The hallmarks of suburbia are many and varied: a two-car garage, a couple kids, a strip of zoysia between your castle and your neighbor's. A deck.
But wait -- is it fair to glue a deck onto this collage of urban sprawl? We think not. Decks come in all shapes and sizes, and are attached to all manner of houses. From Stepford-perfect rows in outer west county to red-brick southside neighborhoods, decks are an integral part of the homeowner's summer idyll. It's on these sturdy platforms that we entertain ourselves and our friends, pour beer and play music, barbecue -- and whether you're grilling market-fresh wild salmon or Wal-Mart meat, it's somehow better when cooked outdoors.
If you don't have a deck, you're not alone. Only 70 percent of American homeowners either have one or are considering building one. Where does this figure come from, you ask? Why, the good people at Skil -- makers of laser-guided circular saws and the like -- who have researched the matter thoroughly in preparation for National Build Your Own Deck Week. It seems that Monday, May 31, marks the "unofficial start of deck season," and in order to encourage the unequipped, they are dedicating the week of May 31 to June 6 to the craft of deck-making. This is the week to mobilize the deckless and convert the heathen 30 percent who remain deck-apathetic. Skil claims that a twelve-foot-by-twelve-foot deck will only require two people two weekends of work, which isn't bad for endless summers spent surveying your land from your royal perch, far above the surface dwellers.
To make the deck-building more exciting, Skil is rewarding this summer's top deck-crafters with a bevy of prizes. Send them a picture of your project (and a 1,250-word essay), and you could be the proud owner of a set of ten shiny new Skil-brand power tools, a Coleman 5600 grill, a talking thermometer (can't make that up) or other super prizes. Enter at www.buildwithskil.com, a site replete with expert how-to info to get you started.