Permits for your Outdoor Living Space

February 1, 2014….Seems a little early to start thinking about Spring planning, right?  Wrong!  Now is the best time to start planning.  Permitting in Southern Fairfield, CT and Westchester County, NY can be a time consuming process.  In order to have your outdoor living space built to enjoy this spring, now is the time to start.

Archadeck will sit down with you and discuss your objectives and work with you to find a solution to your dream yard.  Surveys are a necessity in this day.  In order to design an outdoorliving space you desire and one that can be built, we must first look at your survey to determine what you locale will allow.

Setbacks, wetlands and septic systems all play a role in what and where you can build.  Town requirements are constantly changing.  Design your outdoor living space to conform to your town requirements.  There is nothing worse than falling in love with a design and then finding out the town will not allow it to be built.
Surveying companies get very busy in the spring.  If you wait too long, you may not even be able to get a survey for a month or two.  Towns like Greenwich, Stamford, Fairfield and Norwalk have a fairly quick permit turn around time provided the appropriate paper work is in place (updated survey, green space coverage, storm water management information, etc.)  Other towns like Darien, White Plains, Mamaroneck and Westport typically take at least two to three weeks if not longer after the initial paperwork is filed.

Now is the time to start planning.


Decks and the Recession

Many believe that the hard economic times of the last four +/- years are starting to turn. Construction activity in many areas is increasing and many are now making plans for a construction project on their home. 

If you are one who has the itch for home improvement, but are not yet ready for the major large edition, outdoors is a great place to look. A new deck or patio by Archadeck will add so much living space and enjoyment to one’s home in the warmer months.  Typically, these additions are less expensive than the full blown projects requiring heat and plumbing. A deck or patio project ranges from small to large, and fresh air, is still available at no additional cost.Image

How much Does a Building Permit Cost? Revisited

ImageOn May 7, 2010 i posted a blog entitled “How Much Does a Building Permit Cost?” in this blog I discussed costs, other than, the direct application cost to a Building Department. These costs include possible costs to Inland-Wetlands, Conservation, Health Departments, Planning and Zoning and Coastal Area Management which are all Departments managing construction impact for the Towns and Cities. There is also the additional administration of Design, Construction Drawings,  Engineering, and the time to apply for the permit. Also mentioned was the necessary and very important “construction fall out” of obtaining a permit that now requires a builder to follow construction codes and State and City Ordinances, all of which bring costs, simply, to do it “right”. After writing the 5/7/2010 blog I was hoping I had covered necessary information that would stand for a long period of time. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

In the Northeastern part of our Country where our Archadeck office provides Outdoor Living spaces, things have changed again. After a number of events ands perhaps culminating with Super Storm Sandy, the effects of munisciple construction management and some “over building” of 1995-2005, we have learned that more may need to be done to protect our environment and our neighbors. One new effort is called “Storm Water Management” and simply put, manages what to do with the water now that Green Space has diminished as a result of construction. This post is not the medium nor am I the scientist to explain the multiple impacts of rain and flood waters but I can say, IT COSTS MORE!

When one encounters requirements for Storm Water, an engineer may need to be hired to determine exactly what to do with the water. This engineer is not the same as the structural engineer, He/She is an Aquatic and Environmental specialist. Perhaps installation of retention systems is required or something as simple as a “Bog” or Rain garden. Your costs will be directly tied to the task required in order to obtain your Building Permit.

As the additional costs for Construction Permits all spin out, one will find that a Construction project, from conception to completion, takes far longer and costs much more  than one originally thought Labor and Materials might be. These added costs could move some homeowners out of the potential construction market, new restriction will move some homes out of the potential addition and improvement market, and will remove some builders out of the “do it by the book” service they were once in. Be careful, find someone familiar in this new world of building.




Ipe deck with Wire Rail

IMG_1199Ipe, the hardwood from brazil is still an all time favorite for looks and durability. If one desires a natural product for their deck, Ipe is often discussed. One decision a family must make when considering Ipe is whether or not the cost is justified. The average family in the USA lives in their home for approximately 5 years. Ipe can look great after 15 and 20 years so for a long term game plan, it will “pay you back”. For short term, it might not be the obvious choice, financially.

