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How to Raise the Comfort Level on a Deck

Oct 15, 2007
Any deck that may look great and be situated in the exact best location, but if it is not comfortable, it will have limited use. Several factors affect deck comfort, some physical in nature and some psychological. These include protection from the elements of nature, the control of things that are considered annoyances and ergonomics.

In some cases the solutions are very simple. A wall that is placed correctly can do much to buffer wind and sound. Sun and glare can be reduced by a few yards of shade cloth. Other problems might not be solved so easily and may involve the addition of an entire structure to the deck such as a screened gazebo.

Some comforts are of a less physical nature. This is especially true for privacy. A simple solution could involve something as simple as pulling down a shade or it might require adding a trellis, arbor or pergola to the deck.

The desire to create a sense of security that has nothing to do with any real threat might be a factor. Small, cozy places bring big spaces down to a human scale. Enclosing a deck area with potted and climbing plants can define an outdoor space and make it more appealing and comfortable. The addition of a fountain can easily distract from the noise generated by passing automobiles.

Outdoor speakers, cozy lounge chairs or a hammock are steps that can go far to create a pleasant deck retreat.

Dealing with wind, especially in areas where it blows much of the time, can be one of the most difficult deck comfort problems to solve. That is because wind is so unpredicatable. A solid wind barrier can cause wind to curl over the wall and swirl at a deck occupant from behind. The solution would be to construct a wall that allows some wind to filter through it.

A barrier built with a lattice panel installed into its upper section is one alternative. Another option would be to space the fence boards an inch or two apart to allow for the passage of wind. Breaking the wind with boards that are staggered and gapped minimize turbulence on the leeward side.

Tempered glass panels installed over a solid railing system can offer stiff resistance to wind without blocking a scenic view. Outdoor fabrics can be an effective option as long as the flapping sound generated during gusty occasions does not become an annoyance.

Creating shade is a an important step in keeping a deck cool during the hot summer months. The simplest option is a center post umbrella designed to fit through the hole in an outdoor table and into a weighted base below. A good choice would be an umbrella that is 8 to 12 feet wide and is simple to open and close.

Octagonal umbrellas will provide more shade than their square counterparts of similar width. In high wind situations it might be wise to purchase an umbrella base that fastens to the deck surface.

Side post umbrellas are a more recent development. They get the post out of the way and are available in even wider sizes. The umbrella is mounted on an arm or hangs from a boom that can be rotated 360 degrees to block the sun as it moves across the sky. Pricier units have a tilting mechanism.

Some umbrellas are available that can be hung from an overhead structure such as an arbor or pergola. These units are raised and lowered into position with the use of a pulley.

Selecting outdoor fabrics centers around the issues of looks, durability and the transmission of light. Acrylic and canvas and PVC fabric are best for water resistance. High density propylene is the best choice for blocking UV rays in hot and arid climates. Some fabris are treated to resist mold and mildew which is a real asset in the outdoors.

A more recent innovative way to add shade and contemporary styling to a deck is the use of shade sails. They resemble sailboat sails and are held together by stainless steel cables sewn into their edges. The triangular or rectangular sails are then attached to posts or to the existing structure by means of steel rings at reinforced corners.

Talk to a professional regarding the shade sail best suited to the local climate.

A retractable canopy might be a wise comfort solution to be used in relation to a pergola or arbor structure. It installs unobtrusively along tracks on the structure's rafters to provide shade without interfering with the style of the structure.

Deck awnings are another shade alternative. They can be attached to the house and provide protection from the sun as well as the rain. Deck awnings come in manual or electrically powered versions.

Freestanding gazebos can also offer respite from the hot rays of the sun. They are fitted with outdoor fabric. The lightweight nature of some of these structures make them ideal choices because they can easily be moved to provide more flexibility in the use of deck space.

Others are heavier, requiring special support framing or their own footings. Gazebos can be fitted with drapes for privacy and screening for protection from insects.

Screened enclosures come in many different sizes in order to cover some or all of any deck. They eliminate the major annoyance caused by flying insects. Some models are free standing. Others are 3 sided attaching to the wall on the fourth side. A large majority are do-it-yourself types that are easily and quickly installed.

The better units have heavy guage aluminum frames with baked on enamel finishes. Cheaper units are made of galvanized steel. The roof of these screened enclosures is often made of vinyl fabric ranging in thickness from 6 to 22 ounce weights. Heavier duty enclosure versions have aluminum roofs.

Privacy structures generally need to provide seclusion from 1 or both sides of a home. This is done to prevent a deck user from feeling claustrophobic. Build a trellis, pergola or arbor so that guests seated near any one of them will be able to see out without being seen.

Another useful strategy is to construct a privacy wall or overhead structure using boards that are set at an angle. From a neighboring home it will look solid. Drapes, shades, canopies, awnings and hanging umbrellas all offer privacy solutions.

Deck comfort is a very important factor to be considered in designing and constructing a deck because it has a powerful impact as to how often the deck will be used by the homeowner, family members and guests.
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 Design 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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