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All Decked Out: A Guide to Transforming Your Deck

All Decked Out: A Guide to Transforming Your Deck
17 min. read

01 Deck family BBQ

A deck is one of the best investments you can make to your home because it adds usable square footage at a relatively low cost. But if your current deck is dull, uninspiring or falling into disrepair, it’s not adding any value to your home now or in the future.

With a little work and some creativity, your plain deck can become a beautiful extension of your home. Whether you love to host barbeques or just relax in the great outdoors, we will show you several projects to help you make your deck a more versatile, useful and aesthetically pleasing space where you’ll enjoy spending time. Follow this guide to customize your deck to fit your unique lifestyle!

  1. Start with a Good Foundation
  2. Bring Your Deck to Life
  3. Lighten the Mood
  4. Take a Seat
  5. Finish with a Focal Element

1. Start with a Good Foundation

02 Wooden deck

No matter how many improvements or add-ons you make to your deck, the structure itself is the most important element of the entire project. First, be sure that your deck is safe to walk on and use. If you’re renovating or adding to the deck or building an entirely new one, there are multiple factors to consider.

Start by answering these questions to give you an idea of the materials, colors and finishes you’ll need for your dream deck:

  • What is the shape and dimensions of your deck?
  • What type of railing do you have (or want to have)?
  • What’s the style of your home? Is it modern, or more traditional? How will the deck mesh with the home?
  • Would you like your deck to stand out from your yard or blend in?

03 Evening deck

a. Building a New Deck

04 Older wooden deck
If your deck has suffered significant damage, it may be in your best interest to build a new one entirely. “The main cause for replacement rather than repair is wood rot and water damage,” says Stuart Fitzgerald of Luxury Simplified Renovations in Charleston, SC. “If the structural integrity of a deck is at risk, then so is the safety of the deck itself. If [the deck] is wood, it will not last forever, even when pressure treated.”

Even if your deck looks fine at first glance, Fitzgerald states that wood begins to show deterioration in telltale ways. “Small signs of decay from water damage can be splinters or loose boards and nails or screws coming loose as well. Small repairs can be made to fix such issues, but if the issues arise in 4×4 or 6×6 posts that the deck is built on, then it is safer to replace than repair. Sometimes a fix is just as expensive as starting from scratch,” he says.

Replacing a deck that has seen better days is sometimes the best solution. Starting over with new materials that are more durable and fit the style and feel of your home allows you to enjoy your deck for longer and creates a more valuable investment. New innovations in decking and milling have given the homeowner more options for new decking boards that can stand up to wear and tear. While not indestructible, composite decking offers a longer life than traditional wood, as it is manufactured to resist rotting and sun damage. According to This Old House, most manufacturers offer a 25-year warranty on composite decking, while traditional wood may need replacing after less than 10 years.

Pressure-treated wood, on the other hand, is natural wood treated with preservatives to resist rot and insect damage. It’s more affordable than composite decking and stronger than most other types of wood. If you do decide to go with pressure treated wood, Fitzgerald says to “make sure that the ledger boards are flashed correctly where they meet the house, or wood rot will occur quicker due to the amount of water that runs off the house itself. I recommend two coats of water sealant upon completion to prolong the life of a new deck.”

b. Renovating Your Existing Deck

05 Garden summer deck

Before you begin overhauling your deck, inspect it for structural soundness. Tighten any loose screws and nails, and in general, make sure that the deck is sturdy and in good working condition. Assess each board and replace them as needed. Call a professional if you find any major support components that need to be repaired, as safety is the top priority.

“Safety is always the key to any renovation,” Fitzgerald notes. “The end product must be constructed properly to ensure no injuries occur to any person, either contractor or client.”

There are other safety standards you should have in mind before making any changes. For instance, when it comes to railings, you’ll need to adhere to the International Residential Code (IRC), which now requires that deck rails be 36 inches high. You should also consult your local building and zoning codes for specific regulations to avoid any surprises when it comes to passing inspection and sticking to your renovation budget.

