When planning an outdoor project like a deck, additional dwelling unit, home office or even treehouse, review local building codes before hammering a single nail. Jim Dulley, a mechanical engineer and energy efficiency author, warns against cutting any corners that might affect the long-term safety of your project.
For decks and other outdoor projects, Dulley recommends composite decking material like Trex because it will hold up longer to the elements and require less maintenance. “It’s easy to work with, exactly like you would with wood,” Dulley says. For homeowners in warmer climates, consider a lighter color of material or alternate polymer brands like TimberTech Azek to limit the heat given off in the summer. “Composite is very dense so it will hold the heat, and it can hurt on bare feet.”
Dulley recommends plenty of planning before starting assembly of your project. “Cut the pieces out and lay it out first. Even if you’ve done a few of these, you’re not a professional, and you might forget about some essential pieces,” he says. Wearing safety glasses and an N95 mask or respirator is also essential for cutting wood, stone or composite material. “The silica in stone and the sawdust from sanding can be just as bad as asbestos for your lungs,” Dulley says.
If you’re trying to illuminate an outdoor space, Dulley recommends low-voltage LEDs for safety and longevity. “Some people don’t dig deep enough to run their wiring, and if they later end up shoveling somewhere and cut through it, it can be quite a shock,” he says. LED lighting uses lower voltage so any accident will have less-serious consequences.
If any project is outside your DIY wheelhouse, HomeAdvisor’s Mischa Fisher advises hiring a competent contractor. “The first, second and third piece of advice is make sure you get a really good pro,” he says. “If a pro charges 20 percent more but you get double the life span out of your project, you’ve now halved the cost of your project.”
Composite deck material like Trex can add decades to the life of your outdoor living spaces.