Sunday, October 23, 2016

Patios vs. Decks

Outdoor spaces are very important to a home. Almost every home has some sort of space where you can go outside and enjoy some sunshine or shade, grill some hamburgers and maybe enjoy a cool drink.

These spaces are typically patios, decks or balconies. Patios are most often have a stone or concrete surface. Decks are typically raised wooden structures supported with posts and balconies extend out from a home with no external support posts.

Regardless of what type of outdoor space you have, it's placement is fairly important. Anytime I am designing a home for a customer, I have a discussion with my clients about outdoor spaces, what the options are and how the sun will interact with the space.

As outdoor spaces are typically most used in summer months, the west side of a home can be a very, very hot area. If the sun is beating down on your patio and it is 10 or 20 degrees hotter than the actual air temperature, you are going to be less likely to use the space. I try to locate outdoor areas on the East or South side of the home. The East side is ideal as it will get lots of morning sun but the house will provide shade by early afternoon. The South side is a good choice for sun lovers or a more northern/cooler climate.

Maintenance of the outdoor areas is very a important issue. One of the main reasons I favor a patio constructed with some sort of paving stones is the lack of required maintenance after it is built. Since a patio rests on an earthen base, it is common for that base to have to be raised or built up from the natural slope of the ground and may require some sort of retaining wall. This along with the cost of the paving stones can make a patio more expensive than a deck. This initial cost may offset by the minimal cost of maintaining a patio. Stone and concrete patios are forever! Patio maintenance typically consists of some week killer and a broom. Another advantage to a paving stone patio is that the materials do not wear out and the configuration of the patio can be changed at any time in the future. Simply pull up the stones and move them to a new location.

Decks on the other hand are not maintenance free. They require regular cleaning and periodic staining. And the decking material will age and deteriorate over time requiring replacement. A wooden deck structure may only last 15 years before having to be replaced. Despite these issues, decks are more appropriate in some instance where a raised patio is impractical. The main reason for this may be height. Building a tall retaining wall and filling it with compacted material to support a stone patio may be impractical and/or too expensive.

In this case a wooden structure built safely and to local building codes may be the answer. There are a number of decking and railing materials that can be utilized, each with it's own advantages and disadvantages. These may include, initial cost, longevity and required maintenance.

I found myself in this conundrum last year. I have designed my home to have 2 patios, one on the East side and one on the south side, with the living room window wall obscured in the middle. BTW, I borrowed this design arrangement from FLLW and Fallingwater. Our home is situated on a pretty good slope. While building the retaining wall for the East patio was not too difficult. doing the same for the South side was not so simple. The walls would need to be about 10' high and 50' long. I had at one point considered building an ICF room with a suspended concrete floor, but the cost for this was just too much. So, in the end I decided to simply build a nice deck in order to get the project completed.

The deck I built is of good size, 15'x24' and is free standing (not attached to the house). We live in an ICF house and I chose to make the deck free standing rather than deal with attaching ledger boards to the ICF walls. The posts and framing are made of CCA lumber and we chose cedar for the decking. I finished the decking material today and I will apply a good quality stain in a few weeks after the boards have had a chance to age a little. Soon I will be adding the railing system for safety.

We are looking forward to spending some afternoons next summer on the new deck.

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