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Creating A Backyard Paradise

It's warm, you're working hard and you want nothing more than to go home to a warm and welcoming backyard paradise where you can relax or entertain your friends.

But, if you're only outside entertaining area is a dirty worn deck, or nothing at all, don't despair. Danny Lipford, host of "Today's Homeowner," provided some ideas on The Early Show to refinish an old deck or create a new deck or patio.

Scrub the Decks

Lipford says even if your current deck is worn down, drab and dreary you can squeeze at least another couple of years out of it with just a little elbow grease and the right products. You may be surprised at how well your old deck spruces up with a little TLC.

Start by making sure to hammer down any protruding nails and sanding down any overly rough areas. Next, apply a standard deck cleaner, work it in with a stiff brush and allow to stand at least 30 minutes. Then, rinse off with a garden hose or powerwasher.

Next choose a stain that suits your taste and is appropriate for your deck. There are three different kinds: clear, semi-transparent and solid. If the appearance of the wood is still attractive, you may want to choose a clear finish or a semi-transparent stain. However, if the wood is damaged or has been previously stained, you may want to consider a solid stain. This will cover up any imperfections or serious damage to the wood.

Once the stain has dried, get the deck chairs out and start the blender.

For more information on deck maintenance product visit (800-321-3444).

Compose with Composite Material

If you have don't have a deck or are sure you need a new one, consider a deck constructed from "composite decking material." Rapidly growing in popularity, Lipford says composite decking material offers beautiful decks that are virtually maintenance free. Designed to provide the look of wood while being easier to install and maintain, composite material is resistant to fading, peeling and cracking. Plus, you will never have to sand, seal, paint or restain. Lipford says while your neighbor is applying the latest coat of stain, you can just turn on your garden hose and be done sprucing the deck.

There are several companies that offer this type of product such as TimberTech (800-307-7780), Trex (800-289-8739)and Certain Teed (800-233-8990). (Visit the websites below to learn more about the individual products). Most composite decking is made of very fine sawdust and plastic resins and they are manufactured in such a way that they will not warp or deteriorate in any way. They do not have to be stained or painted, but they do require that a weather resistant wood framing be done under the actual deck boards.

Lipford says composite material basically works like wood. You cut it the same way and screw it down the same way. If you are extremely handy, designing and building your own deck would certainly be possible, however, for the novice, using a professional deck contractor would be recommended. To find a qualified contractor in your area, check with your local Home Builders Association or check with the manufacturer's list of dealers and installers.

It cost 20 to 25 percent more than using wood, but manufacturers say that it's maintenance-free.

Lipford says the composite material in comparison to a deck made of regular wood should last indefinitely. But, he says, it hasn't been out long enough to know how long it would last. Different manufacturers have guarantees of 10 to 30 years for it. Composite material has been coming out in stages in the last 8 to 10 years, says Lipford, but it has hit the mainstream in the last few years.

Many of the pressure-treated wood on the market has a limited guarantee for 20 years, but without proper maintenance, many last less than ten years. Wood decks have to be maintained by continuing to clean the deck and by applying some type of weather resistant sealant to keep the water from getting down into the pores of the wood, usually every 3 years.

Constructing a Concrete Patio

As a general rule, if an entertainment platform is 12 inches off of the ground, it is called a deck. If a outdoor entertaining area is on the ground, it is called a patio. Lipford says he has seen people try to build a deck right on the ground because they think wood is cheaper than concrete, but it's not. He said that in most cases, a concrete patio is cheaper to make than a wood deck. Lipfords points out that many times people choose to have multi-level entertaining with a deck and a patio.

Lipfords says building concrete patios and walkways that resemble brick or cobblestone can now be an easy do-it-yourself project thanks to a new kit from "Quikrete," which contains re-usable plastic molds called "WalkMaker". These kits offer unlimited designs and are a cost-effective and time-efficient landscaping option that will easily and affordably enhance the appearance of any backyard.

In the past, concrete was not a project to be done alone because one had to work quickly before it hardens. Also, Haddon says, if you don't know how to finish the surface properly, you will end up with a big mess. The Quickrete (800-282-5828)system allows you to create a small portion of the project at a time. A mold is used that the concrete is poured into. So, you can fill a few molds and come back later to complete the job.

Lipford says the steps are fairly simple. First, decide where you want to build your patio and how you want it to look. As with any product, be sure to closely follow the manufacturer's instructions. Next place the plastic forms in your chosen design, mix your concrete and pour your perfect patio.

When mixing your concrete, you may want to consider adding various color additives to give a varied design and customized pattern. Once you have poured the concrete into the mold, trowel off the excess and make sure all cracks and crevices are completely filled. Once you have filled the mold, remove it, lay it in the next spot and repeat until the entire area you have designed is completed.