Once the overall structure and decking is in good shape, give it some new life by upgrading and refurbishing the color and design. Start by washing the deck with a wood or deck cleaner. Add new color with paint, stain and sealant. Consider adding design elements such as metal post caps, cable railing or decorative handrails to your steps. Paying attention to the details in your renovation will result in a beautiful deck that isn’t simply utilitarian.

06 Multi level wooden deck

However, don’t just look to the deck surface for sprucing up. Even the space below a deck can be due for an upgrade. If your deck is elevated, adding a patio underneath it creates a usable space in the shade. If there isn’t room enough for a sitting area, consider adding lattice to the bottom of a deck. It’s an easy project that you can use to hide any undergrowth or outdoor storage, train trailing plants or simply create the finishing touch for your new deck.

2. Bring the Deck to Life

07 Garden armchair flowers

Your deck is an extension of your indoor living space as well as part of your backyard, so adding some plants to the deck will help it unify with the larger outdoor environment of your home. Even if you have an existing garden or two in your yard, plants can bring color, life and visual interest to your deck. They can also be as functional as they are beautiful. If you have a grill on your deck, you can grow bell pepper, onion or asparagus plants right beside it for easy access!

a. How to Choose Your Plants

10 Potted plant gardener

Containers and planters all have their own special considerations when it comes to planting. Start your project with a few guidelines to help you and your plants thrive all season.

  1. Thriller, Filler, Spiller

“When you are choosing plants for a container garden, you need to choose a ‘thriller,’ ‘fillers,’ and a ‘spiller,’” says Master Gardener Sandra Educate of the Lowcountry Master Gardener Association. “A ‘thriller’ is tall and dramatic, ‘fillers’ are smaller plants to nestle around the tall one, and ‘spillers’ are plants that spill or cascade over the side of a container.”

  1. More is More

Educate also suggests that “more is more” when it comes to the number of plants you include in a container. You want your plants to have a visual impact, and a larger container will accomplish this as well as give your plants more room to grow.

  1. Stick to Easy-to-Grow Flowers

Annuals are the best choice because of their blooming season and quick growth. Colorful flowers such as impatiens and petunias are included in this category, as well as vegetables and herbs, so you can easily add some organic produce to your table.

  1. Consider How Your Plants Work Together

Look for plants that can grow well together. Consult the growing instruction tags and look for plants that have similar water and sun requirements to simplify the growing process and provide a cohesive look for your container garden. Sticking to plants that pair well together can also evoke a mood for your deck, from tropical and bright to lush elegance reminiscent of a French courtyard.

b. Pots & Planters

08 Lush potted flowers

Planters are a way to show your creative spirit and bring greenery to a deck that isn’t surrounded by gardens. They come in a variety of styles, colors and sizes, and can be easily moved, so you can rearrange your selection for a new look anytime. Just make sure your container allows for drainage and is big enough to accommodate your plant’s roots.

“Very few plants enjoy ‘wet feet,’ so look for a style with drainage holes, and make sure and fill with light potting soil,” says Educate. “If you want to cut down on watering, hydrogel crystals mixed into the soil can help with that because they retain 400 times their weight in water, and each time you water the plants, you will replenish the crystals as well.”

Pottery is a traditional and elegant choice, but nearly anything can become a planter, from old boots and wagons to lined wire baskets and wooden bowls. Get creative with your planter choices to craft a decor scheme that reflects your personal style.

09 Layered soil transparent garden pot

You can also customize your deck’s growing space by building planters of your own. It’s easier than you think, and the sense of accomplishment, as well as the individual style you choose, will make it well worth the time investment.

For a traditional look with a twist, why not go for a planter box with a view? It features glass walls, and your whole family can enjoy watching the plants you nurture reach deep into the soil with their roots.

Decks that are lacking in space don’t have to miss out on the fun. Try a vertical garden for a slim statement piece, or incorporate benches into your design and add a seating solution that does double duty by adding greenery to your deck.

Finally, how about a living, hanging piece of art? If you are looking for a quick and cheap project with big results, try hanging cement planters to give your space that extra special touch. Choose herbs or dwarf flower varieties to fit the petite pots. No matter the choice, it’s important to give these thirsty plants a drink of water often so that they do not dry out.

