So You Want To Build A Deck? What You Need To Know Before You Begin Construction

A backyard deck provides a great place to enjoy the outdoors hosting summer parties or simply relaxing on lawn chairs. Adding a deck to your home increases your living space and makes your yard more visually appealing. In addition, building a deck is a good investment because the structure can help you increase your property value. If you are in the beginning stages of planning to construct a deck, there are some things you should know before hiring a contractor to build the structure.

Choose the Deck Materials

The type of materials you choose to construct your deck will vary based on your budget, aesthetic preferences and how long you plan to live in your current home.

For a traditional deck, you can choose from a variety of softwoods and hardwoods such as cedar, ipé, mahogany and pressure-treated pine. For a deck made of premium wood, choose redwood, a material unmatched in its beauty but that is expensive and harder to come by the further you live from its source, the West Coast.

If you want the look of mahogany or redwood but can only afford pine, you can purchase color-infused pine that resembles the hues of more expensive woods.

The downside of using wood is that it can be more expensive to maintain than man-made deck materials such as composites made of recycled plastic and PVC. Composite materials are not as vulnerable to pests, are decay-resistant and will not expand or contract as much over time. However, while composites require less maintenance then natural materials, they do not provide the natural beauty of wood.

You can combine using wood and composites by using the natural materials for the deck's trim and railings and composites for the deck floor. The contractor you hire to help you build your desk should be able to provide you with list of quotes based on the type of materials you choose to construct your deck.

Take into Account Permit Laws and Municipal Requirements

After you solidify your deck plans with your contractor, you need to make sure that the structure meets local zoning laws and, if necessary, apply for a building permit. Your town's zoning department will provide you with the details on local regulations for constructing residential decks.

Depending on the type of deck you build, you may not need a permit. For example, in Pittsburgh, an uncovered deck that is no higher than 30 inches off the ground does not require a permit. In other places, if you build a roof over the structure, it is no longer considered a deck but a residential addition and requires another type of permit.

When you apply for a permit, you will be required to submit information and documents such as the following:

  • The name and license number of your contractor
  • The cost estimate for the deck
  • Construction plans and specifications for the deck

Some municipalities also require homeowners to submit a survey of the property. After construction of the deck is complete, you may need to have a municipal inspector examine the structure to make sure it meets city regulations.


As your deck ages, you will need to perform maintenance on the structure. You can purchase the materials needed for DIY repairs from building supply retailers or, if you prefer, hire a contractor to perform the repairs.

Common maintenance tasks for decks include the following:

  • Removing and replacing decayed or defective wood
  • Replacing corroded nails and other types of fasteners
  • Fixing loose railings and stair steps
  • Removing mildew and reapplying sealant to keep wood waterproof and mildew-resistant

If you decide to build an addition to your deck or tear it down and replace it with a new one, you may have to go through the permit process again. Check with your municipal government before making any major additions or building a new deck to replace one that is beyond repair.

For more information about deck building or building materials in general, talk with different local companies and contractors, such as those at Hanover Concrete Company.