Considering building a deck? Late autumn and early winter are the best times to plan – in fact, completing prep work in the off-season will allow you to enjoy your new deck that much sooner come spring, say the experts at Trex, a nationally-renowned provider of decking and railing. So why wait? Get started with these tips.

1. Partner with a Professional – Unless you plan to build the deck yourself, the first item on your to-do list should be hiring a contractor. Quality deck builders book projects well in advance and often have a waiting list by spring. By doing your research early, you can pre-book for the following season. Fall and winter are ideal times to conduct interviews, review portfolios and gather references.

2. Design Your Dream – Designing your deck can be fun, but time-consuming. Starting early allows you to complete the process with maximum creativity and minimal stress. Ultimately, a deck should be designed around how you plan to use it (e.g. relaxing, entertaining, etc.) Beyond function, consider views, sunlight and shade, and entrances and exits from the home and into the yard. All of these factors will have an impact on your deck's size, shape and scale.

3. Decide on Decking – It's important to choose quality materials that withstand wear and tear. A high-performing, wood alternative is easy to maintain and defends against severe weather and mishaps. Composite decking is resistant to fading, staining, scratching and mold, leaving you with less work and more time for relaxation. When considering materials, you can experiment by ordering sample composite deck boards to see firsthand how different colors and textures work with your home's architecture and style.

4. Think beyond the Boards – Often overlooked, substructure and railing can have a tremendous impact on the performance, appearance and cost of a deck. For the substructure, talk with your contractor about the differences between materials. Steel deck framing, for instance, offers stability and durability benefits over wood, plus greater design flexibility, sustainability, safety and fire resistance. Railing adds both safety and style to decks. Available in a wide array of styles, shapes and materials, you can tailor your railing to personalize and frame your outdoor space.

5. Understand Costs and Value – Keep costs in mind throughout the planning process. Several factors will affect material and labor costs, including the size and shape, along with any extras you may want to incorporate. In addition, consider if you want to incorporate integrated features like built-in benches, planter boxes and storage, and budget accordingly for extras such as a pergola, fire pit or lighting, which can add comfort, character and convenience to your outdoor retreat.

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