3. Lighten the Mood

11 Bar deck

A great deck extends the living space of your home and essentially becomes an outdoor room. But if you spend a lot of cash on a beautiful deck that can only be utilized when there’s daylight, the cost-per-use plummets. Thankfully, there’s an easy solution: outdoor lighting.

“If you don’t add lighting, you’re missing one of the best features you can add to the design,” says Anne Nelson of Anne Nelson Interior Design in Bradenton, Florida.

From solar lights to romantic string bulbs, lighting adds practicality and beauty to your blossoming space.

a. Safety Lighting

12 Garden lights for deck

Deck stairs, hand rails and even the sharp corners of benches can become hazardous after the sun goes down. Strategically placed, easy-to-install lighting options create a safe environment for the whole family, no matter the time of day.

“Stair riser lights are a great place to start with safety lighting,” Nelson says. These lights install on the vertical face of each step and are an easy addition with a big payoff. Star floors and LED ribbon lighting are also trending at the moment, and these low-level solutions create an interesting atmosphere for your deck as well as provide increased safety.

Nelson adds, “Don’t forget about landscape lighting, away from the deck. Landscape lighting is huge. Uplighting plants along your house can create a mood, and even uplighting planters helps.” There are post-style solar light solutions for any size plant, and lighting the planters on your deck will accent your design as well as reduce stumbling hazards for everyone.

b. Lighting accents

13 Lighting accent for deck

Just as in a home, lighting fixtures can add beauty and style in your outdoor spaces.

“One thing I always tell my clients is to create a soft atmosphere with lighting on a deck, but beyond that, [to] really consider scale,” Nelson asserts. “On a deck, you can go bigger. You can have a big lantern, a focal point chandelier, even a big floor lantern with candlelight. The space on a deck really benefits from considering larger scale lighting.”

In addition, consider adding lighting that has a little character. Give the same time and attention to decorating your deck as you would your home.

c. String Lights for Decks

String lighting is another a hot trend for outdoor spaces that gives your space even more style.

“When you’re hanging string lights and you have a tree that extends close to the deck, consider starting there and making that your focal point,” Nelson explains. If you don’t have that natural element, then create a sturdy post to anchor your string lighting.

“Whatever you do, do everything symmetrical.” she continues. “Try to hang them at the same height, be close to the same length if you have more than one strand. You want to be tasteful and stylish and not have a haphazard design.”

4. Take a Seat

14 Comfortable seats for deck

The options for beautiful and durable deck seating are plentiful. Expand your entertaining options with bar stools, lounge chairs and even swings, or use benches with storage capabilities to store throw blankets or kids’ toys. From dining sets to comfy armchairs, it’s important to have a plenty of places to sit back, relax and enjoy your deck.

a. Choosing a Dining Set

15 Dining set for deck

A dining set should match your family’s needs and the space available. There are longer tables perfect for dinner parties, fade-resistant fabric for those who love to snack in the sun, umbrella sets for those who don’t, and everything in between.

Once you decide what you’ll use your new table for, the next decision is to choose the material from which it is made. Keep durability, comfort, style and climate in mind, opting for materials that echo those you already use inside your home. Choosing styles that appeal to you rather than those that simply do their job will make your deck more inviting.

b. Build Your Own Seating

16 White DIY deck furniture

When the weather warms up, outdoor projects beckon, and little feels better than completing a project that will enhance your daily living. Benches for your deck are a great place to start, and they can add storage to your space as well.

If your family includes young children, you might have all kinds of outdoor toys, from balls and bats to pool floats, and more often than not, those things can remain scattered on a deck, creating a safety hazard for your family as well as an unkempt look. Respect those toys by building benches where you can store them out of sight. You’ll keep your yard looking neat while providing extra seating for summer barbecues and evenings under the stars.

For an added challenge (and a stunning focal point), consider a custom-made swing. Bed swings are a popular design trend on porches and patios at the moment, and they create extra seating (and sleeping) options for guests as well as provide a soft, romantic feel to the space. Translate that trend for your deck by constructing a hanging bench with privacy curtains. Adding the frame around the bench will ensure your hanging bench is sturdy, and adding curtains will create a scene that invites relaxation and lingering in your outdoor space.

