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Expert builders share their top tips for designing outdoor living spaces

Stepfanie Romine
for Mans Lumber and Millwork

It used to be that decks were a modest place to grill out, and a way to get from your home to your yard. But, homeowners have discovered that decks can be so much more than that.

“Nowadays it’s basically outdoor living space — it’s not just a deck anymore,” said Mike Esper, owner of MGE Carpentry and He installs decks, porches and covered or screened outdoor spaces designed for fire pits, outdoor grilling (and outdoor kitchens), storage, hot tubs and more, often using Trex composite decking from Mans Lumber & Millwork, Michigan’s Number one Trex dealer.

“Decks can be used for just about anything,” said Esper, who’s based in Oakland County and builds decks across Michigan. “And there’s nothing like being outside on your deck, in your hot tub, watching the snow fall.”

He said that adding a deck allows you to use your outdoor space year-round, and — even more important down the line — it helps the resale value for your home.

Ready to build your dream deck to turn your backyard into an outdoor living room? Here’s what you need to know, according to the experts.

There’s no “best” time to build a deck. If you’re staring out at your yard in the middle of winter, wishing you had put in that deck last year, you’re in luck. Your deck doesn’t have to wait until spring or summer. “We build year-round, but we really pick up in February, March and April,” said Keith Hay of Livonia-based Woodcraft Design & Build, a TrexPro® Platinum Contractor. “Right now, decks are in big demand.”

But do plan ahead so your deck is ready when you want to use it. Builders commonly get calls around Memorial Day weekend asking for a new outdoor living space in time for Fourth of July. Though Hay and Esper work year-round — and they can usually have your deck completed in a matter of days — they are often booked out for at least a few weeks. “If you want a deck for next spring, buy it this fall,” recommended Esper. He added that, since he works with Mans Lumber, ordering supplies and ensuring they’re ready on time is a breeze. “Mostly everything is in stock — or they can have it in hands within hours,” he said.

It’s not one size fits all — choose the deck that’s right for you. Whether you’re looking to add a modest 200-square-foot deck or one that’s 10 times that size, builders like Hay and Esper will work with you to find the right outdoor living option. And, whether your home is a new build or has a history, they can create a composite deck that will match your home’s unique style. You can spend as little as $5,000, up to $100,000 or more — and the team at Mans can help get you set up with a free estimate, complete with in-home measurements.

The custom options don’t stop there, so get creative. Hay said that your lot doesn’t need to be perfectly level, linear or large — he actually specializes in curved decks to take better advantage of the space you have to create an eye-catching, timeless space. And, he added, “this ensures your deck is not the same one that the neighbor has.” The Trex system allows him to customize as needed. “Mans is a great partner — we’ve always got backing from them anytime we need something,” he said.

Choose composite decks for less upkeep and a longer life. Worried about the upkeep of restaining and sealing your deck? That’s a thing of the past, thanks to composite decking. It provides the classic look of wood, without the maintenance. “New composite decks are pretty much maintenance-free,” said Esper. “You just wash them and that’s it.” Trex is a unique combination of reclaimed or recycled wood and plastic fibers, which offers a “green” option that doesn’t twist, wrap or crack over time like wood can. And, it comes in all types of stain colors. Hay added that while wood decks need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, Trex decks come with a 25-year warranty. “We do about 95% composite decks now,” he said.

You can browse before you buy — and get free in-home estimates. If you’d like to get an idea of what types of composite decks might be a good fit for your home, Hay recommends visiting Mans as a first step. They have beautiful and creative displays right in the store, and they can help get you set up with a builder, who will then provide a free estimate and design consultation.

Ready to start building your dream deck? Don’t wait until the first warm day. For more information, contact Mans Lumber & Millwork, who can help you design your ideal outdoor living space.
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