Home Improvement or Save?

Adding on to your home can add to its value. Adding on to your home can also add to your quality of life. My wife and I are struggling with a desire to modify our home to make it more pleasurable to live in, and perhaps add some value to our home.

Old Deck is Worn Out

Our deck is 35 years old, and the surface is wearing out.  The supports seem solid to me. I am not a trained carpenter, but I don’t think that’s necessary.  I will say that I am not sure that it is up to code.  Codes have changed quite a bit in my area since 1985 when the house and deck were built.  Now when you consider the wear and tear over that time, I’d say the deck has held up well; a testament to those who constructed it and the materials they chose to build it.

In many places the decking is rotting away.  I still think it’s safe, I can stand on it without it cracking, but in truth I am very careful when my son is out there.  There is a lot of water in my immediate area; there are some wetlands bordering my land.  There are a lot of tall trees giving my home great shade, and that saves my summer cooling bills.  But, they also keep the ground wet.  Again, we are on a well, so that is also still a good thing, less evaporation.  I never need to water my lawn, well, only a few spots get a lot of full day sun, and them  I leave be.

Still, all that water helps mold grow on the deck.  It helps dry rot, and time and rough northern winters have taken their toll.

A Few Options

So I do have to do something about the deck.  There is no option to do nothing, as I think in only a few years time, the decking will weaken to the point where it will not be safe. I mentioned that there is wetlands, or as  I prefer the more direct, swamp land, behind my home.  Swamps breed mosquitos.  As I have described that deck of mine, do you think we spend much time on it when the mosquitos are out? The deck does not get much use when the sun goes down.  Morning and mid day it’s fine, but that means by the time we are home it’s either too cold as it is this time of year, or it’s too buggy when it’s warmer.

The cheapest option we have, assuming there are no code or structural issues, is to replace the decking and railings with new wood.  The deck is quite large, but fortunately at least 30% of it is fine, and possibly more.  That 30% outside of the shadow of the trees, and thus dries quickly.

Another option we are considering, and this is a likely minimum option, is to cut the deck down from its current size to a much smaller area.  The deck covers our sliding glass doors to our basement.  We would like that area not covered by the deck to allow more light in there.  In the winter, it would help warm the basement, and in the summer, it would still allow more light in.  That part of the deck is under the trees, and is the most damaged.  We would not lose much.  That would lower our repair costs significantly, and likely be the cheapest option.  It would make future staining of the deck cheaper, and it would put less area under that tree. There would also be the scar on my home from where the deck joins my home.  That siding would have to be added there, and of course would not look the same as the 35 year weathered siding.  Still, it’s to the back of our home, so it would be less of a problem.

The last option is the one I prefer, but am struggling with.  I want to do as many of my neighbors have done to make a screened in porch.  Putting a snow safe roof, mosquito proof screens, and perhaps windows, on to the smaller sized deck is what  I want.  Screens at least,  but possibly windows.  The reason most of my neighbors have it is of course the mosquitos.  The damn things are all over town.  This is also the most expensive option as there would be a lot more construction involved.

What to Do?

The simple fact is that I want to do the most expensive option.  Now we have not had a carpenter here, so who knows the estimates for the 3 options.  It could be that the deck must be replaced due to code changes or rot.  There may not be all that much difference in cost between the 3 options.  My instinct is that is not the case, but then total dollar amount is also unknown until we get the estimates.  This will be something we hope to do over the winter or in the spring with the ideal scenario being that the work is done next year.

We lived in our home for almost 7 years now.  We have replaced the carpet which was as much a health issue as anything else.  We have all gotten sick less often since it was replaced. We had to spend some money repairing weather damage to our driveway.  We have high ceilings in one room, and  I was not getting on scaffolding to paint that.  I paint the normal size rooms.  We’re replaced all the appliances as they were all old and broken.  Well, we did replace a working drier when the washing machine failed, as they were the same age and we had a Black Friday sale.

If we replace the deck with the cheaper option, we still won’t use the space often because of the mosquitos.  Growing up, we both used our respective decks often, but then our respective homes were both coincidentally near hill tops and generally drier.  We both had more sun with fewer trees.  In my case, the land had been farmed since before Europeans arrived, and continuously since they had.  Our town is not like that, and, well it sucks not being able to sit outside, in the summer evenings.  Had we known it was this bad, it may have changed our home choice, but as it is, it’s not a reason to move.

This will not be an easy choice, and a lot will come down to the estimates we get.  We do have to do something, but the question is what?

What Would You Do?

I am curious what you folks would do.  I am seriously torn between the lower cost, and the intangible benefit of the closed in deck. I can’t say we would use it enough to make it worth while, and I’m not sure it would add enough value to the home to make up for the cost.

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