Solving Deck Design Problems

deck design problemsA well designed deck is a home improvement project that increases your home’s value and improves your quality of life. However, where and how to add a deck onto an existing house can pose deck design problems if your yard is small, sloping, or covered with trees. There are many ways of designing a deck that work with these kinds of challenges to produce a unique, attractive, and useful result.

Sloping Yard

Small yards can often be a perfect place for decks that cut into a hillside, wraps closely around the house, or even one that is built on top of the roof of the house or garage. Small and cozy decks can also be incorporated as extensions of existing porches and entryways, reducing the total square footage that the deck covers.

Small Yard

Many people do not like the idea of all the wasted yard space that is created by building a larger sized deck, especially when a small yard is involved. There are several ways of solving this problem, including cantilevering the deck out from the house framing, eliminating posts and piers and leaving the space underneath for a shady garden or patio area. This kind of deck does require the help of an experienced deck builder.

Too Much Shading

Cutting down shade trees to make room for a deck is not something most homeowners want to consider. In this situation, decks can be designed around the trees, resulting in an outdoor living space with natural shade and beauty built right in. Space should be left between the tree trunks and decking so that the trees can continue growing.

Almost any home can incorporate a deck if you use creative design ideas to work with what you have. Contractors who specialize in deck construction can help you see these possibilities, and they have the experience for making that design a reality.

Why Now is the Perfect Time to Add a Deck


When considering adding a deck to your home, there are a whole array of reasons why making a deck a part of your home is a good thing to do.

Move the Cooking Outdoors

If you love cooking, a deck can become a second kitchen. Add a firepit for warmth and for an old-fashioned meal of roasted hot dogs and smores. Decks with a bar affixed to them can be filled with everything you need for drinks to serve your guests – no more shuffling back and forth to the kitchen. Proximity to the kitchen makes preparing and serving food so simple. Grilling out makes food cleanup a breeze and is just plain delicious! With warmer weather approaching, can you imagine holding your favorite beverage relaxing in the fresh air on your new deck or grilling that perfect steak?

Add a Deck and Enjoy Nature

In addition to increasing the livable area of your home, adding a deck can provide a beautiful view surrounded by the sounds of nature. We regularly see deer frolicking through our back yard in addition to a wild turkey here or there. Soon squirrels will be darting back and forth and up and down trees. One of our favorite things to do is watch the variety of colorful birds gathering around our bird feeder.

Inviting Atmosphere for Family and Friends

Having a deck makes it possible to create an inviting atmosphere for family or friends. You can set up a tropical scene with draped fabrics, statues and exotic plants. Add some art work, brightly colored furniture and cushions. Lighting such as lanterns adds to the atmosphere in the evening. You can turn your deck into a luxurious spa. Install a hot tub, a sound system, add planters, a free-standing hammock and comfortable furniture. The things you can do to enhance your deck experience are endless!

Spring is just 26 days away, now is the perfect time to add a deck to your home. Email us today or call us for your free consultation (703) 385-2525.

The 5 Best Home Improvement Projects for Your Money

Deck Clifton VirginiaYou may be surprised to know that remodeling and renovation projects to your home will not bring you the same percentage of return at the time of resale. An annual report that was recently published in a popular remodeling magazine, which describes the various home remodeling projects and gives the amount of money you are likely to recoup when you sell your house. Surprisingly, the cost of a new deck will give back more than adding a sunroom. Following is a list of the five best home projects that bring the best return on your home investments.

Steel Doors

For a number of reasons, replacing your entry door with a steel door will pay back about 129 percent of your investment. That’s a considerable return. Steel doors cost much less than fiberglass doors. Don’t be concerned about the looks of a steel door – they are still attractive and add curb appeal to your home entrance. They are energy efficient, as well.

Attic Bedroom

There is often a need for an extra bedroom for families these days. Adding an attic bedroom returns about 83 percent of the cost at resale time. Many families have elderly parents or children moving back home and this bedroom space is an asset.

Vinyl Siding Replacement

When you replace your siding with a vinyl replacement, your house will give the appearance of “brand new.” It will really enhance your curb appeal, is long lasting and easy to maintain. Return on your investment is about 80 percent.

Wood Window Replacement

If your wooden windows are getting chipped and cracked and look bad, replacement is wise – your whole house will look a lot better. In addition, your home’s energy efficiency will improve. You can recoup about 77 percent of the cost of window replacement at resale.

Wood Deck

You, like so many families these days, are choosing to spend more of your leisure time outdoors at home. By adding a wooden deck, you can entertain friends and family with barbecues and other outdoor activities. So it’s no wonder that building a deck is so popular. More great news is that a whopping 81 percent can be recouped from this investment at resale.

