MARQUETTE - If it's time to think about making some improvements or additions to your home, outside may be the best place to get started.
Exterior additions and improvements are high on homeowner's lists, according to the Better Homes and Gardens 2011 Consumer Preference Survey.
Among the top ranking features people want in their next homes are decks or patios (84 percent), and low-maintenance exteriors (79 percent). When it comes to the top ranking living spaces people want, outdoor grilling or living areas come in at 67 percent.
Tim Prisk, owner of Timber Ridge Construction, takes some measurements on a deck in progress at a home on Marquette County Road 492 in Marquette Wednesday. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
The planning experts at Fiberon, makers of innovative composite decking, railing and fencing products, have some tips to help you plan the perfect outdoor oasis.
They suggest first defining the space for your project.
An outdoor room could be the entire yard, or just a small part of it. Think about it having walls, a ceiling and flooring, just like an indoor room. Use your outdoor room any time of day by planning a place to cook and eat.
Walls are vertical elements that help define a space, such as hedges, trees, lattice screens, raised garden beds, railings, a gazebo or fence to frame your space. Ceilings provide shelter and shade. Think of awnings, umbrellas and pergolas. Or use what's naturally there, like the branches of a shade tree.
Flooring could be the existing lawn, a mulched pathway or a created floor such as a concrete or flagstone patio, or deck.
Once you know where your oasis is, it's time to figure out what needs to go in it.
Tim Prisk, owner of Timber Ridge Construction in Marquette, said decks are very popular in the local area.
"That's a big part of our business," Prisk said.
Contractors said there are several things to remember when considering building a deck or patio.
"The most important thing is that it's built to code, attached properly and flashed properly," Prisk said.
Greg Basal, owner of Big Creek Builders in Harvey, said there are several laws that are newer about steps, involving measurement intervals, that are important to know about. He said putting a skirtboard on the deck allows shoveling in the winter without damaging siding or the house.
The Fiberon experts said a low-maintenance composite deck adds versatility and beauty that you can customize to meet just about any need. And it can pay, off, too. Composite deck additions are among the projects that recoup the most of their cost upon home resale, according to the Remodeling Magazine 2009-10 Cost vs. Value Report.
Basal agreed composite deck materials are a good choice. He said this can be especially important based on the location of the deck.
"If it's in a real sunny side of the house, go with new composite decking, pay the extra money," Basal said. "The sun really wreaks havoc on wooden decks."
Basal said composite decks cost about a third more, but the recycled plastic materials won't scratch easily, which can be important if you're using a snowblower or shovel to clear the deck.
In shady areas, Basal said wooden decks are fine, but they need to be maintained properly.
When planning a deck, don't make the mistake of building one that's too small. Mark the area you want to use, then put your outdoor furniture in it to see if you have the space you need. Use an online planning tool to explore designs, materials, colors and accessories.
"Get as much space out of it as you can," Prisk said. "It doesn't cost that much to build a bigger deck."
Finally, experts remind those considering projects to be sure to check on local building codes and permits needed before starting any construction.