5. Finish with a Focal Element

17 Deck swing

Finally, it’s time to add a “wow factor” to your deck. This invites guests to gather ‘round, but it also speaks to the specific use you’d like your deck to fulfill. Whether it’s a pizza oven, a built-in grill, a porch swing or an old-fashioned game table, adding outdoor fun to your deck will ensure you use it again and again.

a. Build an Outdoor Kitchen

18 Deck grill BBQ

If you dream about the scents of dinner wafting over your lawn, then an outdoor cooking station might be the most logical focal point for you. You’ll want to situate your grill to create a convenient work space that accommodates cooks and guests alike, and interior designer Anne Nelson suggests more lighting there as well.

“Task lighting is especially useful for a grill,” she says. “You want to see what you’re doing as you cook, and adding such lighting also creates a focal point for the space.”

Installing a built-in grill is a job for professional contractors, but you can begin the project by adding some shelving or storage to the space. Additionally, countertops are always a plus, especially in a food preparation area, and plenty of countertop materials stand up to weather well. If you’re looking to go beyond the usual burgers-and-hot-dogs station, building an outdoor brick pizza oven is a project the whole family can enjoy, rewarding you with restaurant-quality pizzas in your own backyard.

b. Create Custom Tables

19 Custom deck picnic table

Sometimes a focal point can be ultra-practical. Custom tables provide a unique, double-duty solution that you and your guests can enjoy throughout the season. Even inexperienced DIYers can create the perfect answer to their deck furniture needs.

Since you’ll be spending a lot of time on your deck, having cold beverages at the ready will keep you enjoying the outdoors longer and more comfortably. If you need a little extra cooler space, try creating a picnic table with a built-in cooler for a fun and functional table to add to your deck.

Or, take your family game night out under the stars with a classic game table. With a little precision, paint and a few hours, the table will be ready anytime the players are, and when no one feels like playing, it will still add a whimsical and carefree touch to your outdoor space.

c. Cozy Up with a Conversation Area

20 Modern wrought iron seats

Treat your outdoor space just like the interior of your home by making it a warm, inviting place to stay and chat. If you have multiple seating areas, Nelson says to “add a coffee table to one to create a comfortable feel to the space.” Outdoor rugs, throw pillows and cushioned loveseats make a great place to catch up on conversation with friends. If big dinner parties are more your style, a long farm table or multi-seat dining area can act as a natural gathering point.

d. Add Color

21 Colorful striped deck pillows
Accenting your deck with some colorful accessories might be all the focal point you need! Add lively fabric, paint a floor, choose a bright table or fill your outdoor space with multicolor planters or lights to add vibrancy and personality.

“I love to design a deck with neutral furniture and then add fun fabrics for that ‘wow factor,’” Nelson says. “Lately, I’ve used gray as my neutral. For instance, a gray table with red chairs might be fun, but grey can also go with aqua or turquoise equally.”

There are many durable fabrics that are weatherproof and resist fading in sunlight, as well as indoor/outdoor rugs that can soften the space.

If you’d like to dip a paintbrush instead of fluff a pillow, consider painting furniture—or even the deck itself! If you want to let wood grain show through, choose a tinted stain, but if you want a more opaque color (and some added weather protection), stick with exterior paint. Remember, you want to create a flow from the interior of your home to your outside living space, so plan accordingly when choosing your color palette. Avoid choosing too many colors as well—settle on two or three to unify the space.

If all of those choices seem overwhelming, start with adding one colored decor element to your deck. From pots to bird feeders to painted picnic tables, finding a little accent of color can be an easy way to decide on the next step. If you like it, you can always add more, but if not, then you haven’t made a big investment you don’t like.

22 Wooden reclining chairs for deck

From decor to furniture, your deck should feature all of the things you like most about being outdoors. It’s a place where you should want to spend time, and one that is worth the investment. It adds value not only to your home, but to your experience of nature and time spent with family and friends. By upgrading your deck to a stylish, functional space, you have more room to do the things you love.

Article provided by The Home Depot.

As the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer, The Home Depot provides expert advice and tips on everything “how-to” for the home.

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