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The 10 Commandments of Deck Planning and Deck Design

Oct 16, 2007
Any deck must be thoughtfully designed and solidly constructed of durable materials. Successful deck design is about seeing all of the posibilities. However, there are 10 important principles or commandments of deck design that should be considered by any homeowner planning to construct a deck.

Commandment #1 - Try to see the design as a whole. The deck is both part of the house and part of the garden so its size, shape, design and location will undoubtedly have a profound effect on both. This would hold true in terms of affecting the interior view of garden areas, possible elimination of valuable garden or play space as well as accessibility from one to the other.

Commandment #2 - Plan generously and then add up the costs. Creating a strong design will assist a homeowner in distinguishing between the more and less important elements of the plan so that it becomes clear where to make compromises to bring the project within budgetary constraints. It might be decided to have several extra feet of deck surface rather than an area for storage or built-in benches rather than the extra floor space.

Commandment #3 - Rely on familiar shapes. Landscape designs that are based upon squares, rectangles, hexagons and circles almost always generate eye pleasing designs. They are usually the most economical to construct as well. The important thing is to avoid irregular or arbitrarily curved patterns.

Commandment #4 - Think in three dimensions. This will help to balance the design elements and enable a homeowner to visualize the results. It will also keep the designer from confining the design to an endless horizontal plane.

Commandment #5 - Maintain a sense of proportion. The deck should be large enough to suit the various needs of the family. It should be large enough to accomodate outdoor furniture comfortably. However, it should not be so large that it overwhelms the landscape or the home.

Similarly, a deck that is dwarfed by the house and the garden can seem to be overcrowded with minimal amounts of furnishings. Try to size the deck so it complements rather than dominates the interior room or rooms from which it projects.

For example, a deck that wraps around the home may be generously sized where it joins the living room, a bit smaller where it opens off the kitchen and extremely small where it extends the master bedroom.

Commandment #6 - Look for a feeling of unity. Elements in deck design such as the shape, the pattern of the deck surface, the railing system, built-in benches, vertical privacy screens and roofs should look as if they belong together. It is also vital that as a whole the deck should blend with the architectural style of the home.

If the house is built with rustic materials, the deck would be constructed with similar materials. If the home has a formal and uncluttered feeling to it, the design of the deck and its appearance should reflect a simialr feeling.

Commandment #7 - Consider traffic patterns. Family members and guests should be able to move smoothly from the home to the deck and from the deck to the garden. If it is necessary open up a wall to better facilitate movement.

Avoid creating traffic patterns that flow through the middle of outdoor spaces or rooms. Traffic patterns work well when they flow along the perimeters of these outdoor areas.

Commandment #8 - Learn to stretch a low level deck. Make a ground level deck appear to be larger by planning it around 1 or 2 planting areas. A simple 10 by 18 foot deck can appear to be twice as large with the addition of 10 square feet and 2 planting areas.

It is also possible to make the space seem larger by linking the deck to the lawn and a single planting area.

Another alternative would be to connect the deck to a patio or paved area. This will expand living space without having to add to the deck surface or losing the warm feeling of the wood.

Commandment #9 - Look below a high level raised deck. Consider what happens to the space that lies beneath it. The deck will almost certainly have some effect upon the temperature, the view, the amount of light received and the noise level of the area that it overhangs.

A high level deck will affect temperature when it casts a shadow on one of the house walls and cools related interior walls.

It affects the view when looking through a lower level window or patio door especially when the deck's support structure is exposed. In addition high level decks can block out daylight as well as transmit noises generated by upper deck activities into the rooms below.

These handicaps can be minimized by locating the deck above a windowless wall of the home, building a second deck at the lower level or designing the deck with a streamlined substructure.

Commandment #10- Consult with professionals when necessary. Issues such as proposed deck sites over sand, mud or water, unstable soil, leakproof deck surfaces, high level decks and extensive cantilevering are best dealt with by getting advice and/or on site guidance from those who are trained to deal with them. Failure to do this could very well lead to structural defects and costly repairs in the near future.

Any successful deck design will be the result of the homeowner doing the necessary observation, research and planning work related to creating an outdoor living space that will meet the needs and suit the tastes of family members and guests for years to come.
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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