Many homeowners today see outdoor living space as a must-have amenity, as a well-planned deck or patio can add a lot of enjoyment to their home. Outdoor living is seeing a bit of an explosion lately: Adding a deck is one of the most requested home projects today, and demand is steadily rising. Sloped yards can present special challenges, but they also provide opportunities for creativity that plain-Jane lawns just don’t. Here are some great ways to beautify your uneven landscape. Good weather should be enjoyed to its fullest extent. To do that you have to actually go outside.
New durable outdoor materials, furniture and accessories plus unique shade options and smart tech that lets us watch movies and have full kitchens have no doubt fueled the interest. A desk or a patios is perfect to extend your living space and enjoy the outdoors with an area for dining, grilling or lounging.
Deck vs. patio
Deck. A deck is a platform with decking boards, usually made of either wood or a composite material. A deck is ideal for sloped yards where you want a flat area. It’s also good for homes that sit high above the ground or atop a basement, because they can be built as high as you need. If your home sits higher than about 14 inches off the ground, a platform deck is probably for you.
Patio. A patio is on flat ground and is usually made of concrete, pavers, flagstone, wood or another hardscaping material. Doing a patio on a sloped lot is costlier and much more difficult, because retaining walls must be built to create a level surface. If your door opens right at the ground level, then a patio is the option for you.
Many people choose to build a deck that steps down to a patio.
The sky is the limit. So depending on your budget, consider things like an outdoor TV, a fireplace, a fire pit, a hot tub, a kitchen, a water feature and more.
Also consider privacy on your deck. If you don’t want to feel like you’re on a stage performing for your neighbors, you’ll want to think about adding an arbor, a pergola, latticework or something else to create privacy.
How will you access the deck?
If you’re using your deck for dining (which you should), you’ll want it located as close to your kitchen as possible.
What deck material is best for you?
All decks need regular maintenance. Here are the pros and cons of natural wood versus man-made composites for deck materials. The majority of decks built today are made of wood. The main reason people choose wood is for the initial cost savings. The main reason people choose composite is for the low maintenance required.
Let’s say the same size treated lumber or cedar deck mentioned above costs $700 to stain the first year. You’ll need to stain it every two years thereafter. A stripping and sanding will be required every six years before you perform the annual deck stain, which will cost about $900 total.
Composite and vinyl decking:
Wood-plastic composites are still new materials relative to the long history of natural lumber as a building material. The most widespread use of WPCs in North America is in outdoor deck floors, but it is also used for railings, fences, landscaping timbers, cladding and siding, park benches, molding and trim, window and door frames, and indoor furniture.
Wood-plastic composites were first introduced into the decking market in the early 1990s. Manufacturers claim that wood-plastic composite is more environmentally friendly and requires less maintenance than the alternatives of solid wood treated with preservatives or solid wood of rot-resistant species. These materials can be molded with or without simulated wood grain details.
These materials require less maintenance than wood and are more resistant to insects, warping and splintering. Although many of these materials don’t shrink or swell, some can swell in hot and sunny climates. This can be much more expensive than wood, especially if coordinating railing and balustrade systems are used.
Wood decking: The low cost, availability and rot resistance makes pressure-treated pine and fir popular decking choices. Even with the periodic maintenance that is absolutely necessary, though, warping, twisting, shrinking and swelling will still occur. Other species such as red cedar, redwood and tropical hardwoods are more durable and have no chemical treatments, but maintenance is still required and those options can be pricey.
Pavers: Brick, stone and concrete pavers are available in a range of styles and colors and are extremely durable. Very little maintenance is required from the homeowner, but builders should convey that significant site preparation may be needed to ensure proper placement, grade and drainage.
Concrete: No longer just a drab gray slab, concrete is available in a wide variety of colors and patterns. Designs are nearly limitless. A periodic resealing may be required, but otherwise an occasional pressure wash is the only maintenance required.
Although I tend to recommend composite decks, you need to decide for yourself what fits best for your home and situation. The best way to do that is to talk with a knowledgeable deck building professional that can ask you the right questions and help you make the best decision. Just be honest with yourself from the start about whether you’re going to do the maintenance yourself.