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How to Create Deck Benches and Planters

Oct 9, 2007
Once the essentials of framing, decking and railings have been constructed it is time to add deck benches and planters that can help to make the deck even more attractive, interesting and functional.

Built-in benches are a great way to provide seating for a larger number of people at family and social gatherings. A permanent bench near a door is a convenient place for changing dirty shoes or resting shopping bags while trying to find house keys in a pocket or purse. Bench seats built into deck corners foster private conversation. If the deck has a long section of railing an attractive built-in bench can add character and break up the monotony. On a low deck without a railing a perimeter bench is a useful and appealing addition.

Some homeowners shy away from the use of bench seating because they consider its hard seating surface to be less comfortable. They also think that built-in bench seating faces the wrong way if there is a view from the deck to be seen. Some homeowners choose to use outdoor furniture instead because it can be inexpensive, comfortable and easily rearranged to suit the situation. Another bonus is the fact that the homeowner does not have to do any actual construction work. The solution for these individuals might just be to limit built-ins to small benches that are located near doors and serve dedicated purposes. However, if a lot of seating is required regularly, benches can be a solid choice.

Planters on the other hand are a natural for a deck. They are almost as important as pictures on an interior house wall. Planters can be constructed in a variety of shapes and sizes and made to fit the location chosen. They can stand alone or be built in pairs and trios. They can work to help frame the opening of a stairway or door. They can define an access from off the deck or delineate a change in deck level. Planters can serve as dividers or barriers that can add privacy by the simple design technique of replacing sections of railings.

There are many ways to construct built-in benches. The best option is to build a bench that is constructed independently of the railing system. In this way the bench can be added after the deck and railing are built and cam be removed at a later time without affecting the integrity of the railing. Generally seating height should be in the 14 to 18 inch range while seat depth is best at 16 inches. Benches without backs work well when placed in front of railings and can be added to the deck just about anywhere else.

Although flat benches are not as comformtable as bench seats with back support, they can be ideal for casual sitting and can be a great location for an afternoon siesta espeically when comfortable cushions or pads are added to the mix. Creating a hinged access top to the bench creates a natural storage compartment for hiding cushions, pads, toys, etc. out of sight and out of mind when needed. Benches can be freestanding or can be screwed temporarily to the deck surface to provide more stability.

Plain and fancier planters are basically created using a simple but functional box as its design basis. Planters may be constructed with a false bottom in order to hold only the minimum amount of soil required for some flowers and plants. They can also be sized to hold a plastic liner that is removable. Planters should be designed to allow the maximum amount of air circulation possible especially between the planter and the surface of the deck. The bottom needs to be sturdy enough to handle the weight and also needs to permit excess water to drain through.

Planters should be created from materials that are rot resistant. Boxes can be made from pressure treated plywood and then enclosed with pressure treated, cedar, redwood or composite 1x4 or 1x6 vertical pieces and appropriate trim pieces. Rustproof screws and nails are an absolute must in the construction of planters.

Use caution when choosing a planter liner particularly if the planter is to be used for growing vegetables. Treated wood may leach unwanted chemicals into the soil. Sheet liners made from scraps of sheet vinyl (swimming pool suppliers) or rubber membranes (roofing suppliers) are ideal. Both are made to last a long time outdoors. They must be held in place near the top of the planter with rustproof staples or sandwiched behid a thin wooden cleat fastened with screws. The weight of the soil will hold the liner at the bottom. Another option is to build planters that have removable plastic pots or trays. No matter what is used for a planter liner it must have drainage holes at the bottom so that excess water can drain away and not cause roots to rot. Adding a layer of coarse rock under the soil will help to keep the drainage holes from clogging.

The addition of bench seating and planters to any deck will enable a homeowner to add functionality as well as beauty to this outdoor living space.
About the Author
Richard Vande Sompel is a professional deck builder of 35 years and over 850
decks built and is the author of "How to Plan, Design and Build a Deck from
Start to Finish". To Discover More About
Deck Benches and Planters and Claim your 2
FREE Deck Plans, Insider Report, MP3 Audio and discover everything to know about
building a deck visit:
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