Steadfast can help you with all your deck needs.


Why wait? Get your free quote, now!



Why Add a Sunroom to Your Home

Screen shot 2015-01-17 at 12.29.20 AMDo you ever wish you had a place in your home where you could sit and enjoy lots of sunlight, have a clear view of your lovely backyard, and enjoy extra warmth on a cold winter day? A sunroom is just what you need. Sunrooms are structures that are attached to a house on a foundation of wood or concrete. They are constructed in a way that avoids the cost of typical construction. These structures give a family extra room at an affordable price. There are a number of reasons why people choose to add a sunroom.

Extra Space:

sunroom-familyA sunroom offers a wonderful space away from the clutter of household activity. It’s an ideal place for quality time with one’s family like playing board games, reading together and watching TV. It can be an extra place for quiet time, like writing, meditating and so on. A sunroom is also a great place to entertain your guests to make them feel welcome in your new warm and inviting space.

Picture yourself in a warm cozy sunroom with natural light flowing in from the many window surfaces. Enjoy the wonderful view of your beautiful yard no matter what the season. It’s lots of fun to watch the birds and squirrels darting here and there. You’ll have a great all-around view of your children or grandkids playing outdoors. Or you can just sit, relax and do nothing.

Practical Considerations:

Besides the improvement in lifestyle, a sunroom increases the square footage of your home. This, in turn, increases its value when it’s time to sell. In addition, adding this window loving room improves the over-all look of your home, adding the “wow” factor.

Energy Efficient:

With all the glass surfaces that are part of the design of sunrooms, the room stays warm with beautiful streaming rays of light. In addition to this being an energy saver, the light improves mood and helps relaxation.

You will surely get a lot of use from a sunroom. Why wait? You may have regrets if you do, wishing you had built it sooner.

Get Your Free Quote, Now

Porch Decorating Ideas for Winter

porch decorating ideas
(Photo Source: Deborah Silver is a gifted landscape and garden designer.)

Don’t let your front porch become bleak and uninviting during winter months. There are many decorating ideas for porches that will make guests feel welcome and brighten their day when approaching your home. If you live in a snowy region, the snow provides a beautiful backdrop for winter decor, but if you have little or no snow, there are also ways to perk up your front porch. Here in Northern Virginia, you never know what you’re going to get from one year to the next.

Decide on a Decorating Plan

Winter decor should be fairly simple and uncluttered. Consider the size and shape of your porch. Unless your porch is very small, start with a few small evergreen trees in pots. They could be decorated with simple features like small garland and other natural looking items. You might consider putting a couple of white wicker chairs outside. Add a small white table. There are some nice clear days in the winter when you might like to come out on your porch for a cup of hot cocoa and to enjoy the beautiful day.

Northern Virginia porch
Artistic front porch decorations.
(Photo Source:

Make Your Porch Interesting and Appealing

Here are a few porch decorating ideas and items to enhance appeal. Spruce it up with a cluster of bird houses, or cages painted white. You could add a vintage weather-proof miniature village placed on a white table would look nice on your porch. Place a vintage sled decorated with greens or pine cones against the wall. Colors like dark green, deep shades of red and blue, silver or black for your decorations are most effective in setting a wintry scene. A few strands of twinkling clear lights will be welcoming at night. Try using electric candles placed in clear jars and painted white.

Decorate the Front Door

The possibilities are endless when making a wreath to hang on your front door. This is where you get to show your creativity.  You can use twigs, berries, greens, pine cones sprayed white, fabric and ribbons. Don’t worry if you are short on creativity the day you start your porch decorating.  Look on Pinterest or other image galleries for ideas that coordinate with the color of your front door and shutters if you have them.

Winter Container Plants and More
Porch Decorating Ideas

Some hardy winter container plants could be placed on the stairway leading to the porch. Examples of those that work well are ornamental cabbage and kale. Dwarf evergreen hollies also look nice.

Deck Safety During Winter Months

Winter months can wreak havoc on a deck and can make deck safety a challenge. Many people neglect their decks during this time, often because they really do not want to go out in the cold and battle the elements. Unfortunately, not taking care of your deck during winter months can lead to damage of the deck materials. It can also cause it to become a safety hazard for anyone who steps on it. There are a few things you can do to prevent dangerous slick spots and to keep your deck from turning into a cleverly disguised but treacherous ice skating rink.


