Most new (and old) houses have a deck off the side or rear of the house. In designing a new house, an owner usually just installs a deck of ‘X’ amount of space and really doesn’t think much about how the deck is going to be used. As an Architect, the deck design is just as important as the rest of the house design. In real terms, a deck can be used as additional floor space and storage, at a significantly lower cost than the rest of the house. The deck should be used as an extension of the living space, and the spaces below the deck used as storage. Here are some tips to make your deck work more for you.
1. Use a large glass doors to open to the deck. You can use sliding glass doors or swing doors. Glass doors let you see the deck when they area closed. Have the opening at least 4 feet wide (minimum) or wider. On my house I have a 12′ siding glass door, which opens in the middle for a 6 foot wide opening. It allows free flow of people between the Great Room and the deck and gives a sense of Great Room and Deck being the same room.
2. Don’t skimp on the size of your deck–make it even larger than your Great Room or Living Room. Think of the deck as an additional Living Room, with couches, chairs, dining tables, TV’s, stereos. In other words, Think of it as living space to be used in the milder temperatures of the year. My Great Room is 22’x34′. The deck is 20’x38′, with 20’x28′ covered with a roof.
3. Don’t have a step between the deck and the house 1st floor. Instead have the deck flush with the house. This gives sense that the deck is an extension of the home.
4. Put a roof over the deck. The roof can be a canopy, metal roof, or an extension of the house roof (wood framing, asphalt shingles). Having a roof over the deck area makes it more “livable” when the sun is out. It also gives a “human” scale to deck. A roof overhead makes it feel psychologically more comfortable, putting a ceiling above where you sit on the deck, rather than open sky. A roof also makes the deck usable when it rains.
5. Use drywall and carpet instead of siding and decking.. If you put a roof over the deck, install moisture resistant drywall or “flat” siding on the home exterior wall and indoor/outdoor carpet on pressure treated plywood rather than expensive floor decking. It is less expensive, and gives the deck the look of being inside the house rather being outside.
6. The deck area and the furniture should be flexible. You shouldn’t cram a lot of furniture on it, but allow for people to filter out of the house onto the deck, or change the arrangement of furniture for large gatherings. My favorite use of the deck is for birthday parties. My son may have 30 guests arrive, so we rearrange the furniture and set up 4 long tables with chairs around. It keeps the Great Room open for guests to move around, and put dining on the deck.
7. Use plants, and wall hangings on the deck, just like you would in the house. Just make sure they are more “weatherproof” than normal. It will give the deck the illusion the of being part of the house
8. The deck can have shaded areas and sunny areas. Not all the deck needs to covered. Keep a small area uncovered for some of the in-between times of the year. In Indiana, it’s warm-sunny in the summer and cold-snowy in the winter. But in Spring and Fall, it’s in-between these 2 extremes. Sitting in the sun on the deck in March at 55 degrees is wonderful. The warm sun shine makes it feel like summer. Also if you have a grille, you don’t want it under the roof. Letting the smoke lift into the sky is more preferable for most people rather than letting filter into the house.
9. Change the function of the deck as seasons change. How the deck is used in spring, summer, and fall should be considered in your design. For our house, in the summer, The swimming pool is set up in the sunny area of the deck, while seating and dining is in the shaded area of the deck. In fall and spring, the pool is removed, and the seating and dining tables are in the sunny areas of the deck. In the winter, the seating and dining are kept under the deck roof to protect it from the harsh winter.
10 The deck railing and wall under the deck can be solid. Having the railing and space below the deck floor covered in the same siding as the house (even brick), rather than open fencing has a couple of advantages. First, it makes the house look bigger from the street. It visually seems like house has grown larger ins size. A solid railing (3′-6″ in height) allows privacy. If you sit down, people on the street can’t see you, but if you stand up, you can converse with your neighbors. A railing at 3′-6″ is also perfect “leaning” height for most people, you can rest your elbows on the top of the wall at this height.
11. The area under the deck change be used for storage. Having the space below the deck floor covered in siding allows for storage under the deck to be hidden from view. If the 1st floor of the house is 6 feet above grade, the deck effectively becomes a shed and is a perfect place for the storage of things normally in a garage. Having a roof above the deck also keeps weather off items under the deck. This is the place for bicycles, lawn mowers, scrap lumber, saw horses, and other bulky items normally found in a garage. Most people want a 3 car garage simply to have 1 bay of the garage for storage. Instead of building a third garage bay, put those items under the deck.