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There’s a lot more—or should be—to choosing a location for your deck than merely plunking it down somewhere at the rear of the house. There is no rule that says a deck has to be attached to the house at all. You may find that a detached location, back in the rear part of your yard, provides the perfect spot for a natural getaway. If you plan to put the deck next to the house, take advantage of its exterior walls to get the best fit for your deck design. Also consider the features of your landscape—the slope of the grade, any existing vegetation, views, and climate. All these can affect the design of your deck and where you build it. Don’t draw your final plans until you have looked around your yard to see if anything needs changing.
The contours of your yard can affect your deck design. If your landscape is fairly level, construction should be uncomplicated. Slopes, even gradual ones, can require grading a level spot at the bottom or building a retaining wall. You could also put a deck at the top of the slope. Posts can reach down the slope and keep the deck level and sturdy, or you can build a multilevel deck to take even better advantage of the site.
All dirt is not the same; there are countless varieties of soil and they can affect where you put your deck and how you build it. Loose, sandy soil is great for plants, but it may not be good for deck posts. It erodes quickly, and local building codes may require concrete footings in loamy soil. The same goes for silted soil. Water runs off of clay soil quickly, and you may have to include some kind of drainage system to divert runoff away from your deck.
Sun, shade, wind, and rain
If the sun beats down on your deck mercilessly for most of the afternoon and early evening hours, you may not want to spend much time there. If you put the same deck where trees can shade it from the harsh sunlight, it will be much more enjoyable. Weather patterns can greatly affect the enjoyment of your outdoor space, and taking them into account often makes the difference between a deck that bustles with activity and one that sits empty and idle. If the only place available for your deck suffers from the weather, you can still add some climate control. An umbrella will provide localized shade, or you can build an overhead pergola with open rafters or lattice roofing to shade a large deck. Lattice screens or fence panels will tone down the wind (and add a little privacy too). With a small roofed structure over your dining spot, you can still enjoy the space in inclement weather. A roll-out awning can do the same job, and you can retract it when it’s not needed.
|DESIGN TIP: PICTURE THIS . . . When you’re planning the location for your deck, don’t leave home without your camera—you’ll surprise yourself with the number of hidden (or forgotten) details in your landscape a camera can bring to light. For example, after you’ve looked at the unadorned sides of your garden shed for a couple of months, it no longer seems unattractive. But put your deck in a spot that brings your focus to the shed and you’ll soon be looking for a way to fix the view. In this case a trellis with climbing plants can brighten up the structure (and your outlook). And if the camera reminds you that the neighbors will be able to see the deck and anyone on it, consider a privacy screen.|
When planning your deck site, look for places in your yard where nature provides shade. Trees and shrubs that shade and screen your deck help lower your costs by eliminating the need for building oversized structures or fences.
A deck at the bottom of a slope gains privacy from being hidden by the formation of the landscape. Almost all such locations will require at least a small retaining wall like the one here. Groundcovers can add color, but more important, they'll keep the soil in place. Cushions turn the wall into a bench seat.
Work with nature, not against it. Trees, large stones, or other permanent landscape features need not push your deck out of an otherwise perfect spot. With a little extra framing to support the decking, you can build your deck around the obstacle instead of trying to remove it. If you are building around a tree, check with the garden center to find out how much growth room the tree will need. Be careful to avoid damage to the tree during construction.
Make your own shade where nature doesn't provide it. A stylish table umbrella can make a quick and inexpensive shady spot on a sun-drenched deck. Plan for the future, too; plant a small tree now and it will add more shade when it grows to its mature size.
The information on this page is taken directly from our printed book, Decks 1-2-3, which shows you how to design, construct and maintain your own outdoor deck. Like all our 1-2-3 series books, this handy volume contains all the knowledge you need to do the job quickly...and get it right the first time. Detailed photos and diagrams, helpful tips from the pros, and step-by-step instructions let you learn and work at your own pace—and help you avoid common mistakes in do-it-yourself projects. Pick up your own copy at your local Home Depot store or order it online.
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