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So, you want to build a deck, Multi-Unit Dwellings
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So you want to build a deck….

PRO Deck Doctor a Full-service deck company.  This means we offer consultation, design, and construction, restoration and maintenance services for nearly all deck projects in the Park City area.  And every year we receive numerous requests for the construction of a new deck projects.  This post will better explain what is required if the deck is to be constructed lawfully.  We will only construct decks which are permittable, meaning they can be built with the approval of the building authorities as required. This can either be an extension to an existing deck or an entirely new structure.  Either way there are requirements which have to be met before one can begin to have the discussion of the monetary aspects and providing accurate estimates.

Often the homeowner asks if all this is really necessary?  The answer is Yes. The reason is simple: liability. There are of plenty of decks I witness that are built without permits and proper approvals which I get to address long after the builder is gone.  If a client comes to us looking to build a deck which is not permittable we won’t build it. The first issue one needs to determine is whether or not one can lawfully acquire permission for such a structure. This is called the “permission phase.” This “permission phase” will come from two sources; the first source for approval one will need to check is from their Home Owners Association (HOA) to see if they meet the requirements put forth by the association. Not all areas in Park City have an Homeowners Association (HOA) and it is the responsibility of the homeowner to check and see how their residence is set up.  The HOA is sometimes managed by third parties. (I.E Property management companies which have their own requirements) So it extremely important that home owners check with all parties to ensure the structure is even possible.  Home owners will need to find out whether additional requirements set forth by these third parties are required in order to achieve this construction.  For example, some entities will not permit machinery of any kind on the property and hand tools only are required which can result in higher costs. The contractor may not know this at the time of the estimate and this results in additional charges after the fact.  The second step in the ‘permission phase’ will come from the County or city in which the project is located.  Most likely in Park City this verification will come from the City Hall, specifically the Planning and Zoning department.  They will determine the setback requirements specially for the existing dwelling and subdivision.  These can vary from location to location and where on the house the deck is going to be located. For those clients that live outside the city limits those requirements will come from the Summit or Wasatch County Planning department.  There are requirements which one will need to be demonstrated at the time one applies for a permit and those too can vary.  I have seen decks built without verification of boundaries which have resulted in total layout and design changes needed in order for the county to sign off.  The new deck was now required to smaller in size than the one that was existing.  However, at this time one need only to know what the limitations are, not whether the proposed deck will meet them.  Homeowners should have this information on record with the county. A phone call is all that is typically required. Having the lot number or tax entity helps.  Park City municipal has a new checking system for the homeowner and mailing addresses. If these names and addresses do not sync correctly a permit will not be issued. For example, if the home is a business entity rather than primary residence the city may not that addresses listed may need altering. If the county does not have these records on file the homeowner may need to have a surveyor come out and firmly establish where property boundaries are and are not.  This can be a sizable expenditure.  So, before the deck can even be considered for approval, some projects are going to require the expenditure for lot lines to be established.  A accurate deck estimate at this point would be pointless if the deck is not even permissible. If one would like to have a representative come out and greater discuss the project it should be noted that are charges associated with this service. The following steps are critical in having an accurate picture of the deck or exterior living space you desire.  Contacting PRO Deck Doctor and asking for an estimate is a great start. But without having some items already verified one risks receiving an inadequate representation of the true costs associated with building or remodeling a deck.

This post entry will address the individual homeowner and NOT a homeowner living in a complex with multiple units.  Discussion of building projects for those types of dwellings will discussed in a later post.

Can I build this deck?  At this point one should have determined if the proposed deck is permissible and contacted the above entities.  (And having called the city or the county and determined that you can meet the setback requirements and the HOA you now have a boundary in which you can begin designing the deck.  This means one can now begin the design stage or a concept of the deck they are trying to build.  This is called the “design phase.”  Sometimes the HOA board requires that formal plans be submitted for review PRIOR to the completion of the permission phase.  If this is the case then a design/ drawing of the deck will be required first.  Often however the HOA is more interested in the aesthetics of the deck rather than meeting the code criteria.  Often but not always. Sometimes clients are interested in the design and drawing phase before the “permission phase.” The design phase should come AFTER the permission phase.  One can have a rough idea of what they want but formal drawings are not needed up to this point unless otherwise requested.  These formal drawings required by boards or property management companies are a newer component in the application process and each project and board authority will most likely have its own set of requirements.  Homeowners will need to verify this step.  HOA boards often create architectural committees to review the proposed decks. They often have selected times in which they will review such applications. This may be once a year so planning accordingly is very important.  If there is a HOA or property management entity to contact their will be an accompanying form which will need to be filled out and submitted at the time the permit is applied for.  Those forms are available at the City or County halls.

