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How to Create a Shady Deck Retreat

Oct 15, 2007
Privacy and shade are essential elements for transforming a deck into an inviting outdoor living space. Climbing vines trained over a sturdy arbor add a measure of welcome shade that changes the character of a deck completely. With a combination of the right kinds of vines and a sturdy supporting structure a deck can be transformed from a hot and sunny space to be avoided to a a shady deck retreat. Even a simple trellis that hides an unappealing view can work to create an intimate enclosure, making the deck more appealing.

Vines also add a wonderful ambience to a deck because they have the ability to create an atmosphere of rich plant growth abundance. Decks can become amazing places with flowers and foliage spilling over railings, covering walls and downspouts and draping over an overhead arbor or pergola. That same arbor, a trellis or a fence thickly covered with vines, together with plantings of shrubs and other large landscape plants, can help to muffle noise from the outside world making the deck retreat seem even more secluded from the outside world.

Vines are extremely effective for softening landscape elements such as walls and railings. They have the power to give the deck the charm of an outdoor living space that seems to be right in the middle of the garden.

Arbors, pergolas and trellises and other overhead shade structures are designed to support vines in such a way as to be able to support the considerable weight of these climbing plants. Proper construction methods and heavy duty materials are very important in this process. These structures must be able to withstand both wind and the elements of weather.

The style of the house will determine the style of arbor or other overhead structure to be built. Once the structure has been constructed, the vines can be planted. To create a deeply shaded retreat, choose large, vigorous vines that will readily cover an arbor or other structure. Wisteria is one of the most vigorous vines for covering these support structures. Its fragrant flowers add wonderful color and fragrance to the late spring garden. Eventually once the vines begin to grow they can be trained to weave themselves throughout the various parts of the structure. In some cases string can be used to help hold them in place temporarily until they are well established.

In certain regions the climate may force a homeowner to cover a portion of the deck with a full-fledged roof so that time can be spent outdoors even in inclement weather. To many people shade structures constructed of wood are very appealing. However, it is posible to construct a shade structure out of galvanized pipe with its pieces glued together. Copper pipe pieces can be soldered together to create an interesting and unique support structure. Even plastic pipe using standard plumbing connections can be glued together to make a durable and weather resistant shade structure.

A frame for an old awning can be altered to become a functional vine support. The top can be covered with galvanized wire mesh that has fairly large openings that are a minimum 4 inches in size. Deciduous vines such as Virginia Creeper and Dutchman's Pipe are ideal choices to trail up these structures to cast welcome summer shade and allow in the sun after they have dropped their leaves in winter.

Retractable awnings are a very good practical solution to shading a deck. These add on structures are relatively simple to install and can be extended by a motor or a hand crank. Some models with retractable arms can extend up to 14 feet. For larger areas there are other models that have cross rails and uprights. These can extend to about 20 feet maximum.

Awnings need to be mounted so they have a minimum pitch of at least 15 degrees in order for the rain to be shed efficiently. The pitch also allows the awning to block the late afternoon sun to a better degree. Mount the awning high enough on the wall so that its outside edge is high enough off the deck so that anyone may walk under it comfortably. Eight feet is the recommended minimum height.

It is important to remember that retractable awnings should not be left extended when no one is home. They are not designed to withstand heavy rain or high wind. They also most definitely do not support any kind of snow load.

A homeowners can create a wonderful shady deck retreat by using practical design techniques combined with the proper choice of colorful and fragrant plants to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the deck and provide a functional shaded 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 Shade Structures 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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