Unless you have more cash than you know what to do with, you should probably begin your deck creation or renovation project by establishing a budget.
Next, schedule a few meetings with professional contractors to find out what they can do for you. In the long run, it might be cheaper to hire someone because they can get materials at cost and have contacts with other professionals who might be necessary down the line, like electricians and gas technicians. Plus, they can handle all that pesky permit business themselves. Of course, check references and make sure to pick a reputable contractor before handing over your deposit. It's also prudent to insist on a warrantee of some kind to ensure the quality of the work. Most contractors offer a one- year guarantee, but make sure to get it in writing.
Then, create a "wish list" for items and features you want to include, based on your personal needs. Here are a few general ideas to get you going:
- For the general deck user: built-in grill with storage, fireplace or fire pit, and extra seating for family get-togethers.
- For the big-time entertainer: surround sound, outdoor bar, fire pit or fireplace and mood lighting.
- For the casual deck user: screened enclosure, Jacuzzi or hot tub, ceiling fan and Zen-like indoor/outdoor furniture to enhance a restful mood.
Be sure to consider your area's general weather before proceeding. Decks in warmer climates aren't likely to require extra heating, for example, but might benefit from a screened enclosure to keep mosquitoes from ruining the fun.
Once your deck is established, decorate the area to suit your taste. Outdoor furniture and potted plants are especially good for adding color and influencing the atmosphere to fit your general needs.