Deck the yards

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By Sally Sanderson Fay

Do you dream of a summer evening where you are watching the lightning bugs illuminate the air and smelling the sweet fragrance of honeysuckle? Or is it your style to have guests over on a crisp fall afternoon to watch your favorite Kentucky football team, while you simmer a batch of burgoo in your outdoor kitchen? Then you, my friend, need a deck.    Tracy Barnett at Coldwell Banker Rogers Realty in Shelbyville says that a recent survey shows that 95 percent of the cost to build a deck will be recouped when the house is sold.  And out of the 480 active real estate listings for single-family homes in Shelby County, 261 have decks.“If the lot is conducive, most people want some type of outdoor entertaining area,” Barnett said. But with a deck, comes decisions – many, many decisions. Shelbyville native Kevin Carby, who has built an estimated 5,000 decks in the last 25 years, agreed to walk us through this maze. In fact, there are a lot of decisions he says you need to make before you head to the hardware store or contact a builder. For instance, how do you want to use the deck. Many these days are built for entertainment. They can seat up to 50 people and include such features as hot tubs and outdoor kitchens. There are ornate touches, such as flower boxes and pergola, and even multiple levels and built-in seating. But the most important issues have to do with your budget and the materials you want to use to build a deck, such as wood or composite material and whether you want post covers of wood, aluminum, iron or glass. Options to consider There are a lot of builders who can answer questions about all of this, but one of the more prolific is Carby. He has built all the decks in Simpsonville’s Station Pointe as well as several in Cardinal Club and throughout the Louisville and Lexington areas, and he is full of advice. “Building a deck is not for any Weekend Warrior,” he says. “I certainly wouldn’t recommend it to anyone who doesn’t have any construction experience. “We are working on a project now – tearing up the old deck and replacing it.  Evidently, the original deck builder didn’t get the flashing correct, and now the homeowner is dealing with water damage and termite infestation due to a sloppily built deck. “If the deck isn’t built correctly it can cause major problems down the road.” According to Carby, a professionally built wooden deck will range from $11 to $14 per square foot, including materials and labor.  A composite deck (which is made up of plastic shopping bags, reclaimed wood and sawdust) is between $19 to $35 per square foot, which also includes materials and labor.   Carby says he believes a composite deck is a better value if your deck has southern exposure and gets more than eight hours of sun a day.   “Sun really beats up wood,” he says. “What really tears the wood up is going from expansion and contraction.”  He adds, that if you have a shade tree near the deck and the deck only receives a few hours of sun daily, then, a wooden deck certainly is appropriate.  Tips to find a builder Carby, who is a member of the Louisville Home Builder’s Association, offers these tips on what to ask a potential builder:

  • How much experience do you have?
  • Do you have insurance?
  • Check their references and get at least three numbers
  • What is the estimated time frame?


Carby says his crew can build a standard 10-by-12-foot deck in 4 hours.  A 2,000-squar-foot deck with a complicated design and various levels can take two weeks or more. Caring for deck Care of your new deck is also important says Carby.  “If you have a wooden deck, I recommend getting Lowe’s Olympic Deck Sealer,” he says.  “I also recommend going with a 5-year sealer as opposed to a 3-year sealer. It is not that much more expensive, and it is better.” Carby’s theory is that if you get a 5-year sealant, it will look good for 3 years. If you get a 3-year, it will look good for 2. And it’s important that your deck also is good for your property and your neighbors property. Be sure not to overbuild for your neighborhood and to check with the neighborhood association to see if there are any restrictions. A dream deck So you’ve made the decisions and you are out enjoying your new “vacation” space. But don’t sip that mai tai just yet.  You need to think about making your deck an escape like Vicki Sutherland did with her deck. Sutherland’s deck juts out amid the trees and seems like a tree house full of exotic plants and flowers. Her deck is warm and inviting, and her master gardener skills are apparent with the plethora of plants and colors.  

Said Sutherland: “In the months when it isn’t so warm, I’m out here all the time.”