De-Ice and Snow Removal

Remove snow and ice as often as possible and make deck safety a priority. Although many decks should have a slight incline or decline to promote water run off, a lot do not and this slope would not really be beneficial for ice, snow, sleet, or hail anyway. Hopefully before winter hit, you thoroughly cleaned your decking to remove debris, such as leaves and dirt, that might cause these elements to stick to the deck more. Applying an environmentally-safe, salt-free de-icer on a clean deck can help prevent slippery ice and snow accumulation without causing damage to your decking, nearby plants, or any curious animals. Make sure the product you select is recommended for your specific deck especially if you have composite materials, check with your deck builder or material manufacturer.

Stair and Step Safety

Provide extra safety protection on stairs. Even if you do not use your deck during the winter season, it is important to ensure it is safe at all times because it is an emergency point in and out of your home. The stairs are often forgotten when trying to maintain a deck in the cold months. It might be a good idea to add some anti-slip treads to each stair in preparation for the ice and snow that comes with winter storms.

Anti-Slip Application

Apply a special anti-slip product to the deck floor to make it safer for walking. This type of product can be applied on top of the stain, sealer, or paint to prevent slippery conditions. It works by encouraging water evaporation instead of allowing it to penetrate the wood. This, in turn, prevents the water from freezing and causing dangerous conditions. Again, be sure to check with what is recommended by the manufacturer if you have a composite deck or other material that could be damaged from some products on the market.

Be sure to make your deck as safe as possible during winter months. No one wants to try to manage an emergency room visit in the middle of a snow or ice storm.

What’s Your Favorite Reason for Living in Virginia?

For 20 years, we’ve had the privilege of living and building in Virginia. We’re thankful! Are you? If so, please leave a comment to share why.

Here’s the video that inspired this question. We live within driving distance of so many wonderful sights and experiences in Virginia, from mountains to oceanviews, caverns to orchards, and natural monuments to historical treasures. In our neighborhoods, we enjoy four distinct seasons. For employment, we have a diversity of strong industries. What else?

Porch in fall
A smart northern Virginia family had our porch builder team to set up this porch, which in this picture, has beautiful autumn view.

Solutions to Framing around Cantilever Floors

bay-window-cantileverHouses with sections of cantilevered floors aren’t that uncommon and they can pose special challenges to deck builders when it comes to attaching decks.

A cantilevered floor refers to a floor that has floor joists that spread out past the wall or foundation and suspend out into the air such as a bay window.

Most cantilevers in homes aren’t designed to carry the extra load of a deck ledger, so attaching the ledger directly to the rim joist is not a good idea. Additional reinforcement will be needed in order to accommodate any new decking. The solution to placing posts and beams at the rear of the deck or porch as required by Northern Virginia Counties is often undesirable to many homeowners.

Use Glulam Beams For Cantilever Floors

Steadfast is always looking for solutions to issues such as these and one option is limiting the number of posts by upgrading the main support beam to Glulam beams. These beams are often chosen for their natural wood beauty in exposed designs, such as rafters in vaulted ceilings. They are also ideal for hidden structural applications, such as floor beams and headers. Positioned correctly, these new supportive structures would give the extra stability needed to secure the deck ledger.

Another approach would be to lower the deck or porch to accommodate affixing the ledger to the wall studs, the top plates of the wall or to the foundation below the floor. This approach may also require building a landing at the entry of the house and possibly steps leading to the deck or porch depending on the home.

At Steadfast, we are committed to finding just the right solution regardless of issues that may arise from cantilevered floors. Homeowners can be assured that safety is always a top priority when securing their new deck. We have the expertise to get the job done right.

Wood Versus Composite: Is One Better than the Other?

In the quest for the perfect outside oasis when building a new deck, many homeowners seek natural looking materials. There are several options for decking on the market today including composite and traditional wood decking that have that natural look appeal but how do they stack up against one another?


Wood Decks

Wood decks require more upkeep than composites. Pine decks may chip, and the boards have a tendency to twist as they dry out. Mahogany and ipe are surprisingly low maintenance unlike some other woods.

Most wood decks will need to be sealed and stained at some point. It is recommended to test if you aren’t sure whether or not it’s time to seal your deck: Sprinkle water on the wood; if it absorbs immediately, it’s time to stain, but if it beads up, you can probably wait a bit longer.

Composite Decks

Wood alternatives such as composite decking can create an beautiful outdoor space that:

  • never needs staining or painting
  • eliminates splinters
  • won’t twist or warp
  • last for a very long time

Composite decking typically consists of some type of plastic material, such as polyethylene and/or polyvinyl chloride, and wood particles. Boards might be hollow or solid. Hollow boards are cheaper than solid boards and don’t tend to expand and contract as often as solid boards do; however, when they do shift, they tend to do so in only one area. Additionally, hollow boards are not as sturdy and can hold water internally, which in turn can lead to warping and decomposition. While solid boards expand and contract more than hollow boards, they are stronger and tend to look more like real wood than hollow composites.

