Cottagers are first to tell you, upkeep isn’t easy. But keep your focus on the nature around you and there are creative ways to get the most from your renovation dollar, says Colin Hunter, the contractor behind Decks, Docks and Gazebos, a new series airing on Cottage Life.
“A lot of times when you own both a cottage and a house … you’re always looking for ways to make the cottage better without spending money,” says Hunter, who grew up in cottage country and now owns 919 Reno, a company focused on one-of-a-kind cottage renewals.
“We try and give basic information to help people with their cottage projects and then also some creative thought as to how you can make it really unique and take advantage of your property,” he says.
Decks and docks are two of the most common requests for cottage improvements. The most essential advice Hunter has is to do your research before you begin, and to consider your long-term plan.
Just as no two cottages are the same, no two docks will be the same. You need to understand the water flow, the shoreline, and how you plan to use it.
In one episode of Decks, Docks and Gazebos, Hunter helps a family design a u-shaped dock to give the kids a protected area to swim. In another, he constructs a metal pole dock that is lightweight and removable, allowing the family to easily store it over winter.
“It’s not like you can buy one specific style or type, and it will stay there forever and be the perfect dock,” he says. “You really have to do some independent research on each property to decide which dock is going to be best financially, for longevity and also suit your entertaining needs.”
It’s important to know your end game, he adds. Perhaps a dock will initially be used for sunning with hopes of purchasing water toys down the road. Or maybe you start with a small, utilitarian landing that gets you to your cottage so you can “unload and Grandma can get out of the boat,” but down the road you add a ramp out to a floating dock to prolong your sunlight hours.
Taking note of the sun is equally significant when planning a deck. Do you want morning sun or afternoon sun? Do you want a comfortable place to sit and enjoy the view? Then be careful not to obstruct it, says Hunter.
On Decks, Docks and Gazebos, he aims to build decks that “allow people to take advantage of the nature around them.” A highlight is an episode where he builds a deck halfway down a cliff, ideal for watching sunsets.
“The pathway looked like it had been there for years and years because we worked with nature – we didn’t just bulldoze a path through,” he says. “It’s about going around what’s naturally there.”
Clear panels, increasingly popular and dropping in price, are a good way to preserve the view from a deck. But as much as you’ll find the latest and greatest materials highlighted on his show, Hunter admits he has a weakness for “old-fashioned stuff” too.
“Cottages always used to have trap doors and ‘hidey holes’ and tree forts, quirky little things that have kind of gone by the wayside,” he says. “One thing we try to do is bring that back.”
Episodes of Decks, Docks and Gazebos air Thursdays at 9:30 p.m. EST.
Are you planning a job on your own deck, dock or gazebo? Take a look at eieihome’s directory of general contractors.