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May 01, 2012

Stacked decks

Maximize the enjoyment of your private outdoor space

Jessica Patterson

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The backyard holds a multitude of potentials in maximizing your living space and your lifestyle. You can grow a nice garden here, build a pond or grotto there, but the easiest way to bring indoor living outside is by building a deck.

You can design the simplest four-square deck, or the most elaborate, but a nice deck always enhances your living space and adds value to your home. Who wouldn’t want to relax outdoors on one of those gorgeous summer days where blue sky stretches from horizon to horizon? The deck is your own private outdoor haven.


Decks come in all shape and sizes these days. Just ask Brent Harrison, of Hammer Down Decks, who’s installed 15,000 of them over the last eight years.

“A deck is one of the best ways to increase value in your home,” he says. “People see a lot of value in being able to entertain outside, it opens up the home.”

From small sun deck to private balcony ensconced in greenery to wrap around porch, decks are a relatively inexpensive way to add square footage to your home and expand your living space.

Questions to consider when starting on a deck project include: what function do you want the deck to provide? Do you want a children’s area or room for a hot tub or spa? How do you stylistically link your deck to the house without it looking tacked on?

Deck designs — and materials — have evolved over the last decade. Traditional wood remains popular, but hardy composites have cornered the market in the last five years. Lots of Calgarians still like the simple pressure-treated wood, but composite decks with 25-year warranties and synthetic low-maintenance decks are gaining popularity.

Like colour and material, the shape of your deck depends on your preferences and often, the shape of your house or yard. Gently curved decks work well if they’re in the surrounding landscape or mimic the contours of your house. It’s particularly important with period or older homes to keep the deck in scale with the house.

Harrison believes in clean lines that lead out to the backyard and bridge the gap between interior and green space. Fit your deck to your floor plans. You can extend your kitchen or living room.

Larger decks can have separate areas for lounging, sunbathing, grilling and dining. But be warned, bigger decks may be ideal for larger gatherings, but feel unwelcoming and overwhelming when you want a private breakfast for two.

For condo owners, give your tired, old balcony a second life.

There are different products to build overtop a balcony, Harrison says. The company featured several at the recent Home and Garden Show, including interlocking pavers, which is a grid system that is laid over your balcony without tampering with the original structure.

Stone pavers are popular, though for condo balconies, try rubber pavers that are made out of 100 per cent recycled tires that provide an attractive and durable surface.

“People with condos could have a trellis, if they had a big enough space,” Harrison points out. “Trellises and pergolas have been really popular.”

Decks these days don’t have to be just in the backyard, front patios are also very popular these days. “In the last five years, people are seeing the value of sitting out front,” Harrison explains. “It depends a lot on the way their property is laid out and where the sun comes up in relation to that.”

Calgary-based Hickory Dickory Decks has been around for 25 years. For six of those years, Dan Wood has owned the Calgary franchise and he’s been busy ever since.

Wood and staff custom-design decks with the help of a design questionnaire that helps narrow down the choices. “The whole purpose of that is to get clients’ visions for their decks on paper,” he explains. Some decks might be small, intimate affairs, while others can be large projects where people are looking for custom privacy screens, pergolas, low-maintenance materials and specialty rails, he says.

Wood says in the last decade “we’ve seen a movement to what the industry would call low-maintenance deck boards.” Those are a combination of wood and plastic, or just plastic, that doesn’t require staining or maintenance, other than pressure washing in the spring.

“Our summers are short, and people want to spend time in their backyards,” Wood says. “They don’t want to spend two or three weekends sanding and re-staining their deck, they just want to use it.”

“The products are definitely a little more money but we’re seeing people gravitate towards them,” Wood says.

Decks turn even the barest of backyards into mini-oases. With a deck, you can enjoy outdoor living at its finest, from the comfort of your own property.

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