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How to Plan Deck Access

Oct 12, 2007
The majority of decks will benefit from having at least 2 access points from the yard as well as 2 from the house. A second story deck is of course the exception in most cases.

Deck access is a factor that should be an important consideration in the overall design of such a new outdoor living space. With decks less than 3 feet high, wide entrances from the yard to the deck are a great idea since they can open up a view that would normally be obstructed by railings. They also allow the stair treads to be used for informal seating during larger socal functions without restricting traffic. For decks more than 3 feet high, wide entrances are a poor choice because the stairs take up too much yard space.

With decks less than 2 feet off the ground, railings can be eliminated altogether to permit access from anywhere in the yard. Caution should be used with this practice since it is so easy to step backward off the edge of the deck. Furniture placement also becomes an issue. A dining area table might need to be placed in the middle of the deck so that a guest is less likely to back a chair off the deck's edge.

The most practical house to deck transitions are patio doors. They provide a view of the yard and deck and are available in a variety of configurations. Select the widest door that will suit the proposed deck plan. French style doors are roomy and graceful transitions. A second door added will permit traffic from the home to the yard and can take the pressure off a heavily used rear door.

Patio doors are of 2 types: sliders or gliders and hinged.

Slider doors are ideal because they save space since there is no need to accomodate door swing. Select a quality slider with a secure locking system, heavy duty sills and stainless steel or nylon ball bearing rollers. Some patio slider doors come with sliding screens that close automatically after being opened. Others are available with wide rails and stiles that echo the look of French doors.

Hinged patio doors come in several types. A single, 1 panel glass door is the simplest. A 2 panel hinged door is also available with 1 or 2 operating panels as well as a triple panel door.

Doors can be either in or out swinging as well as being hinged on the left or right side. With so many options it is wise to think things through carefully in order to avoid a costly mistake. Avoid selecting a door that will interfere in some way with furniture or traffic on the deck.

Design trends relating to doors continue to move toward more glass. Stationary panels, sidelights and transoms can be combined to offer spectacular views of the surrounding yard. With so much exposure, energy efficiency is a very important consideration for the homeowner. Look for energy efficient qualified products. Check with local home improvement or window replacement personnel to determine the glazing most appropriate to the local climate and exposure. Maintenance of doors can be reduced by purchasing those that are clad with aluminum on the exterior.

The line between indoors and outdoors can be blurred dramatically by the installation of a folding wall system. These doors run the entire length of a wall with no obstruction to the outside deck when opened. These exciting openings are dynamic yet practical since they make the outdoor space part and parcel of the kitchen, family room or even the bedroom.

Folding walls come in a variety of materials which include aluminum, wood with exterior aluminum cladding and completely wood. An all glass option with no rails or stiles is available to homeowners. Door panels slide along a top mounted or floor mounted track and stack separately or fold hinge-like for out of the way storage. Installation of a folding wall system is not a project for the do-it-yourselfer. Hire a professional to ensure that the openeing does not sag over a period of time and obstruct the opening or closing of the system.

Stair design is an important part of creating proper deck access. Almost any raised deck needs stairs. A ground level deck may need just a step or two while a deck more than 3 or 4 feet above the ground will require something more complex.

The mistake is to leave the planning of steps to the end of the construction project when it is easier to visualize how they might be built. Poorly planned stairs can easily become a definite eyesore and greatly take away from the total look of the deck.

Higher decks require stair systems with many steps that take up valuable real estate and require significant extra labor and expense. Stairs that have turns and landings are less obtrusive and easier to climb than those without.

Decks are wonderful places to enjoy a rich lifestyle in the outdoors. However wise planning of deck access points will go far to ensure that homeowners, family members and guests can move onto the deck from the house and from the deck to the yard in ways that are both practical and appealing.
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 Access 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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