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Deck design-build project advice for good deck design:
This article discusses how to match the style of the deck to the existing building, how to consider traffic flow on and off of the deck, lining the deck up with existing house features, and planning a deck to allow for later enclosure as a screened porch or even a three-season room.
This article series describes deck design-build project details for do-it-yourself deck builders.
The paradox of design, in most cases, is that the better it is, the less it is noticed. Good design results in a deck that looks like an organic part of its environment.
A poorly designed deck, on the other hand, can be highly visible, if unpleasant, addition that diminishes the house to which it is joined. Try to research some proven design tips that can simplify your planning and better ensure a deck that meets expectations.
Match the Deck to the House
The best way to make your deck look like an integrated part of the house is to begin, as all good designers begin, by taking cues from what already exists.
The railings and posts for the proposed deck, for example, should mimic similar elements at house entries and on porches. Maintain a reasonable scale between the deck and the house: smaller decks for smaller houses, higher decks for taller houses, and so forth.
On older, traditional houses, wood decks can look somewhat out of place; consider using brick or stone for the support posts. You can also replace a solid wood railing with a more “transparent” type of railing material, or keep the deck low enough to avoid needing a railing.
Control Traffic - consider how people move on and off of a deck
A new deck can substantially alter the way in which people move in and through your house. Plan the deck to direct foot traffic where you want it. Placing the deck next to the kitchen makes it easier to move food and dishes back and forth. Setting the same deck so that it can be entered only from the living room, on the other hand, could lead to dirty carpets and regular disruption of TV viewing.
Consider the transition from the inside of your house to the outside. Wide French or sliding glass doors make the outdoors look inviting and also make the interior expand psychologically. When existing doors just do not seem to work for the planned deck, consider adding a new one in the ideal location.
Stay in Line - keep deck lines matched to the existing structure and its features
A good designer studies the lines of a house, and then tries to match the lines of the new deck to them. A house’s lines are defined by vertical items such as chimneys, porch columns, and corners, and horizontal elements such as porch railings, eaves, and the alignment of windows and doors.
Also look for ways to align the corners of the deck with comers or bump-outs in the house. Use irregularities in the house facade to justify incorporating angles into your deck design.
Design the Deck Today to Permit an Enclosed Porch or Sunroom Tomorrow
While decks satisfy many people’s needs, other people grow weary of dodging raindrops or sitting in the sun and swatting mosquitoes. You may want to consider building a deck now that could be turned into a screened porch later, a conversion that will be much easier if it is planned for in advance.
Porches with roofs require bigger footings than uncovered decks, for example, so you might want to pour bigger footings now. Also consider how the porch roof will connect with the house. To be sure this kind of advance planning pays off; consult an architect or a structural engineer.
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Steven Bliss served as editorial director and co-publisher of The Journal of Light Construction for 16 years and previously as building technology editor for Progressive Builder and Solar Age magazines. He worked in the building trades as a carpenter and design/build contractor for more than ten years and holds a masters degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Excerpts from his recent book, Best Practices Guide to Residential Construction, Wiley (November 18, 2005) ISBN-10: 0471648361, ISBN-13: 978-0471648369, appear throughout this website, with permission and courtesy of Wiley & Sons. Best Practices Guide is available from the publisher, J. Wiley & Sons, and also at Amazon.com
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