11 things to consider when planning a patio or deck

June 23, 2015

For reading, grilling, summer socializing and long afternoon naps, a deck, patio or porch is the place to be. Here are 11 tips to help you fashion a beautiful and functional hub for outdoor living.

11 things to consider when planning a patio or deck

1. Choose the right place

  • Build your deck or patio on the quiet side of the house and out of your neighbours' view.
  • Site it for convenient access from the house; you don't want guests marching through the bedroom on their way to the barbecue.

2. Check local building codes

In some cities or neighbourhoods, you may need a permit to attach a deck to your house.

3. Build around a tree

  • Build your deck or patio near a tree that will provide cool shade during the summer months.

Shady patios are much more pleasant to use on hot summer days, and the tree can offer shelter from sudden downpours.

4. Choose the right materials

One of the reasons decks are so popular is that they're simple to build.

  • Also, wood is much more forgiving than concrete and asphalt, and remains relatively cool for bare feet through the hot months.
  • Composite decking planks, made from plastic and sawdust, cost more than regular wood, but they resist weather and never need painting or staining.

5. Stain, don't paint

Paints blister and peel over time and need scraping, priming and repainting.

  • Stains require less maintenance, and they penetrate the wood to create a soft patina that enhances the natural grain.
  • Many have an acrylic latex base that allows for easy cleanup with soap and water.

6. Plan for lighting

  • Make your patio or deck livable after sunset by installing general and accent lighting.
  • Use brighter lights for dining and seating areas and dimmer ones to outline patio edges and adjoining paths.

You may wish to install sound speakers as well.

7. Add shade on south-facing patios

South-facing patios may need shade for comfort in high summer.

  • Install a living umbrella by planting a pretty shade tree just outside the south or west edge of your patio.
  • Select a variety that has a tall trunk, high branches and deep roots that won't eventually raise the paving materials.
  • Or consider installing a pergola over part of the patio.

8. Consider the wind

A trellis around the deck will help block harsh winds. Fill it with an attractive climber, such as morning glory, clematis or jasmine.

9. Eliminate weeds

  • If weeds pop up between patio pavers, stones or bricks, kill them with boiling water instead of herbicide.

The scalding heat will get rid of dandelions, crabgrass, clover, plantain and other unwelcome visitors.

10. Include built-in seating space

  • On small patios with little room for free-standing furniture, build a low wall around the perimeter.
  • Top it with flat, smooth stones or bricks and removable cushions.

11. Accommodate the grill

Most patios and decks would be incomplete without a barbecue.

  • Be sure to locate the grill on a level surface and far enough from your house so that flying embers won't cause damage.
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