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Let's Talk Decks

Posted on Sep 3, 2020 in:
  • Remodel
  • Seattle Times HomeWork
  • Maintain
  • Homeowners

Deck looking out onto a forest

Q: With COVID-19, I've been working from home and eyeing the backyard. I think it might be a great time to put in a deck. What do I need to know before I get started?

A: It's that time of year when Northwest homeowners like to get outside. A deck is a great way to extend your entertainment space into your yard.

A new deck can increase the value and curb appeal of your home while offering an attractive venue for outdoor gatherings. Luckily, decks can be built by anyone with basic carpentry skills and the right tools, though the higher and more complex the design, the more skill—and expert advice—you'll need.

When planning your new deck, you'll need to answer a few basic questions up front. Do you need a building permit? Will you be entertaining large groups? Do you want added privacy? Once you've gotten the basics out of the way, it's time to decide what kind of decking material you want to use: Composite or wood.


Composite is the most advanced and popular decking material on the market. Composite decking is made from wood and recycled plastic fibers, and it comes in a variety of colors and textures that mimic real wood. Most composite products come with a warranty of up to 30 years, and design options are almost endless. Though it's a little more expensive than wood, composite does not need staining or the same annual maintenance as a wood deck. Popular brands include Trex and TimberTech.


Decking made from cedar is an affordable option and will hold up well in our wet Northwest climate. Cedar is a common, beautiful, and stable material, resistant to rot, decay, and insects. It's also easy to install.

For a truly unique appearance and exceptional durability, check out some exotic hardwood options, such as mahogany or ipe. They're significantly more expensive than cedar, but are excellent products that hold up well over time.


Now that you know what decking materials you want to use, it's time to select railing and accessories. The first thing people will notice about your deck is the railing, so be creative and select railings that complement your home and overall design. By combining different styles, posts, balusters, lengths, and types of railing, you can create a system that suits your taste. Just keep in mind that while railings greatly influence the overall appearance of a finished deck, their primary purpose is to provide functionality and safety.

Cable railing systems like Feeney Cable are very popular and can create a distinctive look for the deck, without blocking your view. These and are made from high-strength, low-maintenance steel cables that are weather resistant and very secure.


Now it's time to add some aesthetic flavor. Decking accessories such as lighting, post caps, built-in benches, and privacy screens can give your deck the finished look you want. The sky's the limit.

When you've selected your materials and accessories, you're ready to start your new deck project. Contact a lumber store specializing in decks and have a conversation with a deck expert. They can help you design a deck to your specifications, select your products, and introduce you to a professional contractor if you don't already have one.


Nancy Cranston is the marketing director at Parr Lumber, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling, or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of MBAKS’ more than 2,600 members, write to

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