New Trends in Homes

New trends in home construction have resulted in cost efficient, smaller home designs. It has, however, also created a need for space that is being manifested in the latest renovation craze – expansion of the backyard deck.

According to Harvard's Joint Center for Housing Studies, the average homeowner has cutback on spending for renovations (after six years of increases), but the average cost of a deck renovation has still risen 40% between 2004 and 2007 to almost $10,350. A typical deck on an above average home has increased to 700 square feet (larger than most indoor great rooms).

Decks make the perfect add-on for the whole family. Kids can play on them, they are great for entertaining and they offer an excellent resale return for your money. When done properly, a deck renovation should appear as an outdoor living space. If you're seated, indoors and looking out, your deck should appear as an additional room, without walls.

The old lawn furniture designs have also gone by the wayside. Now they've been replaced with couches, easy chairs and coffee tables made from waterproof materials and all-weather TV's. Outdoor kitchens with built in appliances, fridge, cupboards and counters are also widely used. All season deck use is more common now with the addition of patio heaters and awnings.

When it comes to barbecues, you can throw out your old black model and opt for a shiny stainless steel version with more options than an Italian sportscar. Start with your basic 6 or 8 foot long unit, with interior and exterior lighting, large griddle, double burners, butcher block food preparation area, and bar prep area including blender and sink. If you really want to splurge, throw in an add-on brick fireplace for authentic stone oven pizzas.

Other popular trends in today's decks include low maintenance products such as composite decking. A colonial baluster looks just like wood, but is composed of PVC and has a pre-painted wood look. Although composite decking usually runs about 30% higher than average wood products, you do save on maintenance costs. Nothing is perfect, however, some homeowners complain of heat build-up in the hot sun, a slippery surface when wet, and others say that the material can stain or scratch over time.

Just like any new trend, homeowners want their decks to be bigger, or more unique than the next guy. North Carolina resident Eddy Zaretsky just spent $75,000 on a 1,150 square foot deck renovation that included wet bar, built-in stereo system, hot tub, two gazebos (one for the hot tub, one for the dining area), fountain and stainless-steel grill. The new deck can easily accommodate 50 to 60 people, and competes with the homeowners association's clubhouse as "party central".

Troy Dana's in Olympia, Washington has employed an octagon shaped, 3,200 square foot deck. It takes advantage of valley views, south side sunshine, an arbor, built-in benches, hot tub and shower. The cooler north end boasts a steel firepit and panoramic view. Although the deck looks and feels like wood, it's made of composite, splinter-free decking material.

Lauren Spencer