Redwood is a good insect resistant material for decks, by James Dulley

Dear James: My kids are getting older and a backyard patio would be great. I’m on a budget and want to build it myself, but have no idea where to start. Any tips? — Mary S.

Dear Maria: The addition of a patio, usually next to a sliding glass door, is one of the most common home improvement projects. It can add a lot of resale value to your home, even if you pay to have someone build it. If you build it yourself and only have material costs, the return on investment is huge.

Building a deck yourself is not a very technical project, so most people can handle it. The hardest part will be carrying and handling the heavy and bulky materials. Before you do anything, you need to plan your deck first. Think of the dimensions, choice of materials, built-in benches and tables, etc.

Most deck designs are simple and you can make it as complicated or simple as you want. This project does not require a master carpenter; as long as you can handle a hammer and a level, your deck will be done in no time.

Using pressure-treated lumber for all structural members – ledger boards, joists, beams, etc. – ensures that your deck will last. You don’t even have to paint or stain the wood unless you go for a color that matches your home. Most wood will age nicely to a gray color.

Using a unique wood for the railings and deck is a good idea. It’s actually easier to build with wood like redwood than pressure-treated pine. Using redwood can make your patio look spectacular. Redwood is lighter and easier to handle than pressure treated wood. It is also easier to saw.

One disadvantage of redwood is that it is more expensive, but you can cut costs by selecting the right quality. There are many varieties of redwoods that cost less than whole-hearted bright redwoods. Buying one of these lesser heartwoods still offers resistance to decay and insects.

Try to save space in your budget for stainless steel nails, especially when using redwood. Stainless steel nails eliminate future stains. A cheaper option is hot dip galvanized nails, but you can still get some rust and stains from these.

The location of your patio plays an important role in the planning process. Many factors, including what the patio will be used for, air currents, compatibility with your existing home, desired amount of sunlight, privacy and views, will affect the optimal location.

How your deck will be used will determine what type of accessories you should add to your deck. Elements to consider include how many people will usually be on the deck and whether you will be sunbathing on it or using it primarily for entertainment. Benches, tables and even a built-in barbecue can be great additions to consider during the planning phase.

Build your deck from the ground surface, just inches or many feet above it. Your terrace can be detached or connected to your house. Check your local building requirements before making any wood or hardware purchases. There may be certain restrictions in your area that you are not aware of.

Send your inquiries to Here’s How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, Ohio, 45244 or visit Visit the Creators Syndicate website at to learn more about James Dulley and read articles from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists.

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