When one has a great view, stainless steel wire rails are very popular choices. They are not as easy to build as they look and they must be set up so they do not need frequent adjusting. Check out this nice deck in Riverside, Connecticut over looking the Mianus River.

Cumaru Deck in Pound Ridge, New York and a noticeable trend.

After 25+ years in the construction business, and the “lions share” of that time focusing on decks, screen porches and other outdoor living projects, I cannot help but notice emerging trends. When I was new to the industry in the late ’80’s, the number one request from homeowners was to “move the indoors to the outdoors”, so we designed many single level decks near the first or main living floor elevation. The next request, and still very current, was to  “incorporate their living space and their yard, giving rise to more two level decks, broad open steps and fewer view restrictions. With these requests, specific details were applied based on the age of the kids. Certain safety features such as gates and no benches near rails on high decks, for families with toddlers and additional living space for families with teens.

In the last few years I have received many more requests to design specific features, not for the children, but, the grandchildren. Let’s face it, the baby boom has grown up and is now turning a corner. Perhaps it’s just a numbers thing, or, families are living closer and using their homes more because of the economy and other elements. Perhaps Grandparents are just as excited about their Grand children as they have always been. When our first was born, my mother-in-law bought the T-shirt that said, “if I knew grandchildren were this great, I would have had them first”.

Pictured is a deck designed for two very wonderful, and excited Grandparents. The previously had a deck that was big enough for two to enjoy a coffee and no need to run to the yard to “play’. Now that there are four grandchildren, things have changed and so hasd their deck.

This deck is constructed with Cumaru, a hardwood from Brazil. It has two levels with broad sweeping steps from deck to deck and lower deck to the yard. it is open, fluid and safe for the whole 3 generations of family. This deck was built with the Grandkids in mind but truly for the enjoyment of Grandma and Grandpa. Have a great summer!!!

Can a Deck be built in winter?

Here in Connecticut we can and do build all winter. Although the construction can take more time and can be more difficult, we build year round to keep working and make sure our decks are ready for spring..

I have found that temperatures of 20 degrees farenheight and above to be very tolerable. Once a carpenter starts moving it’s like a sport such as skiing or hockey, he warms up. The work standard does not need to change nor should it. If one cannot maintain standards,, it is too cold.

Digging the footings can be another story. Frostlines in this area rarely go below 8″ and we break through this “upper crust” of earth with a jackhammer. When pouring the footings, they say it is best to be over 32 degrees. Most of a footings’ concrete is below grade, our footings are 42″ deep. It is much warmer in the ground than above in the winter months. For the remaining 6″ +/- of concrete above the ground it should be wrapped in hay and/or blankets. Concrete generates heat as it cures and it will be fine at above ground temperatures above 40 degrees and there are processes to follow if there is a need to pour at colder temperatures.

Once “out of the ground”, construction proceeds as normal other than slippage when icey and cold tools and materials. We cover the materials nightly incase of snow, this will keep the materials easier to work and we clean up everyday (as always) because a snow fall will bury debris and hide in from clean up.

 When temperatures freeze, the ground is not muddy and does not get tracked on the new deck, hence, the deck is cleaner than when built in wet conditions.  Also, for wood decks, it’s first several months is not in the hot sun. Sun is the most damaging element to wood. Building a deck in winter is a tougher job but they come out great and in the spring just add friends and family.

White Plains Garapa Deck

We recently finished a modest size deck in White Plains, New York. The challenges of this simple design were Zoning and Wetlands setbacks. The design was restricted but by placement of the stairs, we maintained maximum utility near the door area for dining and entertaining.

What is different about this deck is that the floor surface, stair treads and rail cap are made with Garapa, a hardwood from Brazil. Garapa is a light honey color and dense material. It is reasonably consistant in color, it is  stable and weathers gracefully. It comes smooth and sands beautifully and will resist rot and termites for 25 years +/-.  It is not as dense as Ipe yet easily dense enough to be a fantastic deck. Best of all, the 5/4×6  board is almost half the price (per foot) of the 5/4×6  Ipe. 

Garapa is an unknown to many, a more durable substitute for Western Red Cedar, and a very high value for those seeking to build a natural wood deck.

If available in your area, check it out.