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New-and-improved decks offer a room outside

Maryellen Fillo The Hartford Courant

If you are one of the millions of homeowners deciding what to do next to enhance your home, experts agree it may be time to look out the window and consider “decking out” the outdoors.

Adding a deck is considered one of the most functional, financially feasible and prettiest investments a homeowner can make these days, and choices of deck materials have increased.

It is a trend that has “absolutely grown in popularity the last few years,” says A.J. Lomax, who owns Archadeck, a Berlin, Conn., franchise that specializes in custom decks, porches and sunrooms. “People are staying put in their homes because it has become too expensive to replace what they have. So they are adding on by going outside.”

Paul Smith, owner of Deck Specialists in Manchester, Conn., says business began increasing about five years ago, when interest rates began to drop and people were re-mortgaging or taking home-equity loans to fix up their residences. That, combined with the post-9/11 desire to spend more time at home, fueled interest in making the best of one’s abode, inside and out.

“Families want to spend more time together, they want to be outside, and they want to do something to their home that is measurable in terms of adding space and making it look nicer,” Smith said. “A deck fits all those criteria.”

A new wave of synthetic and laminate materials has eliminated some of the drudgery once associated with decks. Homeowners are no longer limited to the high-maintenance, pressure-treated, raised pine rectangles that were the standard when decks began popping up years ago. Today’s materials include exotic woods, plastic and vinyl, as well as new, safer, pressure-treated woods. .

“It’s all about the easy maintenance,” no rotting floorboards, no staining, says Mark Gluhosky, branch manager of Kamco Supply Corp., a commercial and residential supplier with four stores in Connecticut. “Many of the new materials are made of recycled plastics, so they are environmentally friendly.” And you don’t get splinters.

Those conveniences come at a cost, though. A pressure-wood deck will cost an average of $22 to $25 a square foot. The synthetic deck products can cost an average of $35 and up per square foot.

“For us, it was worth it,” says Jessica Martin, whose family recently added a 20-foot-square vinyl-and-plastic-blend stepped deck, manufactured to look like stained redwood, to their home. Martin says she can’t wait for warmer weather so she can take full advantage of the new space.

“It will be a great place to entertain,” she said.

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