Design the Perfect Deck or Patio

Establishing clear goals is the key to successfully designing -- and building -- an outdoor space.
Overall Scheme

Your deck or patio will fulfill your expectations with careful planning. Thorough planning means setting clear goals, establishing a budget, being familiar with the construction process, and making informed decisions that keep the project running smoothly.

spiraling stone patio wall Creating areas with distinct
personalities makes this small
backyard patio seem larger.

Planning proceeds in stages. Set primary goals by determining how you'll use the space and how elaborate the finished space will be. The more precise your goals, the more satisfactory the results. For example, increasing your outdoor living space is a good objective, but if you specifically envision quiet get-togethers for two or three close friends, you might be happy with an intimate deck or patio that features room for a table and a few chairs. If you prefer expansive parties for 20 or more, plan a deck or patio large enough for two or three good-size tables and even outdoor cooking and clean-up areas.

Make sure your project is architecturally compatible with the exterior of your home and the surrounding landscape. Consider hiring a professional such as an architect, landscape architect, or designer. A professional will help express your ideas on paper and will ensure the project is structurally sound and meets local codes, covenants, and setback distances. A qualified architect or designer can help reduce overall costs by anticipating problems and offering creative solutions before work begins.

Creating different levels and areas gives your design flexibility. For a small group, you can confine your activities to one portion or level of your deck or patio. If larger gatherings are expected, you can expand to other areas. You don't need to have a large deck or patio to achieve a flexible design. Use planters, furnishings, or overhead structures such as pergolas or arbors to create and define components of your overall living area.

As you plan, keep in mind which conveniences would be appropriate. Including several electrical outlets, for example, makes it easy to add or move pole and table lamps, hook up a portable stereo, or plug in a laptop computer.

Continued on page 2:  Gathering Ideas