Homes With Heart – Heather Coombs-Perez

For most of us, this year’s Fourth of July celebrations will no doubt involve a summer barbeque with friends, lounging poolside, or sitting out in the backyard on a patio or deck in the sunshine. If a deck is just your style, here are some things you should consider in order to make your outdoor living space an inviting and comfortable place for guests to sit back and relax.

What kind of material do you want to use?
There are essentially two types of materials—natural wood and composites—that can be used many ways in order to get the look you want.

Natural wood decks have a beauty unmatched by other materials, but require significant maintenance and upkeep to keep them looking their best. Generally, wood decks are made from Western Red Cedar, Iron Woods (IPE), Mahogany or pressure treated woods such as Pine.

Pressure treated wood is the cheapest and heaviest way to build a deck, and requires the application of a sealant every year to reduce moisture damage.

Cedar decking has a nice reddish tone but requires you to “go the extra mile” to keep it looking great. Annual washing is required, but unlike pressure treated wood, never use a pressure washer to clean it.

IPE is strong and durable and is less likely to splinter for many years. It has a 25-year warranty and is a good alternative to composite decks.

Mahogany decking is expensive, but very beautiful. It can be easily stained and is incredibly hard and durable. If left untreated it will weather to a silver-gray, but applying a clear coat preservative on a regular basis should keep the rich color intact.

Composite decking materials are a mixture of wood and plastic and come in a variety of colors and grains. Recently, a newer type of synthetic decking made of a type of plastic called resin is being used, as it is lightweight and extremely durable.

All synthetic decks require less upkeep than a traditional wood deck, but can be anywhere from 2-5 times more expensive. Some of the most common composite decks are Trex, TimberTech, Azek and EverGrain. Composite decks don’t crack, rot or split, are slip resistant, and are not damaged by sun, rain or insects.

How big do you need your deck to be?
A very important part of deck design is figuring out how much space you need. You don’t want the deck to overpower your yard, but it has to be big enough to accomplish what it’s meant to do. If you want to barbeque and eat outdoors, the deck should comfortably accommodate a table and chairs, with room for people to walk around when the chairs are pulled out. If you want to create a spacious outdoor seating area, you need to decide what kind of furniture to include. Do you want a large comfortable couch with ottomans and side tables, or a more simple selection of outdoor chairs and small tables? You also have to determine if you want the deck to be covered or not. Adding a pergola can significantly increase the cost of the deck, and may be subject to different permits or building code restrictions.

What kind of deck design do you want?
The design of your deck is only limited by your (or your designer’s) imagination. Traditionally decks have been rectangular or octagonal, but sweeping curves, peanut shapes or multi-level decks are all possibilities. To keep a deck flowing openly from one level to another, use wide-open stairways. To create a more sectional feel, employ the use of railings, or other natural features such as large boulders, shrubs and trees imbedded into the deck design, to delineate the space. Hot tubs or pools can be surrounded or bordered by the deck creating a seamless and connected feel to those landscape features.

Enjoy your Independence Day celebration! If you’d like more information on how decks and outdoor features can increase your home’s value, or for a real estate consultation, contact me at 310-259-7419 or email [email protected]. You can also visit our website at

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