Build Low to the Ground
Platform decks are the simplest deck style. They are usually built on level lots and attached to single-level dwellings. Railings often are not necessary because these decks are so low to the ground. However, homeowners should find other ways to highlight the perimeter. Built-in planters and bench seating are good ways to do this. Angles, curves, a large screened gazebo, and a sunburst railing provide both style and function for this deck.
Waterproof the Structure
Because platform decks are close to the ground, it's important that the material is protected from the elements. All structural materials should be pressure-treated or rated for direct ground contact. Also, all materials need at least two coats of protective sealer before they are installed to preserve the undersides.
Incorporate Safety Precautions
Houses with above-grade first floors require raised decks. Raised decks must include railings and stairs for safety and easy access to the yard. When complete, these decks include exposed foundation posts that can be concealed with foundation plantings or skirting. Skirting usually consists of lath or lattice panels that fit between the deck and the ground.
Deal with Aesthetic Challenges
Two-story decks provide outdoor access to the upper levels of your home. While the extra access is a plus, the structural posts and bracing required to support a two-story deck can create an aesthetic challenge. This two-story deck uses 12-x-12-inch posts and angled support timbers to add support and visual interest.
Camouflage Exposed Posts
Structural members can also be disguised by covering them with decorative boards so they don't appear spindly. Other ways to disguise the exposed structural members include using posts that are thicker than building codes require or using partial skirting along the exterior. This deck uses rock-faced pillars to support the structure.
Highlight Your Yard
Multilevel decks are a series of decks connected by stairways or walkways. These decks are perfect for sloped lots because the deck areas follow the contours of the land. Joining each section with a short run of stairs prevents the lowest deck from interfering with the views from the higher decks.
Enjoy the Weather
The multilevel deck style also takes advantage of the microclimates within the yard. This style allows homeowners to have one level close to the house for entertaining, another level in the shade of nearby trees, and a third level positioned to soak up the sun.
Explore Your Options
Freestanding decks are not attached to the house. This is a useful approach when the house's construction does not allow for a ledger board, which is bolted to the house's framing, or the house requires a three-level deck system. Freestanding decks are built with the same basic methods and techniques as attached decks, except footings, posts, and beams replace the ledger.
Take Advantage of Your Views
Because freestanding decks are not attached to the house, they are perfect for highlighting the best areas of your yard. Freestanding decks become natural extensions of the landscape when placed in a shady glade or overlooking a beautiful garden.