Posted by Shaun Stohr on 8/12/2019
How many times have you driven by that house in your neighborhood with the perfect deck, imagining entertaining family and friends? Find yourself daydreaming at your desk about the perfect patio to watch a sunset from? As any homeowner can tell you, it is a fantasy we all share, but only some take the necessary steps to make it a reality. To make sure your deck not only looks beautiful but fulfills all the practical needs of outdoor real estate.
It may not be common knowledge in this day and age, but, the origin of the modern deck is an addition that resembles the deck of a ship. Unlike the depreciating investment that a boat represents, including a deck in your renovation plans can improve the value of your home for years to come. On average, a boat will depreciate by 24% in only three years while a brand new deck could show a 75% return on investment if you ever decide to sell. You don’t have to be a Wall Street hotshot to see the value in that stock!
Don’t Just Expand Your Home, Improve It!
As tempting as it may be to wrap your entire home in a sprawling secondary palatial estate, there are some practical limitations to the size of your new outdoor renovation. According to professional deck builders, your deck should not be built larger than 20% of the square footage of the real estate. No one section of the deck should be larger than the largest room in the home. It may help to layout your proposed size and shape with some rope or string tied to posts to get a real idea of your design to make sure it does not violate these rules. After all, you’re building an addition and not a standalone structure. You wouldn’t want to end up with more outdoor living space than indoor!
Creating Intimacy and Scenic Views
Once the basic shape is laid out, you want to consider the traffic flow of your new deck. You can use short rails or benches to guide traffic and maintain views. If you plan on entertaining larger groups at any one time, plenty of open space would be ideal. If you are interested in smaller gatherings, breaking things into tiered sections can create a sense of intimacy and allow for an open view for multiple groups. Don’t forget to also leave a clear path from the entrance of the home to your yard beyond. Stairs are also an integral part of any deck design. Use this handy Stairs Calculator to prepare ways for your guests to enter and exit or ascend and descend within your patio.
All the Comforts of Home
It is now time to consider selecting the appliances you will want to have available and how to power them. Deciding the location of your appliances ahead of time can help the electrician you work with during the building process. Always plan for more outlets than you may need as the world has become more reliant on digital devices and having ways to charge them.
If you are planning on having any large appliances such as an outdoor refrigerator, you will need to prepare for the appropriate power connections. Have your electrician make sure your home can support a whole new room full of power requirements. Another consideration for outdoor appliances is the water supply for a sink or shower area. Make sure you speak to a professional with a specialty in outdoor plumbing to make sure all the inner workings remain hidden unless exposed piping works with your aesthetic. One last tip for outdoor appliances that always bears repeating is to only select appliances that are rated for outdoor use for safety and longevity.
Rain, Rain, Go Away!
Don’t forget that you’re designing an outdoor space and the weather doesn’t always cooperate with your plans. There are several options for creating an all-weather hang out that still allows for nature to a part of your good time. A deck pergola can be a beautiful addition that not only adds style but will provide a practical solution to a rained-out event. A pergola is a structure that covers a portion of a landscape, usually a deck. It can be freestanding or attached to your home. Pergolas make a perfect place to shelter outdoor amenities such as a hot tub or outdoor kitchen.
Typically, they are square, or rectangle-shaped, but with some creative carpentry, nearly any shape is possible. A pergola is not the only outdoor shelter option available. Many people opt to have an awning projecting from the home the patio is attached to. These can be permanently extended, or, for a more substantial investment, there are motorized retractable models available. Beyond these open-air options, there are more enclosed alternatives, but they can defeat the purpose of a deck by cutting your guests off from nature.
Selecting the Right Materials
One of the last steps to finalizing your plans is to choose a material to build with. There are several natural options, and thanks to modern technology, there are many new materials to consider. Natural materials available can include weather-resistant woods such as redwood, cedar, cypress, and the increasingly popular Brazilian ipe. You can also opt for pressure-treated wood which is treated lumber that contains wood along with preservatives.
As for manmade options, there are composite materials available that contain recycled plastic and wood fiber. There are also several non-wood options such as plastic and aluminum, both of which contain recycled materials. Be sure to consider the climate when selecting a material to renovate with, as this will have the most significant impact on the longevity of your deck.
