How To Combine Your Deck Design and Landscaping To Create a Private Oasis

In the strictest of definitions, landscaping is the term used for actions and elements that change the contour of the land, including ornamental features, plantings, trees and shrubs. Although it is a backyard feature that becomes a focal point of your outdoor living space, the deck is not technically part of your landscaping. A good deck design will combine with the landscaping to create an ideal space, ready for relaxation and fun at a moment's notice. But not all backyard plans combine these two elements well.

How can you blend a well designed deck with attractive and effective landscaping to create a private oasis or retreat? With some imagination, consideration and a strong sense of what you want from the space.

Consider the Grade

The preliminary grade of your property determines what type of deck you can install and where that structure will fit into the landscaping plan. There are three basic types of grading on residential properties:

  • ground level
  • lookout (your rear entrance is situated from about 2 feet to 5 feet off of the ground)
  • walkout (your rear entrance is situated 5 feet or more off of the ground)

Ground levels properties provide more flexibility in terms of decking, since there are less stairs to incorporate. Stairs tend to take up space and long runs will jut out into the yard and block traffic flow and views. When your deck design is ground level it can easily mesh with stone patios, flower beds and shrubs. Your options will be wider and multiple decks can be placed around the yard to create multiple rooms.

Walkout properties create impressive views and give you the opportunity to build decks that resemble sprawling balconies - you might overlook the sweep of suburbia or the stretches of grass you call home. But you will need to decide whether or not to install stairs off of the walkout deck. Those stairs will then need to be incorporated into the landscape, as opposed to the deck itself meeting the gardens and turf.

Upper level decks can be decorated and spruced up underneath, creating a beautiful covered porch look that is easily woven into the landscape of your yard. But be sure this is part of the initial design and opt for larger joists and beams - 2x10 instead of the traditional 2x8, allowing the deck to be safely supported without adding as many posts. Also consider whether to install a deck liner on the upper level to create a weather resistant finish underneath. It isn't necessary, but will certainly make the lower level more useable in a variety of weather conditions.

Lookout properties lie somewhere in the middle. They can be adapted into ground level decks by installing wide stairs from the main rear entrance down to a ground level surface. Or alternatively a deck design on this property could be treated much like a walkout deck, only the space underneath may be used for storage instead of an outdoor living area.

How Retaining Walls Help To Bring These Elements Together

Retaining walls are built to change the grade or create a more level surface for gardens, grass or patios. They are most often made from wood or stone and can be utilized as an edging for driveways, flower beds and pathways. Since retaining walls change the contours of the land (remarkably), they are considered part of your landscaping plan. You can incorporate the deck design and retaining wall design together, since these two elements are built using similar techniques and possibly similar materials.

Think about using retaining walls to create a more level surface around your deck, eliminating the need for costly stairs that take up a lot of room. Retaining walls can also be used around a deck to lower the height of the deck surface off of the ground. Typically decks that are less than two feet off of the ground do not need to have a railing installed around the edges. This will offer a better view and helps the deck to meet the landscaping smoothly.

With retaining walls around the decking you can then backfill the space with soil and create a raised bed that makes the edge of your deck safe. Plant various colorful perennials or flowering shrubs and you have a lively border around your deck that will change with the seasons.

Contractor Considerations

Many homeowners feel that an overall landscape plan is valuable. This plan will include both the deck and any other features of the backyard, including landscaping, fences, patios and sheds. By following this landscape plan homeowners can create a seamless outdoor living space one step at a time (and as finances and time permit). Check out various companies that offer this service and be sure that you are paying for a professional to create the drawing. Ask that all of the relevant details be included and find out whether you will own the rights to the design afterward. (This allows you to hire any firm to carry out the work, without fear of repercussions from the original designer.)

It may be better to have one contracting company complete all of the landscaping work for you. If they specialize in plantings and grading issues, but do not have the staff and expertise to handle deck construction, ask them for recommendations and follow up with any names that they offer. Companies in the exterior construction industry tend to work together on sizable projects - once you have found a company that you trust, use them as a source for referrals on other outdoor projects that you have in the works.

Combining a professional and creative deck design with well planned landscaping is sure to create the ideal oasis in your backyard. Depending on the grading of your property, there are certain designs and combinations that will work best. Retaining walls can be used to change the yard's contours and help the deck meet the landscaping smoothly. Finally, have one main contractor do the work and use their referrals for any services that company does not offer. This will ensure your backyard space is well designed and well built for relaxation and luxury living.

Posted by: diana
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