Decks and Patios that Expand Your Living Space

Outdoor living is part of today’s lifestyle. More homeowners than ever are turning their outdoor areas into attractive and relaxing extensions of their homes during the warmer months of the year. This can be as simple as a sitting area for the family, or include a combination of decks, patios, walkways, gazebos, gardens, pools, ponds and fountains.

Decks and patios are frequently the focal point for outdoor living and entertaining. Professional renovators can offer valuable advice to help you get the most out of your property and your budget.

Be creative. The sky’s the limit when it comes to design. Take the time to explore ideas, browse through magazines and look at what other homeowners have done. Discuss your ideas with a professional renovator, and ask for suggestions on design, materials and details.

Determine the size of the area you need, realistically. How do you see yourself living on your deck or patio? Do you need a cooking and eating area? Will you be entertaining? Do you plan to lounge, garden or pursue other open-air hobbies? How much room will the furniture take up? Stake out the space you think you need. Will everything fit in comfortably? Don’t scrimp on size — adding a few extra feet is less expensive at the planning stage than later.

Be aware of sun, shade and wind. If the deck or patio will be bathed in sun the entire day, you may want to create a shaded area. Think about awnings, lattice walls, roof structures covered with plants or fabric. An experienced renovator can suggest many options to suit your style and budget. Or consider planting a tree for shade. Don’t forget to check the prevailing wind — you may also wish to build a windscreen.

Build in light, heat and water. If you plan to spend evenings outside or are concerned about security, make sure your plans include outdoor lighting fixtures as well as electrical outlets. Install an outdoor faucet or irrigation system for easy watering of flowers, lawns and shrubs and a natural gas outlet for barbecue or an outdoor heater.

Think about storage. Can you put things away easily and conveniently? If not, consider built-in benches with storage room, or an adjacent shed.

Look for easy maintenance and longevity. You want to spend your time enjoying the outdoors, not maintaining it. A professional renovator can advise you on the best construction methods, materials and finishes to protect your investment and your leisure time.

Eliminate potential problems. Experienced renovators can explain how to avoid any structural or water penetration problems that could arise from attaching a deck to your house. It is important to prevent water penetration where the two are joined, you could face moisture problems that lead to rot later on.

Know the relevant regulations. Municipal regulations may affect the design of your deck and outdoor space, local bylaws need to be reviewed. For instance, how close can you build to property lines? Will you need a railing for your deck? If you need a building permit, make sure to get it before any work begins.

Integrate your outside living spaces into an overall design. Depending on the size of your lot, you may want to develop a number of different “areas” on your property — flower beds, a vegetable garden, a gazebo or private sitting areas, a fountain, a pond or a pool. You may also want play areas for children, a clothesline and storage areas for tools, toys and bicycles.

Even if you don’t do all the work at the same time, develop an overall plan. Map out traffic flow and walkways from one area to another. Consider fencing for privacy, safety and looks. Think about plants, shrubs and trees for the long term — how large will everything grow in 10 years, and how will that affect space and sun patterns?

On a small lot, you can blend many different “areas” together with the right choice of materials and colors. There is a wide range of new materials on the market for walkways, patios, decks, fencing and more. Ask your renovator for information. It’s easy to find a professional renovator with the right knowledge and expertise — many specialize in decks and other outdoor structures.