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Decks and Patios

Learn how to improve a home's value with a new deck or patio.

Decks and patios add more living space to a home -- and add value when it's time to sell. [© Jupiter Images, 2009]
© Jupiter Images, 2009
Decks and patios add more living space to a home -- and add value when it's time to sell.

Outdoor living spaces, such as decks and patios, are a cost-effective way to add value to a home. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, wood decks have an almost dollar-for-dollar return. Homeowners can expect to recover 85 percent of the cost to build the deck when the home sells. In comparison, bathroom remodels usually recoup about 78 percent of their cost and family room additions recover about 69 percent. Additionally, homeowners can complete some deck and patio projects in a single weekend without professional assistance. Decks and patios often serve as spaces for entertaining, dining and relaxation, especially when outfitted with a grill, furniture and even a hot tub.

Decks versus Patios

When deciding between installing a deck and a patio, the homeowner must consider local building codes, the intended use of the space and the lot's terrain. Building codes may limit the homeowner to one option or the other. Homeowners should not assume that because their neighbors have a deck or patio, they don't need to call their municipality's code enforcement office to double check local building codes.

If the homeowner is planning to install a hot tub, a deck might not be the best option. Patios are more durable than decks and don't have the same weight-bearing concerns. However, a concrete patio for a large hot tub may require more reinforcing. A deck can be constructed to compensate for heavier weights, but it probably will not have the same aesthetic appeal as a deck without the reinforcements.

Finally, a patio requires flat ground, which is not found on every lot. Excavating to provide a site for a patio can be an expensive endeavor, whereas decks can easily accommodate a sloping terrain. Homeowners should also take into account the climate when deciding between a deck and a patio. Raised decks more readily accumulate ice and can be extremely slippery in winter.

Building Permits

Before beginning a deck or patio project, HGTV recommends checking local building codes and obtaining a building permit. Homeowners should also find out if they will be building near any underground utility lines. Building permits are typically required for decks and patios, regardless of who will be doing the installation -- a professional or the homeowner.

Typically, municipalities require homeowners to submit copies of the plat survey and construction plans. An inspector will likely view the site during specific intervals of the project's progress to ensure all codes are being followed. In addition to requiring a building permit, the municipality will set standards for the project, including:

• Minimum diameter for the deck's piers
• Specifications for mounting the deck's poles
• Minimum height for the deck's railing
• Size of the deck or patio
• Location of the deck or patio

Types of Decks

Decks vary by intended use and construction material. Wood decks are the most traditional choice. They are versatile in their design and homeowners have the option of painting or staining them to fit their personal taste and the exterior of the home. Wood decks do require a certain amount of maintenance, such as re-staining. Vinyl decks do not require any maintenance and are extremely durable. The homeowner selects the color from the manufacturer, and the deck is installed similarly to a wood deck. Composite decks are made from a wood and polymer mixture and are also very durable. Vinyl and composite decks have the advantage of not causing splinters.

Most decks are installed next to the home, but above-ground pool decks can be placed nearly anywhere in a yard. These decks are used in conjunction with an above-ground swimming pool, and provide easy access and stability to the pool.

Types of Patios

Patios are typically constructed from tile, stone, brick or concrete. Stamped concrete patios are extremely versatile, and can often mimic more expensive stone patios at a fraction of the cost. The material of the patio determines its texture and sometimes its color. Homeowners can combine materials and colors to create patterns within a patio. This type of outdoor living space can be a geometric shape or a custom shape that complements the existing landscaping.

Ideas for Decks & Patios

Homeowners can easily modify their existing deck or patio to increase the outdoor living space's value. A pergola can be added to either a deck or patio to create a tropical atmosphere, and a traditional overhang can provide protection from the elements and spice up a drab patio. Built-in furniture, such as a bench and ottoman, can easily be added into a deck's construction. Adding a built-in grill surrounded by a countertop is a popular patio option for homeowners who do a lot of outdoor cooking. Homeowners can add dimension to their outdoor living space by installing small decks or patios for sitting near a garden or other feature located further into the yard.

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