Renovating Within the Lines
Now that your vision is starting to take shape, contact your local government or homeowner’s association. Find out if you will need a permit or any other restrictions for building additions in your area. You might need to draw up a blueprint of the proposed design to submit depending on your local building codes. There are several free deck design tools available on the internet that can help you put together a professional plan.
Or you could contact a local contractor that could help you design something out for a nominal fee. This step is one of, if not the most, essential steps in designing an addition to your house. Your dream can’t become a reality if you are unable to conform to local building codes.
Decorations for Your Renovations
Before selecting furniture or appliances, you will want to plan out the general aesthetic just as you would for an indoor room. Do you want to let nature in and seamlessly blend into the surrounding landscape? Or do you want to have this be a haven from encroaching wilderness? This decision alone can set the direction and tone for all future decorating decisions. Large plants and trees can make an excellent barrier to the world and provide the same functionality as a solid wall.
Trees, especially as they grow taller, can provide much desired natural shade, keeping the area cool and comfortable. Just as plants can create a natural feel, manmade materials can be used to close off your surroundings if that aesthetic is more appealing. Even if you opt to cut nature off, some decorative plants strategically placed can add a much-desired comfort to your guests.
Furnishing Your Deck
Having selected an aesthetic and appliances that appeal to you, it is time to choose furniture that is both comfortable and aligns with your design goals. Deciding on which function you wish for each area to serve will directly impact the type and amount of furniture you will need. For example, a dining area will need a central table and at least four but, ideally, six seats to accommodate an average dining party comfortably. An area at the far edge of your deck has different furnishing requirements as these areas are usually used for post-meal relaxation and some much-needed alone time between guests.
A comfortable chair or two looking out on a natural view with an end table nearby makes a perfect area to read your favorite book. If you were more interested in napping and your design can support it, a hammock can be a life-changing addition to your deck. Many people opt to include bar stools as well if they include a counter area to separate their outdoor kitchen from the entertaining area.
Filling In the Gaps
Accent pieces are a great way to round out a fully furnished outdoor real estate. Planters filled with flowers or even edible herbs can provide decoration as well as offer a practical approach to break up space and create privacy. Some even opt to build lattice into their design for climbing plants to latch on to. Like any room, wall art makes a great addition to any blank wall. Make sure to select art pieces that will hold up in your local climate to avoid having to replace them frequently. In addition to wall art, floor pieces are also appropriate.
Stone or metal sculptures will most likely be your best choices. You can usually find unique outdoor art pieces at local junkyards and flea markets for very reasonable prices. While it may seem counter-intuitive, a rug can also tie the room together and separate eating areas from conversation areas.
Comfort in All Seasons
A final consideration should be maintaining comfort in various temperatures. While you may not be able to cool an outdoor space like you would an indoor one. But you can undoubtedly provide heat when the weather becomes colder with patio heaters. An effective patio heater will run you about $100 - $500 for a quality unit, depending on the area you are trying to warm. Any space on your deck that people will be gathering should have its own heating unit to maximize comfort. Some of the larger models make a perfect centerpiece to gather around in a large open area.
Depending on the square footage, you may need several models to provide consistent comfort across the area. Areas with seating and other furniture may benefit from a unit mounted above to maximize available space on smaller decks. Patio heaters come in two types: electric and propane. Electric units can usually be plugged into a standard electrical outlet but may also be wired in permanently by an electrician. They also include features such as infrared heat, digital displays, and remote controls.
On the other hand, propane heaters work very well for larger open areas due to their higher BTU rating. They tend to be less feature-rich but, in exchange, you receive a much more powerful unit capable of warming a small crowd of people. The best method of heating your deck will most likely include a combination of both types of heaters to ensure each area attains maximum comfort.
Maintaining Your New Real Estate
One last thing that should be mentioned is maintenance considerations. Every year or two, you should inspect the overall structure for loose boards/railings and protruding nails. Reapplying the stain or paint you chose when initially building at the recommended intervals is also very important to extending the life of your patio. In conclusion, building a deck can be a very complicated process with many steps from concept to reality. Hopefully, the tips above will guide you in the right direction to begin making plans for an outdoor addition.