Q: With COVID-19, I’ve been working from home and eyeing the backyard. I think it might be a great time to put in a deck. What do I need to know before I get started?

A: It’s that time of year when Northwest homeowners like to get outside. A deck is a great way to extend your entertainment space into your yard.

A new deck can increase the value and curb appeal of your home while offering an attractive venue for outdoor gatherings. Luckily, decks can be built by anyone with basic carpentry skills and the right tools, though the higher and more complex the design, the more skill — and expert advice — you’ll need.

When planning your new deck, you’ll need to answer a few basic questions upfront. Do you need a building permit? Will you be entertaining large groups? Do you want added privacy? Once you’ve gotten the basics out of the way, it’s time to decide what kind of decking material you want to use: composite or wood.

Composite is the most advanced and popular decking material on the market. Composite decking is made from wood and recycled plastic fibers, and it comes in a variety of colors and textures that mimic real wood. Most composite products come with a warranty of up to 30 years, and design options are almost endless.

Though it’s a little more expensive than wood, composite does not need staining or the same annual maintenance as a wood deck. Popular brands include Trex and TimberTech.

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As for wood, decking made from cedar is an affordable option and will hold up well in the wet Northwest climate. Cedar is a common, beautiful and stable material, and is resistant to rot, decay and insects. It’s also easy to install.

For a truly unique appearance and exceptional durability, check out some exotic hardwood options, such as mahogany or ipe. They’re significantly more expensive than cedar, but they will hold up well over time.

Now that you know what decking materials you want to use, it’s time to select railing and accessories.

Railing is the first thing people will notice about your deck, so be creative and select a style that complements your home and overall design. Just keep in mind that while railings greatly influence the overall appearance of a finished deck, their primary purpose is to provide safety.

By combining different styles, posts, balusters, lengths and types of railing, you can create a system that suits your taste while providing functionality and safety. For example, cable railings, such as the Feeney CableRail system, are very popular. They and are made from high-strength, low-maintenance steel cables that are weather resistant and very secure. Cable railings can create a distinctive look for any deck.

Decking accessories such as lighting, post caps, built-in benches and privacy screens can give your deck the finished look you want.

When you’ve selected your materials and accessories, you’re ready to start your new deck project. Begin by having a conversation with a deck expert who can help you design it to your specifications and select your products.

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Nancy Cranston is the marketing director at Parr Lumber, a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties (MBAKS). If you have a home improvement, remodeling or residential homebuilding question you’d like answered by one of the MBAKS’s more than 2,700 members, write to homework@mbaks.com.