A properly planned deck or patio can add functionality as well as beauty to a home’s design. Equally important, it can expand the living area with the addition of charming and usable outdoor living spaces.
The first step to creating a deck is finding the perfect design to compliment the exterior of the home and meet the desired outdoor lifestyle of the homeowners. Large home supply stores have design software accessible on their websites allowing homeowners to create and print a customized 3-D deck design. Designs and materials can be changed with a click, and do-overs are definitely allowed.
Spending time envisioning the deck before putting pen to paper or mouse to hand will help. Ideas are everywhere — readily available in magazines and on-line. Houzz is a great website where you can find ideas, beautiful photos, products, and professionals in many home-related industries. You can open a free account, start saving ideas and plans to your “idea books” and do some great planning and dreaming. As you are envisioning your perfect outdoor room:
Some questions to consider include:
- what will the deck be used for
- how often will it be used
- who will use it
- and what time of the day or night will it be used
🤔Considerations in Deck and Patio Design
With these ideas in mind, a homeowner can create a variety of areas on and around the deck or patio for different uses, including food prep, eating, relaxing and entertaining. If a pool or hot tub is also part of the design, other issues will need to be addressed such as electrical supply, privacy and adequate safety measures.
The location of the deck will be determined by the available yard space, accessibility to and from the home, and showcasing the best views. Enclosing part of the deck with a roof can make the use of the deck more flexible and can act as a transition from the home to the outside. You also may appreciate the weather resistance of a partially covered deck, adding areas to bring fabrics and other decor items that don’t survive the elements easily. Not only do outdoor rooms add living space, they can add warmth and beauty to a plain old boring yard.
👷Building Permits Are A Must
The location of the deck may also be dictated by local building and zoning ordinances. These ordinances will have guidance regarding the size and placement of the deck, height of privacy screens and the distance needed from property lines.
Home Owners Associations may have restrictions or guidelines on anything that is considered an outdoor room. A call to the utility company to check on the location of buried pipes and utility lines can prevent any loss of service, as well as save time, expense and trouble later.
Some of the requirements listed in building codes for an above-ground deck include the distance between support posts – usually no more than 6 feet apart, and distance between railing spaces – usually no larger than 4 inches apart.
The height, design and spacing of the railings is important, because they are the most repeated and most prominent visual element on the deck. Railings may be adhered to posts that are placed in the ground or attached to the decking itself. Material choices are many and include wood, metal, heavy cording or rope, stone or other building material, as long as code requirements are met.
😭Design Without Regrets
One of the complaints most often heard after a deck is built is that “we should have made it bigger.” To make sure to get it right, stake the layout into the yard and tie string between the stakes at the height of the railing. Grouping lawn furniture in various areas can simulate the ways the deck might be used. This added planning step can help you visualize the results.
On the other hand, a deck that dwarfs a home will awkward. To get the most out of the available space, multiple levels can add extra space without over-taking the home.
Making a deck blend in with a home’s decor can be done by incorporating and repeating design elements from the home. Paint the trim and posts in a similar or complementary shade. Turning a deck into an extension of the house is a great way to create an outdoor room with a comfortable vibe.
Built-in benches, tables and planters add a feeling of stability and permanence to the deck and create the tie between deck and the landscape. Flowers, potted ornamental trees and other deck accessories can create a seamless transition between the deck itself and the natural surroundings. Homeowners with small lots are even finding space to grow herb and vegetable gardens. Outdoor rooms add living space for green thumbs to enjoy the product of their labor.
For more great ideas to increase the usability of your outdoor spaces, check out our Pinterest board, Outdoor Rooms:
🌻Easy Projects to Add Outdoor Living Space
Add a fire pit with surrounding seating for an inviting gathering area for family and friends. A fire pit will extend the season, making your back yard more usable for a longer time. Adding attractive seating around the pit will be a natural draw for family and friends to sit and relax.
You can buy a fire ready made fire pit in so may fun and decorative styles today, in many sizes, for a reasonable amount. You can also build your own quite easily. Here’s a short video from This Old House that shows just how easy it is:
Safety Tip: Your fire pit should be at least 10 feet away from your house or any combustible surface. Before you commit, make sure you check with any homeowners association documents or city ordinances.
Looking for inspiration for your backyard? Check out our Pinterest Board, Backyard Bliss:
⛲Water Features Add Beauty
Adding a water feature to your yard adds beauty and ambiance, but it can also serve a practical function: to mask street noises, or noisy neighbors. You can add a simple DIY pond or bubbling fountain, or you can get as complicated and expensive as you like. (Just don’t over-improve if you want to get a good return on your investment.)
A water feature can be a koi pond, with rocks and foliage that make it appear like a natural occurrence, or it can be hardscaped to fit in with existing features. Whatever your design sense, make sure it is in keeping with the style and size of your home.
If you’re considering a pond, check with your local town or county about ordinances that may affect what you build. If you live in a community with a homeowners association, be sure to check the rules.
The simplest water feature you can create is a recirculating fountain. That can be anything from a popular bubbling vase, to a core-drilled boulder, to a formal fountain. In all of these water features, water collects in a basin at the bottom where a small pump sits, and is pumped back up to the top. These types of water features are generally the most economical choice for adding some kind of water feature to the backyard.
Here’s a simple DIY video about adding a simple water feature:
🌺Beautiful and Functional Additions
Build a Pergola. A pergola is an airy structure, usually wood, that creates definition for an outdoor room, without closing it off. You can determine how much shade you want by growing climbing vines, like wisteria, by adding a sail or screen to the top, or by slanting the wooden beams along the top. Pergolas can be added to a patio or a deck, or they can be freestanding out in the yard. They can be custom-built or kits, or even purchased ready-made. Here’s a handy buying guide:
- Pergola Buying Guide, by HandyDad
Add a Gazebo. If your home and yard will be enhanced, a gazebo might be a great addition. Gazebos usually cost a bit more than pergolas and are a little more elaborate, with a roof. Gazebos can be rustic or polished, depending on the style of your house. They can also be screened in, which makes for a pleasant experience if you want to escape the bugs.
💰Hardscapes Add Permanent Value
Adding hardscapes to your outdoor spaces can be a beautiful addition to your yard, both front and back. As hardscapes are more expensive and more permanent than other enhancements, you’ll want to do a lot of planning, maybe even hire a professional, depending on how complicated you get. A design expert can help you keep in line with the overall look and style of your home and yard. You don’t want to find yourself at the end of a long expensive project and discover you’ve overdone it, or worse, created something that doesn’t add value to your property.
Hardscaping can be as simple as adding a stone or brick walkway, to an elaborate patio with built-in features. Whatever you choose, make sure it is in keeping with your home’s style and your lot size. Hardscapes are an area where it is easy to “over-do it”, which will obliterate any hope for a decent return on investment.
Get design inspiration and DIY tips on our Pinterest Board: Hardscaping to Add Value to Your Home:
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Thanks to David Goldberg for an informative guest post!
David Goldberg – Home Inspector
Reliable Home Services, Inc.
PO Box 5159
Laytonsville, MD 20882
ASHI Member #101584
MD License #29322
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If You have a remodeling project in mind, contact us for a list of professionals we’re proud to recommend.
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