Gate Thoughts for Your New Deck…

As a deck designer I frequently get all sorts of special requests from our clients, but one of the most common requests is to install a gate on a deck.

Typically a gate is added for security, to keep pets or kids on the deck and away from the steps, but a gate can also be added to improve privacy or as a fashion statement.

When considering a gate for a deck, consider first the “needs”: should this have a child-proof latch, be self-closing, or rated for pool access?

Trex Deck Pool Gate

Custom Pool Deck

This deck needs a gate

While it may be required because of the location or client’s needs, it’s important to consider as well the location of the gate and operation-will it create an inconvenience when open (blocking travel, or opening over the steps)?

Gate at deck steps

Once you know what a gate “has to” do, it is worth considering what you’d like the gate to look like. Should it perfectly match the deck’s rail?

Matching Deck Gate

This custom-ordered gate matches the TimberTech Rail

Or would this be an opportunity to do something just a bit different to create an artistic statement or accent?

Matching Deck Gate

Privacy wall gate in Fiberon Horizon

Wrought Iron Gate

Custom-designed and built metal gate

Lastly, once you know what you want, it is time to get a price, and see if the cost fits within your budget.

  • As a generic guide, a basic pressure treated or vinyl gate might cost between $250-500.
  • A wrought iron or aluminum gate may range from $400 to $1000.
  • Lastly, a custom-fit, matching gate can often cost $500 to over $1500 installed.

 One thing to keep in mind is that while gates should be discussed during the planning stages, if budget dictates or your needs change, they can usually be added at a later date rather simply.

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Radius Decks and Why Curves are Expensive

 

Image courtesy of Matt Breyer, Breyer Construction and Landscape

Deck manufacturers love to use decks with curves in them (ie, a radius) in their advertisements because they look so damn cool. A deck with a curve or multiple curves in its framing is just plain sexy. Radius decks are far from typical and they just scream out “my deck is SO much better than yours.”

Often, new clients come to me at my Bergen County, New Jersey deck building company,  and, because they are savvy deck buyers, they’ll have some preconceived ideas about what features they’d like to include in their new deck.  One of the first things I hear commonly is  “we’d like to put some curves into the deck” and they’ll pull out one of those really cool ads from a magazine and say “can you build it kind of like this?” By this point, I’m just thrilled that these nice folks have at least put a little thought into the upcoming project, but then I have to drop the bomb. You know, the kind of bomb that knocks a customer off their feet…

I’ll be the first deck contractor to tell you that radius decks are awesome. They literally become showcase decks for the client and the deck builder (and sometimes the manufacturer). The only hitch is that radius decks are much more complex to design and build than a normal, angular deck. This complexity raises the cost to the client to the point where, all of a sudden, putting that radius into the design isn’t really that important anymore for most clients. Just like how a car company always puts the fully optioned car in their ads with the big shiny 18″ wheels that cost extra, deck manufacturers do the same thing in their ads.

So why are radius decks so expensive? I mean, it’s still framing and decking and railing, right?

The short answer is sort of. When a client wants a radius deck project they’ve purchased a one way ticket into a very expensive theme park I’ve nicknamed  “Customland”.

I think this is the door that takes you to "Customland."

First off, decks designed with radii (plural of radius) require a lot more foundation work (ie, footings) and a lot more rough framing work compared to an angular deck. This equates to more labor and materials and slows down the deck’s construction considerably. I don’t care if you hire Norm Abram himself to build a radius deck, believe you me, there is going to be a lot of head scratching and figuring going during the layout and framing process. Whereas an angular deck could be framed in three days, a similar radius deck might take five or six and could require double the materials with lots of waste. In Customland, this is par for the course so be prepared.

This set of curved stair treads takes significantly longer to build than a straight set of stairs. Image courtesy of Breyer Construction and Landscape

Secondly, installing the decking and trim boards gets tricky. Really tricky. Really, really tricky. In fact, many times, it’s trial and error for even the best deck contractors. Synthetic deck and trim boards must be heated in order for it to bend (wood presents its own issues we won’t get into) to follow the curves of the framing. This is not a scientific process by any means. Even the day’s weather can wreak havoc on the best methods. The tighter the radius, the more difficult the bending gets. It’s not uncommon for a deck builder to ruin many expensive boards just to get one that is just right. In Customland you really can’t worry about throwing out $500 in product  to get one good one.

And last but not least, the railings. Without getting into the math of a radius, I can tell you that every simple curve has an equivalent numerical radius. With this number in hand, the deck builder must build, or most likely order, custom railings to match the radius. Most premium synthetic railing systems can be special ordered (“special order” is the most frequently used word in Customland by the way) directly from the manufacturer to fit the shape of the deck. These railings are much more costly than a similar straight railing, they are more difficult to install, and because the deck contractor only gets one crack at making the cuts on site, the pucker factor is 11 on a scale of 1 to 10. One “oopsy” and that $600 railing section gets chucked into to the dumpster and it’ll take another 3 weeks to get a new one. In Customland, that “oopsy” is usually built into the cost of the project.

You might be able to take the risk out of the equation for the deck builder by offering to pay time and materials on a complex project. This way, you will only pay for the actual time and materials invested into the project. Otherwise, most deck contractors, myself included, will charge a very hefty premium due to all of the risk they assume by building a radius deck. They have no idea if they’ll make the bends on the first shot or on the tenth shot, so you’ll be charged for all 1o boards and the time it takes to bend them even if they get it right on the third board.

By now, you’re probably completely discouraged about asking your contractor about a radius deck, but you shouldn’t be. You should just be aware that introducing curves into your deck project will add a significant cost. That being said, if you pony up the money to build a radius deck, it’s safe to say that you will probably have the coolest deck in your town.

What is DeckAdvisor.com?

PVC Deck in Ramsey, New Jersey

Building a modern deck these days isn’t easy. Most “carpenters” think building a deck is simple. Sure, nailing 2×10’s together is not rocket science, but there is so much more to designing and building a deck these days! Your average carpenter really has no clue because ignorance is bliss. There are thousands of decking and railing products on the market right now. How the heck are you, the consumer, supposed to decide what to install? I can tell you this much, your average general contractor probably knows less than you do about alternative deck and rail products like composites and PVC and taking an uninformed recommendation can be a very costly mistake. I can’t tell you how many times this happens.

How do I know? Because I see these guys at the supply house asking incredibly stupid (basic) questions about products they are trying to BS their way through signing a contract with some unsuspecting client. Do you really want to write a check to contractor that can’t even pronounce the name of the product properly? It pains me to witness this and I see it all the time.

The team of professional deck builders at DeckAdvisor.com are experts in deck building industry. We specialize in designing and building custom decks using the most cutting edge products and techniques. We aren’t installing kitchens one day, painting the next day, or installing doors like some contractors who may build the odd deck here or there. We take deck building seriously–it’s our livelihood. Probably more seriously than we should (but that’s really good for you!)

Let’s put it to you this way….

If you had a brain tumor, you'd hire a brain surgeon, right?

If you had a brain tumor, would you go to a general practitioner or a brain surgeon who has performed the surgery you need hundreds of times and is experienced? Well, what we realized a long time ago is that a majority of the issues we hear about are directly related to homeowners unknowingly putting their trust (and money) in a contractor was ignorant. We don’t want that to happen ever again. You don’t deserve it.

DeckAdvisor.com is committed to providing you, the consumer, with real information about design, decking products, code compliance, and deck construction techniques that will help you make an informed decision when selecting a deck contractor and your decking and railing products.

Feel free to ask us questions. We’ll do our best to give you an answer with no agendas attached other than making sure your best interests are served.