Upgrading the Deck

Check out these helpful tips when you starting thinking of a professional upgrade.

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Homebuyers want upgrades and are willing to pay for them. In fact, many homebuyers look for builders that provide an extensive selection of upgrade options ranging from granite countertops to red-cedar decking. And builders who turn their backs on these upgrade requests are missing out on opportunities to increase profits and customer satisfaction.

So what upgrades resonate with today's buyers? Among the most popular are outdoor living spaces: sitting areas, covered dining rooms and full kitchens, complete with aesthetic add-ons such as window boxes and built-in seating.

"There are many opportunities to upgrade outdoor living spaces," says Peter Lang, general manager of the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association. "A standard-model patio slab can be upgraded by offering an all-natural deck made from western red cedar, as well as upgrades such as matching furniture and built-in seating."

Here are a few considerations to remember when offering outdoor living space upgrades to your prospective buyers:

Decking materials. Make a seamless transition between indoors and outdoors by incorporating a decking material that seems to be an extension of the room inside. The right material selection is crucial, however.

"Many people choose western red cedar due to its aesthetic appeal and physical properties," says Lang. "For centuries, cedar has been known for its exceptional beauty, versatility and longevity."

While a number of imitation wood products have hit the market in recent years, all-natural western red cedar remains an affordable decking option. Naturally durable woods are cost competitive with nonwood alternatives and offer a timeless beauty not found in composite or plastic materials, according to Lang.

Layout. Consider offering different sizes and layout packages. Many homebuyers like larger decks; others prefer a more intimate setting.

One option is to offer different modular decking "areas" based on their uses – a grilling area, hot tub area or perhaps a sitting area – then plugging in each module the homeowner chooses. You may want to give each area its own level; a few steps up or down gives the illusion of expansiveness and privacy — factors many homebuyers want and appreciate.

Built-in decorating. Built-in furniture adds both style and function to outdoor living spaces. A bench along a stretch of deck with an unobstructed view is particularly pleasant.

A popular way to "decorate" a deck is to vary the board direction; an angle change or unique pattern provides subtle visual interest. "Many homebuyers request distinctive board designs lately," says Tim Meisch, owner of Custom Cedar Decks in Mill Creek, Wash. "One of the most requested is an octagon inlay underneath a cedar table. People often mistake it for a decorative rug."

Adding cedar planter boxes incorporates nature into the deck's decor. Filled with colorful flowers, herbs or even vegetables, these boxes are simple to build and really can dress up the outdoor living space. Such decoration-enhancing projects can be outsourced to subcontractors to maximize time and profitability.

A few stylish outdoor-living enhancements add to the overall appeal of the outdoor living space. Even more important to builders, they also make the home more memorable than the competition's.

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