Five Essentials to Deck Design and How To Apply Them In Your Yard

Your outdoor living space should be comfortable and custom designed to suit your needs. Deck design is a combination of five basic elements, and every good deck needs to have all of them to create the ideal backyard. Start with the right design, and then you will end up with an outdoor area you can truly live in.

Deck Materials

The materials your deck is made of will affect the appearance, feel and atmosphere around this structure. A perfectly designed deck that is built out of the wrong material will feel off, strange and incomplete. Consider the color, texture and overall appearance of each material before making your final decision.

Don't be afraid to combine one foundational material with accents in another type. Wood decks provide a natural, earthy feel, but are also complimented well by steel or aluminum railings. Sometimes contrasts between materials are what make a deck feel unique and distinct. But be sure that the main material (generally the deck board) is exactly what you want.

A deck's material will also determine the maintenance needs, another important factor. Think about how much work you are willing to do in terms of cleaning and staining the product. Generally untreated wood products present the highest levels of maintenance, while vinyl or composite deck materials have the lowest maintenance levels.

Size and Shape

Do not skimp on the size of your deck space. Think about how to properly balance the yard with your new deck, remembering that you will likely enjoy different pursuits in each area. Having an oversized deck may eliminate grassy areas where you can let the dogs run, play catch and plant a garden. But shrinking your deck down may eliminate the ability to seat the whole gang at your patio table or sunbathe on a lounger.

If you plan to have a patio dining set on the deck, opt for at least a 12-foot square area. Each “room” you want to include beyond that initial space will require another 8 to 10-foot square area.

The shape will also be affected by the size, and should be carefully considered. Cutting off corners (often called a setback) will help to soften where the deck and grass meet, but this design element also cuts back on space.

Don't be afraid to include unique shapes in your deck, such as circles, ovals and other curves. These can help with overall flow and add an element of grace to the space. Curving lines also help to create more visual space on a deck that may be on the smaller side.

Traffic Flow

Most decks are attached to the house. They serve as an extension of your home, as well as a pathway to the yard. That second point means traffic flow plays a big role in design. The deck needs to allow for smooth and uninterrupted flow while still providing adequate space for everything else that happens out there.

Consider the stair locations carefully. Wider steps should be installed in the main pathway, while narrow stairways can lead to side entrances and minor paths. Stairs should also be built with comfortable runs or treads (the area that you step down onto) and fairly shallow rises (the height of the stair). These two elements keep traffic safe and relaxing while moving on and off the deck.

Use multiple levels to direct traffic as well, and create different rooms. Install privacy screens or other visual barriers to build a private nook. Or simply keep the levels open for a spacious feeling.

Safety and Security

Railings also affect the flow and traffic, directing it away from the edges and maintaining safety. Be sure to include railings that meet local building code, which will specify the height and design. Pickets will need to be spaced a certain length apart to provide adequate safety and the horizontal rails at the top and bottom should be spaced far enough apart to avoid creating a climbable railing.

Security can be incorporated into the deck with lockable railing gates. This will keep unwanted guests off of your deck and can be used to keep toddlers and small pets in the space. Consider installing gates in the skirting as well, which allows you access to the area underneath your deck that's generally closed off for appearances.

Personalized Details

Besides the structural stability of the deck, adding personal details is perhaps the most important step to customizing your outdoor living space. Details include anything from planter boxes for color to benches for seating.

Think about aesthetic additions, such as patterns in the deck board or molding and trim. These additions decorate the deck without adding to the clutter. Stain and paint work as a personalized detail as well.

Functional details can be added easily, making your deck work better. Built in storage boxes can be installed under the decking or above. Shelving is another great idea for the busy family, providing the perfect spot to store grilling tools, patio cushions and other outdoor essentials.

Shade is an important feature and can be easily included in the personalized details. Pergolas add dappled shade with an open slat design. Use decorative beams for a little flavor and grow grape vines or other greenery for some additional shade. Awnings can be installed as well, for more complete protection. Think about whether you need a covering over the BBQ or a windbreak to keep the flames burning brightly.

Deck design involves five basic elements - materials, size and shape, traffic flow, safety and personalized details. Be sure to include all of these in your outdoor living space and look forward to enjoying the utmost in customized comfort.

Posted by: diana
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