Deck Design: Bigger Is Better
As homeowner's look ahead to warmer weather, many are dreaming of summer days spent on a brand new deck. So what is new in the deck design section of home building? Builders and manufacturers agree, the current big trend in decks is just that: big.
"People are wanting to extend the indoor living space to the outside," says Tim Stephens, owner of Archadeck of West Central & Southwest Ohio, who has built several decks in Dayton and Cincinnati that measure 1,500 square feet or more. "Inside, you have a dining room, kitchen, living room, and family room. We're designing the same things in the deck: an area for dining, a sitting or socializing area, and then a cooking area."
The 200-square foot deck is increasingly looking like a relic of the past as homeowners push for more outside living space, and remodelers and builders line up to accommodate them.
Building a deck that's as big as a small house takes more time, planning, and designing than building a small one, notes Stephens. Even a big deck shouldn't have any wasted space. It's time-consuming to design each section of the deck so it caters to the homeowner's plan for using it.
Here are 10 ideas from deck builders and industry experts to consider when building a big deck:
1. Think in layers. Decks—large and small—used to be flat, square, single-surface spaces. But the larger the deck, the more it calls for curves, multiple levels, staircases, built-in seating, and railings.
2. Capture the curves. Flexible composite decking is a favorite among deck builders who are partial to curved surfaces, sidewalks, and staircases, which can create an eye-catching segue between two levels of the deck.
3. Move the eye along. Add a focal point or two to a large, empty span of deck by building a planter or fire pit in the middle and lining the perimeter with built-in seating.
4. Create drama. Accentuate curves, railings and fascia boards with a contrasting color to create a frame around the deck floor. Incorporate inset designs, like diamond shapes in alternate colors, to create something unique for each homeowner. And don't be shy about mixing materials on a big deck: faux stone columns, a metal roof, or a granite countertop on a built-in food preparation area will make the outdoor room look more upscale and custom-designed.
5. Proportions matter. An 1,800-square-foot deck on the back of a 2,000-square-foot home is probably too big to "go" with that house. Size up within reason.
6. Add some shade. A homeowner who springs for a 600-square-foot-plus deck is going to want to use it as often as possible. A pergola, awning, canopy, or roof over the deck will allow the client to cook, entertain, or relax outdoors even on hot, sunny days or during rain showers. Any shade structure should be as low-maintenance as the deck itself.
7. Prepare homeowner/clients for a long wait. It takes a long time to build a big deck. Especially if the outdoor room will be home to electric and gas appliances, the job will include an electrician, a plumber, and the local building inspector. If the deck includes multiple tiers, the builder might need to consult with an engineer or architect.
8. Consider the view. If the upper tier of a two-story deck is right over the lower one, take care with the placement of the posts so they're not too close to doors and windows, where they can block the homeowner's view and path to the yard. Also, build in an under-deck gutter to catch rain that falls on the upper deck so it won't soak the deck's lower level and its inhabitants.
9. Leave enough room. Even a big deck can run out of room if the design includes a hot tub. A typical 7-by-7-foot spa takes up at least a 10-by-10-foot space so there's enough room around it for a railing, a privacy screen or a path for bathers and maintenance techs to walk around it.
10. Make it useful. Include heat and light so the owners can use their deck after dark and during at least three seasons. Popular options: built-in fireplaces and fire pits and ceiling-mounted heaters. You'll have plenty of room for them.