Questions of space utilization, purpose, and relation to the surrounding environment are the difference-makers between a well-designed deck and an eyesore. The final plan from your deck builder must also account for environmental factors of sun and moisture, functional factors like cooking, eating and gathering, and safety/comfort factors like warmth and protection from falls.
The first question might be to ask which type of deck would best suit your needs. A sleek, angled, minimalist one or one with opulence and luxury? What kind of amenities should your deck have? The question of function and purpose will drive all the other decisions around size, material, layout, etc. This article will provide an overview of design possibilities and solutions for some most common issues of climate, light, food, and safety.
Incorporating Shade and Weather Protection
As any local will tell you, Missouri weather includes quite the range of possibilities, including at the extremes of hot and cold. Given the variance between seasons, decks must be designed to provide protection from the elements and maintain a comfortable temperature for their occupants. Here are some suggestions to extend deck season:
- Shade protection
There’s a reason that desert dwellers of the Sahara and Arabian peninsula wear long, flowing garb: it minimizes sun exposure. Providing shade to your deck can look like a trellis with vines, a roll-out covering, a sun canopy, or any number of options.
There’s nothing better than watching a midwest thunderstorm in the evening from a dry, cozy seat. A covering for your deck can provide both shade in the sun and shelter from a storm. The material and construction requires a little more thought given the need to prevent leaks and maintain a seal over time.
- Lights at night
Night time is the right time for relaxing on your deck. Thoughtful lighting will offer the proper ambiance in addition to providing design intrigue with fixtures and projection. Lighting will need to suit and adjust to different activities, from cooking to entertaining to reading and conversing.
Summer humidity can stifle those seeking to enjoy the outdoors in the warm months. Strategically-placed fans can provide their own breeze in the absence of a natural one. Incorporating fans into the planning and design phase ensures you don’t wind up with wires and clunky plastic afterthoughts when you start to sweat.
- TVs and Entertainment
While TVs can offer a great option for entertainment on the deck, their construction requires protection from extreme weather, especially rain and moisture. If you’re thinking about including a TV in your deck design, make sure to think about ways to keep your electronics safe and dry.
Incorporating Outdoor Cooking and Dining Areas
- Cooking devices
Perhaps the major advantage of a home deck over a boat deck is the food potential. Decks’ outdoor setting create opportunity for high heat, high smoke setups. Few decks are complete without a grill of some sort, yet the possibilities extend far beyond only grills. Brick ovens introduce the ability to fire pizzas, breads, and vegetables the old-fashioned way, imparting a rustic, smoky flavor. Speaking of smoke, smokers make a great addition to a deck either in the more traditional offset variety or more new-fangled electric pellet styles. Finally, for those spicy souls, a high-powered gas range opens up the world of wok searing and stir fries.
- Space for dining areas
Obviously with a cooking setup deck design must also incorporate where to eat said food. Deck dining options can range from simple bistro tables to larger family-style furnishings. Some considerations include continuity from cooking to eating areas and whether the same area will serve multiple functions. For instance, would you rather situate the table nearer to the cook to facilitate openness and conversation, or keep the cooking area away from the diners for more space and quiet? Would you use your dining area for lounging as well? These questions would influence both the overall design and specific furniture choices, depending on their answers.
Tips for Making Your Deck the Perfect Party Space
Deck parties are great for containing chaos to the outside while still affording intimacy and privacy. Parties involve more thought than simple residential leisure. Music and drinks are critical factors supported by choices for the overall vibe around privacy and lighting.
Incorporating speakers into the design of a deck can be a great way to ensure a good value given that they are often harder to install after the fact. More, incorporating them into the planning phase will allow ideal placement, both in an acoustic and visual sense.
All parties need some kind of drinks, whether alcoholic or not. A place for serving drinks can be a lab of creativity, a place for people to gather, a place of visual intrigue. Bars often also need refrigerators and sinks which require plumbing and electricity.
Privacy can be important two-way: keeping your guests away from your neighbors and your neighbors away from your guests. Privacy includes both a visual and auditory sense, so designs must think about how to limit sightlines and sound in a creative and tasteful way.
Finally, the lighting for a party is a key element of the ambiance and could be quite different from the lighting you might normally use. There is no shortage of ways to set the proper tone from more subtle and intimate to exciting and energetic.
Incorporating Lighting and Heating for Year-Round Use
For those whose love for their deck knows no bounds, year-round deck time is a must. This involves more than just planning for sun or cooler nights; all-season decks take serious planning. Perhaps the first factor is heat, and enough heat to provide comfort in the deep of winter. Wood, electricity, and gas can all provide solutions here. Wood stoves, while less convenient and more expensive to use, create an irreplicable sensory experience. Gas fireplaces, too, can offer some of the visual appeal in addition to more creative and modern features. Finally, electric heat fixtures can be especially pragmatic in providing high doses of heat in targeted ways.
Shelter is also important in the off season. Rain and snow will drench both the deck and any of its inhabitants. A roof can offer major protection for keeping people warm and dry. Roofs can also help contain a space in order to retain heat and provide more delineation between the deck and the yard. Roofs also open the possibility of screens which can offer protection from insects and critters while keeping in pets and children.
Incorporating Safety and Accessibility Features
Decks pose a safety risk in the possibility of falls. While not quite as dire, the risk posed by home decks is not insubstantial and care must be paid to ensuring the well-being of their users. Often, the risk is highest in the entrances and exits like doors and stairs. Risk mitigation in these areas often looks like sturdy handrails and clear, intuitive transitions from indoor to out. Accessibility features like ramps and wide clearances serve to create a safe and usable space for people with disabilities.
In terms of a more structural idea of safety, decks must be designed (or engineered) to bear the expected amount of weight. Rails and balusters must be sturdy enough to support the people relying on their support. Weight and structural integrity can become an issue when extremely heavy objects, like a hot tub, are placed on a deck not designed to support their weight. In designing a deck, consider the weight distribution of the deck components in order to engineer a sound structure.
Incorporating Indoor Amenities on Your Deck for Everyday Use
While modern architecture innovated by “bringing the outdoors in,” decks can achieve a similar enmeshment in the outdoors while enjoying indoor activities. Home entertainment provides a great example of this: TVs can make fabulous additions to a deck, allowing users to enjoy programming without being stuck in the living room. While earlier we mentioned the importance of weather-proofing the TV area, the element of light also plays a role. They’re nothing more infuriating than a strong glare obfuscating the content on a TV. Deck design should consider the direction of sunlight and provide for a clear view in anticipation of such glare.
Gaming tables are another idea for bringing recreation outdoors. They can also be preserved in rain rather well with simple covers. They can allow children and parents to share a space with age-appropriate activities. Whatever recreation activity you fancy, think of how it can play into your deck design from the very beginning.