How to Plan a Deck Style

Traditionally the advice given by many deck design experts is to choose a deck style that conforms to the architectural style of the home. The best plan supposedly is to start with the basic shapes, details, colors and materials associated with the house. It is good sound advice especially if the home has a distinctive period style.

However, the reality of the majority of homes at present is that they basically are either a mixture of different styles or they have no discernible style at all. A home that is traditional with elements from different architectural styles or with very few architectural details is open to deck style choices that are much broader in range.

The choice would be to keep it simple or to select a complementary style. There is always the possibility of seeking design help from a professional since a well designed deck will not only add interest to a house but will also increase its value. The advantage of selecting a specific deck style is that it provides the homeowner with the opportunity to add a personal touch to the new outdoor living space.

When the decks of today are compared with those of a decade or two ago, they tend to blend much better with the house and the landscape. New varieties of deck wood, composite decking, improved railing systems and a much greater range of colors have all become contributing factors to this. A renewed interest in gardening has created a huge interest in the decoration of small, medium and large decks with blossoms and foliage from spring to autumn.

A greater awareness on the part of homeowners regarding the importance of good design has resulted in decks being lighter and less obtrusive in comparison to the heavier, overbuilt structures of years past. The style changes that have affected the design and decoration of indoor spaces have moved outside permitting the deck to become more minimal, varied, whimsical, romantic or rustic.

Creating a deck design style for an older home can sometimes present a real challenge. A deck attached to a Victorian, Tudor or Spanish style home can easily be an awkward fit. Even a Colonial style home can be overpowered visually by a deck if it is not carefully designed. In most cases, professionals will tend to keep decks unobtrusive and low to the ground, often eliminating the need for any kind of railing system.

An alternative approach would be to choose a deck design that is porch-like. The new varieties of tongue and groove synthetic decking materials resemble the narrow wood planks often used for porch flooring while still being able to weather the elements of nature with a minimum of maintenance. Of utmost importance is to keep the new deck in the scale of the home with the deck not being any larger than the biggest room in the home.

Architectural elements from the home need to be integrated into the deck somehow. The profiles of existing columns should be reflected in the choice of balusters and fluting details. Look at the way in which siding boards are installed and echo it in some way in trimming out the perimeter of the deck.

If the home is architecturally distinctive, make a decision to install a custom railing system that mirrors an existing architectural element. A custom railing system might also work on a home that does not have a distinctive architectural style. A ranch style home generally has a horizontal look that integrates well with gardens and landscaping. A solid railing or one with an open grid rather than the usual vertical balusters would work well.

In recent years railing systems have become great methods to add dramatic style to an ordinary deck. New products, particularly those of synthetic decking materials, have come on the market as a result of the growing desire on the part of homeowners for distinctive railings that are easy to install and come in kit form.

In some instances the packaged kit consists of a stack of bowed steel balusters with a spacing tool for easy installation. Other kits provide preassembled panels that can be cut to length and snapped between specially extruded rails.

The beauty of having such a wide variety of choices is that it is quite possible to mix and match using preassembled balustrade sections that are installed into traditional framed wood posts and rails. If a lighter, more contemporary look that also provides an improved view of the yard is desired, a railing system of stainless steel cables or rods, tempered glass or aluminum can be slected and installed.

Another thing to consider in creating a deck style is what happens to the space between the deck and the ground. Unsightly deck framing needs to be hidden. One solution is to install skirting panels made with lattice panels, wood or composite boards. Lattice is available in pressure treated and cedar wood as well as vinyl. A solid skirt gives a deck a more formal look while open lattice gives a lighter feel to the deck.

Decking is one of the most important visual elements of the deck. It can play a large role in how well the deck fits with the home and surrounding yard. A decking pattern generally will blend with the home better if it runs parallel with the lines that are the most predominant of the house. In most cases, this translates into applying the decking boards parallel to the longest dimension of the deck.

The size of the deck is a style factor also. A small deck will look larger if narrow decking boards are used in its construction. Alternating wide and narrow boards can be used to reduce the scale of the decking as well.

Color has become a huge style factor in recent years. Composite materials are available in dozens of colors and can be stained in so many other variations. To achieve a formal look, match the deck trim and railing system color to the trim of the house. Color the decking with a stain color that matches the siding of the home.

For wood materials such as redwood, cedar, mahogany, ipe and meranti, a clear finish will do nicely. For pressure treated woods, a semitransparent stain can achieve the desired effect.

The important task in designing a deck is to create a deck style that will not only complement the home to which it is attached but also integrate smoothly into the entire landscape design.

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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 Style and Claim your 2
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