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Planning a deck 101

By: Ellen Lampe


Summer is just around the corner, meaning it’s time to spruce up the garden, do your outdoor “spring cleaning,” and re-evaluate the state of your yard. Do you have an outdoor space where you can relax on a beautiful day or entertain a party? Maybe a new deck has been on your list of home upgrades for quite some time. Well, spring is the ideal time to begin planning so that your dream deck can be made a reality just in time for summer.

Some things to keep at the forefront when planning a deck are function, shape, elevation and materials.

• The first thing to consider is function. For what will your deck be used? Will it mostly be you and your immediate family enjoying the space? Or will it be your go-to spot for large gatherings with heavy foot traffic? Are you looking to incorporate a pool, hot tub or other water feature such as a pond or fountain? Do you like to cook? Will space for an outdoor kitchen be a priority? Once you’ve nailed down the deck’s primary uses, you can move on to tailoring it to your desires.

• The next thing to consider is space. Begin by evaluating the shape and size of your yard. Open yourself up to possibilities beyond the traditional rectangular deck that often comes to mind. Consider a multi-level deck, a wrap-around deck from the back yard to a side yard, or even two adjoining decks from separate spaces. Remember that the shape of your deck determines the ease with which people can get around and move to different areas. Instead of a squared-off deck, consider a rounded deck, hexagonal deck, or one with beveled edges – these styles are eye-catching and allow for maximum perimeter space. Planning the shape and size of your deck can be an overwhelming step. Don’t let a challenging landscape hold back your vision of the perfect deck. Consider hiring a local consultant to evaluate your yard and help you come up with a design.

• Once you’ve come up with a plan, it’s time to decide which materials to use. These days there are a plethora of durable, low-maintenance and weather-resistant materials. The original choice, wood, is a common option and easy to install. However, it requires annual cleaning, can rot, warp and may not be as friendly to barefoot deck-goers [i.e. splinters]. Tropical hardwoods last longer, are resistant to insects and extremely durable. Composite – a blend of plastic and waste wood fibers – will not splinter; does not need to be stained or painted; and advancements in pattern, color and texture allow for a near perfect match to whatever the homeowner seeks. Plastic decking is splinter-free and requires almost no maintenance; however, it doesn’t look or feel much like wood. If you are looking to fool guests into thinking your plastic deck is wood, Polystyrene is the way to go. It’s light, durable, has a non-slip surface and comes in various colors. It’s important to choose a material that will withstand the test of time and not cost a fortune to upkeep. Whichever option you choose, remember that outdoor flooring material that resembles your indoor flooring can create the illusion of a larger, blended space. Selecting the right color deck also can enhance your yard’s scenery, complement your home, or make the deck stand out on its own.

• Consider any final touches you’d like to add to your deck. Frame the space with railings, or consider incorporating built-in benches. Lighting beneath the steps or hanging string lights can create a dim, cozy ambiance. Think about a fireplace, fire pit, a fountain, pergola, porch swing, spotlight lighting, storage or any other add-ons. Now also is the time to think about safety precautions such as motion-sensor lighting, locking gates, etc. Talk with area experts to determine the best way to incorporate these features into your deck.

• Now you have your blueprint plans, you’ve picked out your materials and your dream deck is on its way to becoming the real deal. The final step? Make it an extension of your home. Furnish it with décor that draws you and guests to the space. Think about plants, furniture colors, the grill and outdoor seating. You know what makes your house a home, and your deck is simply an extension of that.

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