Adding a deck to your home can provide a large return on your investment and enrich your quality of life. Decks combine the comfort of indoors with the leisure and beauty of the outdoors — and they provide a great place to entertain. Because they increase living space at a low price, decks offer a remarkable return on investment.
According to Remodeling magazine's 2011-2012 Cost vs. Value Report for New Orleans, the average cost of adding a deck is $9,768 and it provides a 73.6 percent return on the investment — higher than the return you get from adding a bathroom, and at a third of the price.
However, homeowners must tread carefully when adding a deck. Combined with complex building codes, New Orleans' ecology makes wood construction daunting, especially for a proud do-it-yourselfer.
"Each house in New Orleans is different, and it's important to hire someone who deals in New Orleans construction specifically and will know the property laws and codes," says Jorge Lopez of Rising Sun Property Management (919-8337). Ensure quality while adding a personal touch by enlisting a handyperson and seeking ideas and reclaimed materials from local resources.
"The first thing to do when considering a deck is to see if the house will allow it," Lopez says. "Where will the pilings go? How will it be attached? It's no good to attach a deck to a house that's rotting. Any person claiming to be a handyman can build a deck, but in a few months after that person's cashed the check and gone, everything is falling apart."
To avoid losing resources, consumers should spend time searching for the right contractor. "Some great ways to find reputable contractors are through word of mouth, checking out the bulletin board here at the Preservation Salvage Store and searching Angie's List (www.angieslist.com)," says Melanie Linn of the Preservation Salvage Store (2801 Marais St., 947-0038; www.rtno.org/getinvolved/salvage-store).
An important but fun part of deck building is researching ideas, because it lets homeowners put their own spin on a project that's generally too tough to do without hiring help. "When people have questions, want to have their plans reviewed or just want to get ideas, we have someone to talk to at Operation Comeback — for free," says Averil Oberhelman of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans (923 Tchoupitoulas St., 581-7032; www.prcno.org). "Becky [Rebecca O'Malley] is always here. Also, The Preserve New Orleans discussion group (www.groups.yahoo.com/group/preserveneworleans) is a spam-free place to post questions, complaints or praise, and is really a useful tool."
Many New Orleanians want to add decks that fit in with traditional architectural styles. A proven way to guarantee a striking and sustainable New Orleans-style deck is to purchase materials from members of The ReUse District (www.thereusedistrict.org) such as The Green Project (2831 Marais St., 945-0240; www.thegreenproject.org) and the Preservation Salvage Store.
Lopez says, "I strive to use reclaimed materials for three reasons: It's good for the environment, old stuff is better than the cheap stuff from China at big-box home improvement stores and old New Orleans materials fit the character of the city."