Today's decks aren't just your dull rectangular slabs of yesterday. "People are designing decks to fit how they intend to use the space," says Mike Woods of Sound Cedar. More often, deck designs receive as much careful attention as the home's interior. Many homeowners are designing decks with increased levels of privacy, further blurring the line between indoor and outdoor spaces.
Designing and building an outdoor living space that adds a mark of distinction to your home takes planning, creative thinking and the proper materials.
Layout and Design
Woods recommends asking a few simple questions before you design an outdoor living space. What will the deck be used for? Where will items like chairs and tables go? Which views will you emphasize and which will you cover up? Answering these questions will save you time and money.
Layout can be easily determined by dividing the deck into zones. Zones such as dining areas will require extra space. A zone's function should determine its location. For example, a cooking area should be close to the kitchen, and an area with a great view will be best for sitting.
If you are interested in privacy, consider a simple trellis, which allows you to enjoy great views and quiet conversation in private. A trellis decorated with climbing flowers increases the deck's solitude and beauty.
According to Woods, creating a 3-D model of your deck is a great way to see how it will look when constructed. The Western Red Cedar Lumber Association's Deck Designer (www.wrcla.org/deck_designer) lets you specify the design and materials of your deck. You can then create a 3-D model with design tips and a materials list.
Homeowners can choose from many natural or synthetic materials when building a deck, but Woods believes the only real option is Western Red Cedar. The wood brings an exceptional all-natural look, aroma and character to outdoor living spaces, coupled with outstanding performance and ease of maintenance.
"The durability of Western Red Cedar is outstanding," says Woods. One of the world's most durable woods, Western Red Cedar contains natural preservatives that resist moisture, decay and insect damage. Its appearance can be enhanced with the application of stains.
Western Red Cedar is also one of the world's most naturally beautiful woods. "Western Red Cedar comes in a variety of grades that can add a mark of distinction to a home," says Paul Mackie, the Western Red Cedar Lumber Association's "Mr. Cedar." The different grades - from knotty to clear - can be combined to create artistic patterns in a space.
Although Western Red Cedar ages beautifully, applying a finish will maintain the wood's original appearance. "Many people choose Western Red Cedar for its natural beauty," Mackie says. "Applying a clear or semi-transparent finish protects the original look, though some people prefer the classic silver gray of well-aged cedar." No matter what finish you choose, Mackie recommends always testing it on scrap material or a discrete area of the gazebo before applying it to the entire structure.
Building with Western Red Cedar can also lessen a home's environmental footprint, or total impact on the environment. That's especially true when compared to synthetic or mineral building products such as metal, cement, stucco or plastic, which must be extracted from the ground and are not renewable.
"Western Red Cedar is one of the most environmentally friendly building products you can use," says Mackie. "It's recyclable, biodegradable and even reusable. It also has a sustainable lifecycle, unlike other products that must be mined or chemically manufactured."
Final Steps - Construction and Decoration
Keep in mind that your outdoor living space is a transition between your home and yard. Placing some furniture just outside the entrance will ease the transition from inside. Decorating the space with plants seen in the immediate area will help the transition to the yardscape.
For more information on making your new deck a reality, visit www.realcedar.org.