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Article Published April 6, 2017

Decks, Pergolas, Gazebos, and Porches

Jason Marchi, Correspondent

Soak up the sun, recline with a book, watch the kids playing in the backyard—decks, gazebos, and porches make perfect perches for these and a number of other warm season activities. If you are thinking of replacing a decaying deck or aging porch—or adding one on to your home—now is the time to plan and schedule.

As with any construction or renovation project, your dream outdoor space needs to be designed with both your budget and your expectations in mind.

Decks

To renovate an existing deck that has seen better days, a contractor like Chris Healy of Shoreline Deck Company in Guilford will start by doing a thorough evaluation of the existing deck framing.

If you are replacing a rotting and splintering natural wood deck with maintenance-free man-made composite materials like Trex or Azek, you want to make sure the framing below will hold up to these heavier products to protect your investment.

"If the existing deck framing is in good shape, it costs little to bring that framing up to code," said Healy, "which includes checking how the posts are attached to the footings, the installation of joist hangers if there aren't any, and making sure the ledger board is properly attached to the house. Bringing the existing framing up to code can cost as little as a $100 in extra hardware."

The deck surfacing material is also something to consider carefully and discuss with your contractor. While a natural product like wood, according to Healy, is the lightest material to put over the deck framing, wood has weathering and maintenance characteristics that durable man-made materials do not.

Besides issues of durability and care, the design and over-all look of your deck should be discussed. While many homeowners will have heard about such popular decking products at Trex and Azek, someone building a high-end deck might lean toward what are termed "enhanced composites" or "high-end composites." These decking materials give the homeowner a bigger range of color and hue choices to more closely simulate the look of natural wood species and give a superior look to the surface grain.

Three- and Four-Season Rooms

A similar approach applies to adding a three or four season room to your home, or a stand-alone outbuilding like a gazebo.

"First we determine the homeowner's budget," said Jason Digiandomenico, production manager at Building Concepts in Branford, "and we ask the customer if they see themselves using the room addition for three seasons or year-round."

Prices will vary when building a three-season room verses four-season, and Digiandomenico noted that many people who end up building a three-season porch or porch enclosure end up wanting to upgrade to a four-season solarium, sunroom, loggia, or conservatory. The structure options that Building Concepts provides allow for later upgrades.

The four-season room also becomes a logical choice if you want to maximize its use to justify the expense of adding the room in the first place. Four-season rooms can also be designed to function as porches in the summer, while becoming energy-efficient, cozy, heated enclosures during the coldest of the winter months.

Roof lines also need to be considered when adding a porch or four season room, so that the architectural lines of the room addition are in keeping with the existing house.

The choice of building materials vary too, according to Digiandomenico. When a customer prefers a glass ceiling for a sunroom, various materials can be used including aluminum, vinyl, wood, or a combination of those materials to provide structural support for a glass roof while also addressing the homeowner's aesthetics and maintenance concerns.

If you are thinking of yard enhancement other than decks and sunrooms, companies like Carefree Small Buildings of Clinton specialize in providing such yard enhancements as picnic tables, gazebos, swings, gliders, pool cabanas, gazebos, pergolas, and playhouses.

Most of Carefree's buildings are manufactured on a custom built basis and homeowners are able to create exactly what they want rather than be forced to live with look-alike cookie cutter structures. Carefree offers onsite construction or they will build your desired structure offsite in its warehouse, and then truck the finished product to your yard for quickest install.

Expanding in Stages

When it comes to balancing budget and desire, it's advisable to discuss building your dream outdoor oasis in stages—a new deck this year, a pergola next year, a sunroom the year after that. Based upon your annual budget, a larger backyard oasis can be planned and constructed in stages until your ideal yardscape is realized.

Think about what you want and expect from your outdoor spaces and discuss them fully with the contractors you solicit for estimates.

After you settle on your design, are happy with the price, and sign the construction contract, let your dream yardscape be shaped into reality. Then kick back and enjoy years of fun and relaxation.