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I wish I had thought of these deck design questions sooner…

When you dream of a gorgeous deck, what images come to mind?  Leisurely sipping your morning coffee overlooking the beautiful White Mountains in NH?  Gathering friends and family around your patio grill?  Sipping a glass of wine in your hot tub after a day on the slopes at Waterville Valley Ski Resort?  All of the above?  Decks are prime open-air hangouts, and have become an important extension of your home.

Being that decks are used as a multifunctional space, it’s really important to think through the following key questions when you are planning your deck addition or renovation.  Taking the time to think through the use of the space will save you time and money later, not to mention the regret of “I wish I had…”

1. Start by asking yourself “what will I use the deck for?” 

Of course you want to use the deck as an area to relax and enjoy the fresh air and beautiful scenery in New Hampshire.  What else do you daydream about? Do you love to entertain?  Then consider an outdoor kitchen and pizza oven, with a conversation pit and cocktail railings.  Do you dream of quiet meditation and yoga?  You may want to surround the space with large potted plants and a privacy screen.  Relaxing your muscles after a long bike ride or day on the slopes at Waterville Valley or Loon?  Consider a space for your hot tub.  The possibilities are endless.

2) Plan for Use Areas and Traffic 

Once you have identified the function of the space,  make sure your deck allows enough space for these activities, as well as traffic pathways around them. It’s important to think about the size of your furniture pieces, as people often underestimate the bulk of lounge seating, table and chairs.

3) Material 

In New Hampshire, composite decking is the most popular choice because it is more resilient to harsh winter weather and can withstand ice and snow without rotting or warping.  It’s also a good choice for kids, pets, and frequent entertaining because it’s made without toxic chemicals, and does not develop splinters or grow mold. It also provides good traction, a high level of water resistance, and can be installed without hurtful protruding fasteners.  With all of these benefits, there are potential drawbacks (depending on what is important to you.)  The surface of composite decking may be warmer than wood planks, and no matter how much progress is made in the manufactured products, composite decking will never look exactly like a natural wood product. So if that’s what you’re looking for, composite isn’t for you.

4) Vertical Elements

Vertical elements on your deck tend to make the most visual impact.  Railings not only make your deck safe, but they aesthetically enhance the function of the space.  Do you want to enjoy your gorgeous views of Winnipesaukee or the White Mountains of NH?  Then you should consider a glass railing.  If you want more privacy, consider lattice or privacy screens.   If your deck is raised, you may want to install decorative skirting to cover its underside.  If your deck is located in a very sunny spot, you might want to add a pergola.

5) Consider Built-Ins

Who doesn’t need more storage space?  Built-ins not only give your deck a customized look, but they add more functionality.  You could add bench seating with hinged tops that lift, a storage shed under the deck, a cabinet next to the grill, or deck planters for your herb garden or trellis.

6) Lighting

Again, it’s important to think through the purpose of the space and make lighting choices to support that function.  Lights on deck stairs give subtle illumination and make your deck safer after dark.  If you have an outdoor grilling or cooking area, consider putting lighting underneath your workspaces to help everyone see what they’re doing. If your deck has some overhead protection, recessed deck lighting works well because they are protected from the elements and don’t require constant cleaning. Deck post cap lights work well in deck space.  There are a variety of low-voltage options when it comes to lighting your deck floor. Place lights in deck corners or near steps and seating for the perfect decking lights combination.

When building your dream deck, the planning stage can be the longest step of the process.  Taking the time to think through the questions above will help you create a space that not only functions to support your dream but creates a seamless aesthetic of your home.

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