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With spring in full swing and the weather beginning to warm up, there’s nothing quite like a deck for cooking out, entertaining, or simply relaxing. “In addition to boosting outdoor living space, a deck can be an asset when you sell your home. Plus, decks add living space at a fraction of the cost of a fully enclosed living area,” said Scott Cline, owner of J&B Construction, serving southeastern Wisconsin homeowners since 1958 as a provider of high-quality exterior home improvement products and services.

“Planning a successful deck requires careful consideration of your site, your budget, and the features you should – or shouldn’t – include,” Cline said. The following are planning priorities to keep in mind.

Location site and size are first. Since your deck will likely be popular place, you should give careful consideration to its location. Begin by determining how you will access the deck from the house. The convenient back door that leads into the kitchen probably won’t do the job; it will funnel traffic toward the cooking area, causing difficulties for any large-group entertaining. “A better solution is a French door or slider that gives primary access from a living room, dining room, or family room while being handy to the kitchen,” said Cline. “If the doorway can also be positioned to offer an expansive view, all the better.”

It’s also important to make sure the deck neither swamps your yard, nor becomes lost in it. “Your local codes may set standards for how much of your lot can be occupied by a deck, and how close a deck can be to your lot line,” he said. “You’ll want to check these limitations early in your planning with your city or county building department.”

Other decisions that need to be made regarding location include where to place stairways off the deck so they provide unobtrusive access to the backyard. Also consider the path of the sun and the location of shade trees; sunlight may be pleasant in the morning but unbearable later in the day – having a shade tree to the west of your deck will help block the harsh late-day sun. Work out how to preserve your privacy and how to screen your deck from prevailing winds.

Next, you’ll want to think local. “To recoup a good portion of your investment, your deck needs to be right for your market,” explained Cline. A simple solution is to check out other decks in your area. “You don’t want to make it too extreme compared to what’s typical in your market, but you definitely don’t want to make it less than what is expected,” he said. “It’s also important to obey local codes so you may want to consider scheduling a home inspection. Codes exist not just to preserve property values, but they promote safety. For instance, railing balusters spaced too far apart can constitute a falling hazard for small children. In addition, a deck inadequately attached to the house can collapse. So get a permit from your building department and follow their requirements.”

Finally, looks count, so give thought to how the deck will meld with the home’s architecture. “Railings offer a good opportunity to pull in color and detail that complements your home,” said Cline. “Consider how the deck fits in with your backyard; it should make a smooth transition from the house to the landscape.”