Details That Enhance a Deck

The pleasure you get from your deck depends on many factors. Details like lighting, shade, plantings, and seating help make a deck more enjoyable.
Critical Details
Small poolside deck surrounded by shrubs. The smaller the deck, the more
benefit you will get from built-in
seating.

As with a patio or courtyard, the enjoyment of your deck is influenced by details. Before building, consider why you are building the deck and the ways you intend to use it. Plan for features you can add to enhance various activities.

Built-in seating. Most decks are built with the intention of people gathering on them. You can purchase outdoor furniture for the most flexible approach to seating. Decks also offer the option of built-in seating, which can substitute for a railing. Although built-in furniture is less versatile, bench seats come in handy when you have a crowd.

 
Gray deck with arbor and swing. Arbors add architectural
interest as well as instant
shade to a deck. Depending on
the amount of shade you need,
they can be open and airy like
this one or covered with dense
vines for more extreme seasonal
shading.

Shade. Although decks don't absorb light and heat the way paving does, a little shade or shelter is helpful. For dappled shade, consider extending a pergola from the house, or extend deck posts 8 feet above the deck floor to support a lath structure.

Another option is a canopy. Constructed with study supports and weather-resistant fabrics, these retractable coverings offer several advantages over arbors or pergolas. For one, they provide shade instantly, but can be rolled back to allow warming sun on cool days. A canopy also provides shelter from rain.

 
Gray deck with furniture and artwork Containers, whether movable or
built into the deck structure,
offer seasonal color and help to
soften the deck's hard edges.

Planting. Container gardens make decks come alive with color and scents -- and even fresh herbs to toss on the grill. And because they're portable, containers can be rearranged to make more room on the deck or to rotate in new color or flowers.

Built-in planters are less versatile than containers, but make a stronger design statement. Larger planters may require less watering than freestanding pots, and can house larger, more permanent pots.

The final deck planting option is to surround the deck with landscaping. Permanent perimeter plantings help the deck blend with the rest of the garden. Use care when planning such landscaping if you're planning to expand the deck in the future. You should also keep in mind the mature size of trees and bushes so they won't overwhelm the deck as they grow. Lastly, avoid planting trees nearby that drop twigs (like willow or silver maple), fruit (like mulberry), or flowers (like magnolia). Get recommendations from your local nursery or extension service.

 
Continued on page 2:  Nice to Have