Regardless of whether you choose to use composite or wood decking, you can create a unique and inviting outdoor space that will provide you and your family countless hours of relaxation and last for many years to come.

Can Decks Have Attachment Issues?

The mood of your deck party can be severely altered with a harsh gravitational experience, all because of deck attachment issues. What good are fasteners that don’t resist local weather conditions? Or nails too small or untreated to prevent rust and corrosion? Or materials that bend more than expected? This neglect during deck setup can eventually cause abrupt deck separation, if not corrected.

Your Family’s Safety Depends on Proper Deck Development


Only use the right fasteners. Look for this. To resist corrosion, all fasteners used in deck construction must be hot-dipped zinc-coated galvanized steel, stainless steel, silicon bronze, or copper. Joist hangers and anchoring straps are subject to the same requirements as fasteners. IRC table R602.3 (1),

Fastener Schedule for Structural Members


Figure 1. This table shows the correct type, size, and number of fasteners required.

Corrosion resistance in your deck’s hardware is not just safer, its a code requirement. It’s even more important when in contact with ACQ treated lumber.


Here are some examples of some of the codes to follow:

  • Non-freestanding decks must have positive anchoring to the primary structure. This means no toenailing or using nails to make this connection. ( RC Section R502.2.2)
  • Builders must use lag screws, or bolts and washers when attaching the deck ledger to the primary structure.


Figure 3. 2007 IRC Supplement, Section R502.2.2.1.

  • 4x4s or 6x6s beams cannot be used as girders (Figure 3). All structural beams and girders must be constructed with multiple 2x4s to 2x12s, with the depth and the number of layers of the members determined by the span and spacing.


  •  Solid lumber such as a 4×4 or a 4×6 can no longer be used as a beam. Most beams must be built up from layers of 2-by material. Figure 4. ( IRC (Section and Table R502.5 (1) )


Good Deck Builders Must Know What to Expect


If using Composite decking materials, your deck builder should check with the individual manufacturer’s specifications. Why? Many have been tested and approved for installation on joists spaced 12 inches on center, not 16 inches or 24 inches.

Over the past ten years, the quality of some building material has declined. You have to know how to adjust. For example, deck joists often cantilever beyond the outer girder. The old-school rule of thumb was that as much as one-third of the length of the joists could cantilever beyond the beam. But about 10 years ago, the building codes reduced the allowable spans for most softwood lumber because of declining material quality, and now cantilevers shouldn’t extend more than 24 inches beyond the beam, unless by specific engineered design.

Decks Need Enough Support and Anchoring


Decks need strong anchoring against uplift and braced laterally. It not only prevents racking, but it prevents the deck from becoming a projectile in high winds or an earthquake. This applies whether the deck is attached to the existing structure or freestanding.

Deck need good footings or piers and their posts not only support normal loads, but also to help provide the needed uplift resistance. Concrete footings, at or below the locality’s frost line, can be as basic as a pad in the bottom to support the column, with stone back filled around it, or a solid-concrete pile with an anchor bolt installed on top to hold the column in place (Figure 5).


Figure 5. Frost footings do more than support the deck’s downward load, they also anchor it against wind uplift. The footing and the deck need a positive connection.

Decks usually need guardrails and handrails to prevent problematic social scenes or bodily injury. Some owners don’t want a guardrail to affect the view from their deck. They want something not too tall and often ask for benches or planters to act as guards. But IRC Section R312 requires a guardrail for porches, balconies, or other raised floor areas where the floor surface is more than 30 inches above the adjoining grade. Required guardrails must stand at least 36 inches high. The guards’ infill rails or balusters should have gaps no more than 4 inches apart.

But what about benches?

A bench can be installed against a guard, but if the deck is more than 30 inches above grade, a flat bench cannot be the guard (Figure 7).

Figure 7. Railings need be no higher behind a bench than anywhere else, but a bench alone cannot serve as a guardrail.

But what about screening?

Porches and decks enclosed with insect screening, if 30 inches or more above grade, must also have guards. Handrails are not guardrails, although the terms are often thought of at the same time. Per section R311.5.6, a handrail is required when there are four or more risers in the stair run. When the stair is more than 30 inches above grade or above the floor below, a guard is also required. A compliant handrail is either circular with a minimum 1 1/4-inch and maximum 2-inch diameter or 1 1/2 inches square.



Though foundational neglect can lead to rapid deterioration, early detection can allow your deck find a safe remedy.

If you suspect your deck might be experiencing a potential dis-attachment disorder, please allow our deck specialists to diagnose your deck health and prescribe a thorough treatment today. Don’t risk someone you care about being injured.