Two decades ago this design phase required little more than sketched out drawing on a piece of paper.  The dimensions need only to be indicated at the most basic level.  The biggest issue to note was height. And nothing in terms of engineering was required unless it was over a certain height.  Now, all decks whether they are ground level or balcony style need an engineering stamp in order to be eligible for permits. For clients in the Prospector or Old Town areas a soil sample and testing may be required.  At this point most clients should begin to look at the monetary aspects of the deck.  Basic engineering is going to cost between $250- $500.00. Bear in mind the engineer is only going to determine whether the deck is structurally going to meet requirements set forth by the building department or appropriate authority.   The engineer is often not the person who actually designs the deck.  This aspect is often handled by the deck builder or an architect.  We offer design services at a cost.  But several websites now offer these services at no cost.  Composite deck companies in particular have applications or programs which one can create the deck they desire and can print them off at home.  These programs often will not contain any engineering requirements. So, bear that in mind when the designing the deck.  Once the design has been created it will then go to the engineer to determine the load requirements.  Don’t be surprised if the engineer comes back with items that appear to be over what the expectations one might have. Summit county at 6000 + feet elevation is considered extreme and the building requirements often reflect those limitations. All decks should have appropriately treated materials and appropriate connectors used for the deck framing.

But what if I have an existing deck and I just want to replace the surface of the deck?  What do I have to do?  The first thing is to determine of the existing deck framing is going to give you the performance needed for a product that may have a 30-year warranty such as composite decking.  If the existing deck is 20 years old and you now just want to put a composite surface over the top will you get the maximum longevity of both? Or will the framing fail leaving the newly resurfaced deck to be removed prematurely?  This question has to be answered on a case by case basis. Most building officials state that If the framing is to be changed then a permit should be obtained in order to ensure the changes meet code.  For example, in the 1980’s it was common to build redwood deck with the joists framed 24 inches apart one would think that just adding to the existing framing is sufficient.  This is not always the case.  And this is an example where the building inspector would like to see that other existing members would be able to perform correctly with these structural items added.

So now you have checked with zoning and planning, you have a design of the deck, and have the engineered plans It is at this point that the builder can responsibly come into the picture with an estimate.  Once the builder has formal plans to which they can correctly assess the time and materials required they can more accurately determine the costs for the deck.  Yes, one can create an estimate based of general formulas such as per square foot costs. However, this should be considered as an estimate rather than a quote. We give estimates.  We take great pride in having the estimates match the end costs. However, it is important to note that there are many items which may change when giving an estimate before any sort of design or formal stamped plans. I have used several different approaches with clients regarding this next step which I’ll call the “bidding step.”  The bidding step should include a couple of things.  First, one should meet with contractor at the site to go over any details pertaining to the construction process. The contractor should be made aware of any constraints which may be required. Things like equipment requirements and trash and parking, hours of operation are items that should be discussed.  Safety concerns such as will the house be occupied during the construction phase should be reviewed. And If there will be subcontractors such as masons or electricians needed how would they be addressed. And also, discussions about things that maybe previously weren’t thought of such as lighting, post caps, material specifics can be discussed.

Without covering the above items correctly, a contractor isn’t really able to give you an accurate estimate regarding costs associated with building the deck.  I have avoided the topic of railings in this installment. I did so because railings and railing options are too broad a topic for this discussion.  I will cover that in near future.   The goal with this article was to better explain what is required in order to create a deck.  As mentioned we are full service deck company.  We offer the above services as a cost.  In order to serve you better it is best to have the aforementioned items in hand before contacting us.  These items take time to create, especially design and engineering.  One should expect that these components can take as much as 6 weeks to complete correctly, especially if it is in the spring and summer months.  So too, the building department is not a one-day affair.  Often there are subtleties which will need to be addressed in the interim. An example of this might be a safety fence requirement which will entail an inspector signing off on the fence prior obtaining a permit but required before the permit is actually issued.  Or the requirement of a portable lavatory onsite may need to be demonstrated correctly before the permit actually obtained.  For contractors in the Park City area we are now required to have a formal sign installed in addition to the permit being placed in a conspicuous area on the job site.   All of these components can add up when trying to calculate the costs associated with a new or a remodeled deck.  Knowing these aspects ahead of time will better serve you and the contractor when the appropriate time comes.  Contacting the contractor should be done after one has completed the appropriate phases mentioned to ensure a smooth transition from the estimate to build phases.  Trying to conduct these steps out of order will lead to frustration and confusion and ultimately inaccurate estimates.

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