Building a Backyard Oasis One Deck at a Time

Mitchell brothers, Schilling deck designer Micah Guzman work with Mokena residents to create an outdoor living space that is beautiful as well as practical.

His wife wanted an unobstructed view of deer grazing in the back yard. He wanted to trade deck cleaning and staining chores for a bit of relaxation on the weekends.

When Mokena residents Tom and Kim Maloney decided to tear out their old deck and install a new model, they had specific goals and ideas in mind. They met with the Mitchell brothers—Scott, Mike and Jon of Mitchell Construction in Monee—and devised a plan to suit their needs.

They purchased low-maintenance products from a local lumber yard—Schilling Design Center and Lumber Yard. And, ever since the project was completed in August of 2011, they’ve asked themselves only one question: “Why didn’t we do this sooner?”

“The old deck that we had blocked our kitchen window,” Tom Maloney said. “My wife (Kim) wanted to be able to see out into the back yard. The problem was the existing stairs to the old deck were right in front of that window.

“The Mitchell brothers were kind enough to come out and consult with us about how to change the stairway, which was kind of a big deal. They spent a considerable amount of time. We finally came up with this plan here to wrap around. Now, the deck doesn’t block the window.

“Plus, there is no cedar to be stained. We went with the low-maintenance products—mainly because we were sick and tired of staining and cleaning and doing everything else on the old deck.”

Many new, higher-end decking materials are made to look like natural wood, but crafted from recycled materials and/or cellular PVC.

AZEK Building Products touts the move in one of its brochures as the latest step in the evolution of decking: First there was wood, then composites and now PVC. The Trex brand is one that has come to be known as eco-friendly. Trex says it saves 400 million pounds of plastic and wood scrap from landfills every year by using recycled products such as used pallets.

A number of manufacturers produce high-tech decking products. All advertise them as stain-resistant (grease spills from the grill can be washed away), scratch-resistant (patio chairs won’t leave scuff marks) and split-resistant (fasteners are placed close to the edging). Maloney said up-front costs are higher.

Deck the Halls, Win Back Your Weekend

Since Maloney and his wife plan to stay put, they have come to grips with their pay-now decision. Both expect to see a return on their investment over time—free time.

“The trend that we’re really seeing is people are trying to get away from the weekend maintenance of having an outdoor living space,” Schilling deck designer Micah Guzman said. “Being that people have longer commutes—they’re driving more, working more—so when they’re done working, they don’t want to come home and work to enjoy their weekend.

“So, we see a lot more people coming in that want to go with a low-maintenance (product) on their decking. Unfortunately, there is nothing out there that is maintenance-free. If you ever hear somebody say maintenance-free—it’s not. You have to clean them, especially in this area here with all the pollutants we have floating around. They’re going to get dirty.

“But cleaning them is  very easy. I have a low-maintenance deck on my home. I clean it once in the spring, and that’s all I do. That’s the best way to go.”

Guzman worked with the Mitchell brothers on the selection of materials and the design of the Maloney’s new outdoor living space. From a series of conversations, a plan was formulated.

“They had two windows—the upstairs widow has the sink, so looking out to see the deer in the woods—they wanted to open up the area so they could see out,” Mike Mitchell said. “Then, downstairs, they also have a window that was blocked by the stairs coming down.

“We moved the deck over and located the stairs on the other side. We had to rework some of the landscaping to make it all work. But that way they got their view back.”

As an added bonus, the Maloneys also were able to rid themselves of mold and mildew issues, the result of poor drainage on their old deck.

“Underneath the old deck—since this is a walk-out basement—it was always wet and damp and we had algae underneath here,” Tom Maloney said. “Even the bricks were full of algae. So, they suggested we do this rain-catching system here.

“It catches all the rain and forces it into a gutter and takes it away. Now, it’s so nice because it’s dry under here at all times.” 

Tricia S April 25, 2012 at 12:18 AM
But if you live in oak lawn, you better look into the new ordinance, #11-18-42 before you start coming up with your back yard plans! Basically, it says no more than 50% of your property can be impervious surfaces (that includes brick pavers).


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