Move over, Matthew McConaughey.

Billings homeowners are hungry for tips to enhance their outdoor L-I-V-I-N.

Decks, pergolas, patios and custom rail systems are just a few of the elements you can implement to expand the livable footprint of your home.

And even though it doesn’t technically add square footage, you’ll be amazed at how much a new or refinished deck will infuse peace, Zen and relaxation into your life.

But formulating a detailed design plan doesn’t have to leave you dazed and confused.

Whether you’re looking for inspired ideas for new construction or simply need advice on refinishing your pre-existing deck, area experts are here to assist.

Material matters

Cost, lifespan and maintenance must be taken into consideration when selecting decking material.

A long-lasting composite might work well for your small summer cabin because of low maintenance, while a rich Redwood will look timeless wrapped around your two-story craftsman.

Or, for the edgy, discerning homeowner—vintage-inspired reclaimed barn wood might be the way to go.

“There are pros and cons to each material,” said Jeremy Van Wagoner, owner of Pinnacle Remodeling in Billings. “Wood saves cost, can be stained any color and sanded down if it gets scraped our gouged, but a high-quality composite can last 20-30 years.”

Van Wagoner prefers the “character” in wood vs. composite when constructing decks.

“Redwood is the most common type used in Billings, but homeowners are beginning to branch out and use types like Tigerwood—striped with dark oranges and reds—Ipe and Teak wood, ” he said.

And, for those interested in making their deck a true conversation piece, Van Wagoner suggests building it out of reclaimed wood.

“Reclaimed barn and corral wood can sometimes run twice the cost of composite, but it’s something you’ll treasure like a work of art,” Van Wagoner said.

Not all composites created equal

Known for its durability and enduring lifespan, composite decking has been on the scene since the 1990s. Early prototypes were heavy, scratchy and warped too easily under the stresses of sun and snow.

Since then, manufacturers have vastly improved the lifespan, look and feel of composite decking (think Trex™ and Timbertech™).

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Some brands even mirror the look and feel of actual hardwood.

“It’s definitely important to educate yourself on the different brands of composite,” Van Wagoner said. “There’s quality composite and cheap composite that’s going to grey-out and bleach in the sun over time.”

Also be sure to double-check the composite’s coating—newer models are crafted with a thick, plastic coating about 1/16 of an inch thick that repels water, dirt and debris, Van Wagoner said.

While composite decking requires no maintenance, it might benefit from the occasional power wash, Van Wagoner said.

“Composite decking also shrinks and expands during the day due to temperature fluctuations,” Van Wagoner said, “it’s just something to be aware of.”

Re-sand, re-stain

Perhaps you don’t have the budget for a new deck or simply like the one you have.

No problem.

Kevin Card, owner of Deck Tech of Billings, recommends getting into a routine of washing, sanding, then staining your deck every two to three years.

Say, for example, you decide to re-stain your deck this summer. Next summer—possibly the next two summers—all you should need to do is power wash it back to new.

“After two to three years, your deck will likely be due for sanding and re-staining—then the cycle repeats,” Card said.

Of course, this timetable depends on the type of wood, quality of stain, sun exposure and amount of snow shovel scraping during winter months.

“I see and refinish at least 100 decks a year and recommend Messmer’s UV Plus deck stain for area homeowners,” Card said. “It has deep saturation, is water repellent and has UV protectants.”

Not sure whether or not your deck needs to be re-sanded or re-stained?

“A tell-tale sign is greying boards, screws popping up and splinters,” Card said.

And, unless the boards in your deck are completely rotted out, Card and his team can re-sand and refinish just about any deck, he said.

“We also get requests to replace or reinforce joists under the deck for added support,” he said. “Sometimes all the deck needs is a little lift.”

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