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Green Your Decks, Save Big

From a backyard barbecue to drinks on the deck, there are plenty of reasons homeowners want a perfect outdoor living space for entertaining and relaxing. And with more environmentally smart products available, there are plenty of ways to have a great deck and make it green, too.

Eco-friendly and sustainability projects are growing in the homebuilding industry, says John Barrett, owner of Archadeck of Central Maryland & Montgomery, a design and build firm in Laytonsville, Md. “People are looking for more eco-friendly designs and materials because more people are aware of global warming,” Barrett says.

While using environmentally friendly products often comes with a greater up-front cost, there are numerous long-term benefits. Here are a few considerations for builders, remodelers and property managers considering an eco-friendly deck:

Maintenance and Materials

The value of any eco-friendly product is its ability to last. For example, unlike wood, which requires re-staining every one to four years, eco-alternatives like composite decking typically don’t require a stain treatment and take longer to fade from ultraviolet rays or weather changes. They are also more resistant than wood to termites, mold and bowing. “Durability means reduced maintenance for the consumer, helping them save money over the lifetime of that product,” says Andrea Nocito, founder and principal sustainability consultant for EcoStrategies, a sustainability planning and implementation eco-boutique in San Antonio, Texas.

When building an eco-friendly deck, there are a variety of materials that are more sustainable than wood. The most popular is composite decking. Made of up to 95 percent recycled, high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and wood from landfills, composite decking looks natural like wood, comes in a variety of colors, and resists stains and fading. Because the longevity of composite wood can vary, Nocito recommends using the kind that requires little to no maintenance for 10 years.

Many builders, remodelers and property managers also include LED lights, solar track lighting and rainwater harvesting systems in their deck designs. Consider incorporating LED strip lighting or modules in soffits overhead, or solar lanterns along walkways, Nocito says. “These products limit energy consumption while maintaining aesthetic value,” she says. “I'm particularly fond of using LED or solar bricks in between wood panels on decks or around a garden feature.”

Property Value and Tax Benefits

Building a deck also adds additional value to a property, says Kristin Arrigo, author of Seasonal Home Repair Checklist: Eco-Alternatives for Maintaining Your Home who lives in Los Angeles, Calif. A deck adds more usable space to a home and is visually appealing to homeowners and buyers, especially when it’s made with materials that last longer.

Moreover, eco-friendly features are more desirable to buyers and renters, making the addition a “home upgrade with a bonus,” she says. In addition, eco-friendly products are increasingly priced at competitive market rates, and with local, state and federal tax and rebate incentives, they may end up cheaper for the consumer, Nocito says.

Whether you’re installing a new deck, replacing an old one or adding a few elements, eco-friendly building materials will benefit your clients in the long run with low maintenance and increased value.

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