patio, consider where it should be located. Like a deck, the most common placement for a patio is directly off of a room within the house. The kitchen, living room, and family room are the most popular rooms for extending a patio. Swimming pools and garden areas often have an adjacent patio area providing more room for enjoyment.

Consider the amount of sun and shade the patio receives during different hours of the day. Unless you enjoy full on sun, consideration should be made for providing quality shade. Determine if shade can be provided naturally by surrounding trees or structures. Man-made structures can also be incorporated such as awnings, umbrellas, gazebos, arbors, or pergolas. What will the view look like as you relax and enjoy time on the patio? Is it a pleasant view of the backyard or are you staring at the neighbors house? Determine the best layout for the patio and focus the direction toward the most optimal view. Perhaps it would be better to turn the direction of the patio around to look back at the house by placing a rear wall at the end of the patio. Or place a decorative water feature into the back wall and decorate it like an interior wall.

In reviewing potential locations, ask yourself if there is room for more than one patio? Many people limit their options to only one patio when a combination of spaces creates the optimal outdoor living space. Build an outdoor dining area off the kitchen and an outdoor seating area with a water feature off the family room for relaxation. Establish continuity between the two spaces by connecting them with a walk-way.

Legal Requirement
A permit requirement will depend on the area where you live. Take the time to speak with the local building department before beginning to make sure everything is in compliance. As a structural foundation is not required for a patio, some areas do not require a formal permit.

If a permit is required, a set of plans may also need to be submitted. A variety of online resources are available to help plan the design and structure of the patio. Many of the software programs can create a solid set of plans that can be used by the local building department. If using a landscaping contractor or architect, they can also provide a set of plans for the desired patio.


Patio Layout
Patio Construction; Patio & Deck Builders; Patio Equipment & Supplies; Patio, Porch & Deck Covers & Enclosures; Landscape Contractors

Once the design is determined, literally map out the space on the lawn and area around the house. Use stakes or spray paint to physically determine the space for the patio. Place any furniture, barbeques, planters, or other decorative items inside the space to determine if there is an adequate room to move around freely. It is much easier to increase or decrease in the size now, prior to any construction.

DecksIf building an outdoor kitchen is a must, map out the space for a grill, refrigerator, or sink along with the planned amount of seating. Make sure there is enough room to move from one element to another without feeling cramped. Ensure the seating is a good distance away from the grilling area to limit the amount of smoke intake. Consideration also needs to be given for any gas and water lines added to the space and incorporated into planning.



Patio Materials
Patio Construction; Patio & Deck Builders; Patio Equipment & Supplies; Patio, Porch & Deck Covers & Enclosures; Landscape Contractors

There is a variety of different materials that enhance the look of any patio. Like flooring options for the house, each one provides a distinct appearance and elegance to the space. Take the time to research the various colors and options available to determine the material that is optimal for your home. Browse online sites, magazines or showrooms to determine the look of each material on a wider canvas. Some of the more popular options include the following:

Natural StoneDecks
Natural stone is an elegant look for any patio as it complements the surrounding landscape. Slate, bluestone and fieldstone are some of the most popular stones used for patios. Installation is more difficult as thicknesses vary by stone creating an uneven surface if not accommodated for. It is also one of the more expensive materials.

Stone Veneer
Provides the look of natural stone at a less expensive price. It is lighter in weight and therefore slightly less durable than stone. As it is a manufactured stone, thicknesses are more even and therefore easier to install.

Tile
A variety of ceramic and porcelain tiles can be used outdoors. Tile provides the same indoor benefits of versatility in design and size coverage to the outdoors. Costs vary depending on the type of tile but most tiles are fairly inexpensive. If placing them in areas with freezing temperatures, make sure the tile can withstand colder temperatures.

Brick
More traditionally used for patios, brick provides a durable surface that can be laid in a variety of patterns and lasts for decades. Less expensive than stone, brick can be laid by a skilled do-it-yourselfer to further save money.

Decks Pavers
Installed similar to brick, pavers are man-made bricks that produce a more manufactured look. Pavers come in a variety of shapes and colors accommodating a variety of landscapes and finishes. This less expensive option is very common in patio designs.

Concrete
Gaining in popularity, concrete can be colored and stamped to give the look of natural stone or brick. It is a less expensive option that is very durable and weather resistant. Installation requires an extensive knowledge of concrete as it is more difficult to work with and probably should be left to the professionals. Especially when stamping designs or using color to ensure a professional looking product. Using concrete in its plain form is the least expensive option but is also less aesthetically pleasing.


Patio Maintenance
Patio Construction; Patio & Deck Builders; Patio Equipment & Supplies; Patio, Porch & Deck Covers & Enclosures; Landscape Contractors

Keeping a patio clean is as simple as sweeping it or hosing it down every few months. To remove set in dirt, clean it with a pressure washer once or twice a year. Some pavers require sealing which needs to be redone every year or two. Discuss the method and products to use with someone at a lumber yard or home improvement store. Damaged or cracked pavers, tiles, or bricks can be fixed by simply replacing the damaged area with a new piece. Depending on the degree of damage, it may require removing a few surrounding pieces as well and resealing the area.

Quickly clean up any spills that occur to avoid staining the patio surface. A mild soap can be used if the stain is particularly stubborn. Pick up and remove any items that don’t need to be on the patio long term. Standing water pools around these items can cause water rings which may become difficult to remove over time.


Patio Features
Fountains Garden, Display, Etc.; Ponds, Lakes & Water Gardens Construction; Nursery-Trees, Plants, Etc. Retail; Spas & Hot Tubs-Dealers; Patio Equipment & Supplies

Adding a few decorative and entertaining elements makes the patio living space more attractive and enjoyable. Consider these options when designing the patio to ensure enough room for their inclusion.

Water Features and Fountains
Nothing beautifies a patio more than adding a decorative water element. Ponds, fountains, and larger streams provide a creative, beautiful look while relieving stress with the sound of running water.

Flower Pots and Beds
Incorporating a few floral areas enhances the patio with a stunning dash of color and fragrance.

Decks Outdoor Fireplaces
Provide warmth on cool nights by including an outdoor fireplace. Much like a water feature, a fireplace provides a romantic elegance to cooler evenings, allowing the space to be enjoyed for longer periods of time during the year.

Hot Tubs and Spas
Create specific areas to house hot tubs and spas to help you relax after a long, stressful day. Enjoy the surrounding area and view as you unwind and relax.


 
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