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Planning a Deck? 3 Tips for Getting Started

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The long, warm days of summer are here. You may find yourself daydreaming about sitting on the deck, sipping cold drinks while you soak up the sun. If your house is lacking in this department, it’s time to start thinking about planning a deck that can turn those daydreams into reality.  

At Lambert Brothers Construction, we’ve completed our share of outdoor renovation projects and we know how important it is to plan carefully from the start. Being prepared will prevent a lot of unnecessary stress.  

Here are a few helpful tips to get you started. 

1. Plan in advance. 

Once you decide to move forward, you may picture yourself lounging on your newly built deck in a matter of weeks. But before you get too excited, you need to look into whether your project will require a permit from the city or county.  

Depending on where you live, you can find information about building and development permits for decks on the Strathcona County website or the City of Edmonton website.  

The application process can be done online, but we would highly recommend to have your contractor apply for all required permits. Before you can apply, you’ll need to have a site plan (showing the location of the deck) and design drawings that include details like measurements and elevation, and details of the structural components.  

Once you’ve submitted all the necessary information, it can take 4-10 weeks for your application to be processed. Yeah… that long. If you’re hiring a contractor, this waiting period means they’re usually booked up with deck projects for the summer by the end of May.  

But don’t let this discourage you. There’s nothing wrong with building a deck in the fall, and there are even some advantages. For one, planning a deck project well in advance will allow lots of time for making decisions on materials, deck size, added finishes such matching flower beds or planters, and or privacy screens and getting your permit.  

Also, by booking your deck for a fall build, you are likely to have more access to contractors who are winding down from the busy summer season. And when next summer rolls around, you’ll be able to maximize your deck time by using it right away. You may even consider planning and designing the deck over the course of the winter months and build it in the early spring.  

2. Decide what kind of material is best for you. 

This can be one of the more fun decisions to make when you’re planning your deck, but it’s also one of the most important. Different materials require different levels of effort when it comes to upkeep and maintenance and can vary greatly in cost. 

Wood

A wood deck is the classic option. But keep in mind that wood requires regular maintenance to keep it looking its best. These are the kind of tasks that will be on your to-do list if you don’t want your deck to deteriorate quickly: 

  • Sweeping away debris and shoveling snow  
  • Replacing rotting boards as needed 
  • Periodic sanding, staining and sealing 

More recently, the price of lumber has skyrocketed in Canada by about 300% since pre-COVID prices which means it’s no longer the budget option it once was. There are many types of wood that can be used as decking material from pressure treated lumber to cedar to more pricy tropical woods such as Brazilian walnut.  

Composites and Vinyl-Wrapped Composites 

Composites are a popular alternative to wood for building a deck. They’re usually made from recycled wood fibers and plastic.  

The newest composite products are also wrapped in vinyl. One of our favorites is Armadillo Composite Decking which you can find through building supply companies like Windsor Plywood in Sherwood Park. 

[One of our deck projects built with Armadillo vinyl wrapped composite, as featured in the Sherwood Park Windsor Plywood calendar.] 

Composite decking products can look remarkably similar to real wood. The big advantage of going this route is that they’re very low maintenance.  

  • They never need paint or stain. 
  • Simply cleaning your deck regularly — clearing away things like leaves, dirt and grease from the barbecue — will go a long way towards keeping it looking like new.  

Aluminum 

By far the most durable decking material, aluminum is also the most expensive. Aluminum may not be a material you’ve considered, but it has a long list of attributes that make it a great choice. 

It’s is ultra-low maintenance, super long-lasting, non-skid, water resistant, recyclable and remains cool to the touch on hot days.  

As great as this material is for your deck, there are some drawbacks.   

  • More expensive than PVC, composite, cedar, PT lumber and most hardwood deck material 
  • Available in a limited number of colors – 3 to 6 from most manufacturers 
  • Cutting the aluminum is difficult, and a carbide-tipped non-ferrous saw blade is required 
  • Poorly installed aluminum decking might squeak
  • Poorly coated or worn aluminum decking can be noisy when walked on 

Source: Deck Cost Guide

3. Consider how much you want to spend on your deck. 

Obviously, the materials you choose for your deck will play a big part in determining the cost of your project. But you also want to calculate the cost of extra materials that might be required for railings and stairs. And which type of railing materials to use, Aluminum, wood, composite, or combinations of materials.  

Another factor will be if you build the deck yourself or hire a contractor. Even if you consider yourself a handy person, decks are an extension of your house and need to follow specific regulations, codes and be structurally sound. It’s best to leave such a large project to the experts if you have limited building experience. 

Here are some general guidelines that will give you a better idea of costs as you weigh your options: 

  • A composite deck with aluminum railing will cost $100- $200 per square foot to complete (usually around $125 per square foot). Extra framing is needed for composites and we highly recommend using 12’’ joist spacing verse 16’’ spacing  
  • An all-wood deck with wood railing will cost about $75 per square foot. 
  • Stairs are also a big factor in the cost of the overall project. A simple stair case is relatively inexpensive compared to a wraparound stair case.  
  • Pergolas, sunscreens, and wind screens should also be considered. All added touches to make the space your own, you will also need to add this to your budget.  

Get expert help with planning your deck. 

Designing and building a deck is a major undertaking for most homeowners.  

If you don’t want to tackle your deck project on your own, Lambert Brothers Construction is here to help. We’re experienced with a variety of custom outdoor projects and our design and building experts will help you make the deck of your (day)dreams a reality. 

Contact us to talk about your options, request a quote or to schedule a complimentary in-person site visit for your upcoming deck project.