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How to Use 2 Objective Deck Design Factors

Oct 16, 2007
Design is a very subjective task. However, there are a number of objective factors that must be considered in creating an aesthetically pleasing and functional deck design:

1. exposure concerns such as weather, sun and wind

2. functional considerations such as connection to the home and traffic patterns

The influence of local weather conditions needs to be considered when locating and designing a deck. A deck is a transition area between the environment maintained inside the home and the external world. The important thing is to consider how the external elements will affect the use and the enjoyment of the deck. One of the most critical considerations is the position of the deck in relation to the daily path of the sun. A deck that is too warm or too cold will likely receive less use.

In warmer climates where decks are used all year long the primary goal can be to provide shade by location. This means positioning the deck on the eastern side of the house to take advantage of shade in the late afternoon or early evening. In hotter climates the north face of a house would be the coolest at midday. Since decks may experience completely different temperatures during the course of the day how and when heating and cooling will be optimized must be taken into account.

With a deck that has a southern exposure awnings or trellises can be utilized to block the overhead sun but tend to be less effective when the sun is lower in the sky during the morning and evening. While this may not be a problem in the winter it can result in considerable summer overheating.

Sometimes a deck can be designed to make the best of both sun and shade. A wraparound deck that wraps around the corner of a house will generally have one of the 2 areas in shade. Movable screens can be used to effectively screen a small area.

A pergola, arbor, overhead trellis or an awning can each provide shade for larger areas. Trellises can be designed to provide maximum shade at certain times of the day and allow some sun through during other times of the day.

Frequent changes in the strength and direction of wind can be a tough element to design for. Well anchored screens and large plantings are effective at being wind shields. Another design idea that works is locating the deck on the side of the home that is opposite any prevailing winds.

Changes in deck level and the use of railing systems with no openings are features that can create protected areas on lower deck levels and block the wind with an adjacent upper level deck and railing. Large amounts of rain during the warm months when deck use is more frequent might necessitate the addition of an overhead structure.

How the deck relates to the inside of the house is also an important design element. A deck should be an extension of the home - a transition area between the natural outside setting and the more protected indoor area. Any deck with obvious and simple access will encourage family and guests to step outside to chat, admire the view, relax, etc.

Most decks serve multiple purposes so doors accessing the kitchen, livingroom, family room or bedroom are ideal. Glass patio doors, French doors and screen doors blur the boundaries between the inside and the outside. When the weather cooperates these access points extend the living space. Generally it is worth the trouble to add a new door rather than live with a door that is poorly located in relation to the deck.

Besides doorway access, traffic patterns need considerable thought during the deck design process. Stairways should be located so that frequently used areas off the deck are easy to access. On a larger deck this could mean adding more than one stairway.

It is important to analyze existing traffic patterns and important activity areas to ensure that there is sufficient access to garages, driveways, gardens, dog houses and garbage storage areas. A ramp can be a useful deck addition to wheel heavy barbecue grills, garden carts or wheelbarrows or even bicycles onto the deck.

Taking exposure concerns and functional considerations such as traffic patterns and connection to the home into consideration allows a homeowner to utilize these deck design factors in the creation of a deck that is aesthetically pleasing as well as functional.
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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