Creaking Deck? Call for a Deck Safety Inspection

I recently visited some family friends that have a beautiful backyard space and view. We decided that before dinner we’d have a drink on their deck since it was a lovely night. Their deck is high off the ground and is pretty large. While it felt sturdy enough, it did creak a bit as all 7 of us walked around it. Lucky for them, they already have plans to have it replaced later this month.

As you enter fall, it’s a good time to think about the safety of your deck. It’s (hopefully) withheld the busy spring and summer months, but it’s now going into fall and winter when the elements can be tough. Especially in northern areas, decks have to stand up to the weight of large snowfalls and ice. Before winter really sets in, check your deck for signs that it needs to be repaired or replaced. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

How old is your deck? The typical deck last 7-10 years. Five years after construction is a good time to start taking notice of the condition of your deck to make sure that it lasts. You may be able to get more mileage out of it if you address any concerns when they first start.

088Is your deck starting to sway or shake? A shaky deck is not a safe deck. It is one sign of an attachment or footing that is weak. Deck collapses can very serious when an attachment or footing fails. If your deck sways, make sure you call a professional deck builder to come perform a deck safety inspection.

Are you deck boards splintering a lot? Cracks and splinters in wood is normal over time, but if they are splintering a lot, it’s a sign of the boards starting to dry out. Replacing a few deck boards can be an easy fix and doesn’t require the entire deck to be replaced.

Do you rails feel steady and secure? Deck railings are a very important safety aspect of your outdoor living structure. Make sure that your railings are not unstable or shaky.

If you think you are in need of a professional deck safety inspection, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Elevated Deck Creates Two Outdoor Living Spaces

When it comes to designing a new outdoor living space, one thing to think about is what square footage the project gives you. For many of our clients, they want to add to the usable living space to their property, and decks, patios, porches and other outdoor living spaces is a great way to do.

I was looking through some images of some of our locations recent work when I came across this great elevated deck in Des Moines. The homeowners were in need of an updated space when their current deck started to show its age. With their new outdoor living space, they wanted just that: space. Lucky for them, they reached Harold Cross of Archadeck of Central Iowa.

before-deck-des-moinesThe old porch felt and looked like an isolated space. The homeowners really wanted to utilize the elevated space as well as space lower down. Harold redesigned the open porch area to flow onto a deck without a roof and then down to a patio.

The main living area of the home is elevated in the back. They need an elevated space so they don’t constantly have to go downstairs to spend time outdoors. The covered area provides shade and frames a great outdoor dining space, right off the kitchen.

deck-building-iowaOne step down from the covered porch is an open deck where the homeowners can enjoy some sunshine. While the first space just had a covered area had a covered porch and then stairs heading down, this open deck provides an easier transition to the stairs and to the lower level.

The lower level consists of a patio that is partially covered. At Archadeck, we like to take advantage of the space created by elevated decks to craft additional living space. We use a process called under-decking to keep the space dry. Just like the open deck above, the open patio is both usable and a great transitional space. Without this part of the patio, the two levels would be too separate and wouldn’t work together like they do now.

Harold and his team designed and built this outdoor space to not only function extremely well, but it’s beautiful too. The colors of composite decking and the stone complement the home wonderfully.

If you have questions regarding outdoor living design, please reach out to your local Archadeck office.

Defining Spaces in Outdoor Rooms

When I was little the idea of outdoor living didn’t mean the same as it does today. Back then it was a deck or patio off the back of the house were you put some basic outdoor friendly chairs to sit and enjoy a drink before dinner. My how things have changed. Outdoor living now is about truly living outdoors. From outdoor living rooms to a place to cook and eat dinner outside, outdoor spaces have come a long way.

Creating rooms outdoors is all about you and how you intend to use the space. Defining the space is one way to make it feel like a real room.  When creating a patio or deck design, this is something that we at Archadeck consider. Here are some popular ways of creating definition and separation for an outdoor room.

deck-design-ideasShape and structure. Shape and structure are the foundation of any outdoor living space, but they are also the first thing to consider when defining different sections of a space. For example, imagine you want areas for both lounging and dining in your backyard. There are much more interesting ways to accomplish that than by having a simple rectangular deck on the back of your home. Maybe the space has a deck for an outdoor living set and then it leads to a patio for dining. Or, take this dining area for example, it has its own nook in a different shape off this deck.

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyPrivacy fences and railings. Indoors it is often walls that set one room apart from another. Well, the outdoors version of walls is privacy fences and railings. They are a great way to designate different areas of a room. Also, privacy fences help to make an outdoor space really feel like a room. Take this deck for example, the lattice privacy screens around the space make it feel like a cozy place to sit back and enjoy friends and family.

Pergolas. Pergolas are one of my favorite outdoor structures. Not only are they visually interesting, but they also a great option if you’re looking for a shade structure or a way to add definition to your space. Roof structures like porches and sunrooms are wonderful, but they can be pricy. Pergolas, in some instances, can play a similar role as a roof structure by defining a space, as seen in the image above.

Material. One of the easiest ways to break up an outdoor living space is to work with the material of the space. We’ve had franchisees change the color of deck boards throughout a space, or use different materials all together to create transitions. If you only want to use one material, for instance decking, you can still create different areas. Ask your deck builder to lay the boards in different directions.

If you have questions on how to create the best outdoor living space for you and your needs, please reach out to your local Archadeck office.

Check your deck before having company

Despite the cooler weather, fall provides its own set of outdoor entertaining opportunities. From homecoming get-togethers and tailgating, there is always a reason to be outdoors in the fall. Before having friends and family outside on your deck this season, make sure to have it checked for any safety issues.

Last Saturday afternoon, eight people were injured when a deck collapsed in Winona, Minnesota. A group of students were celebrating homecoming at an apartment with a raised deck when the deck broke away from the home and fell. The number of people on the deck at the time is unclear, but eight people were treated for injuries.

One student that was in the lower apartment heard a crack went to see what was happening; “I was in shock watching it because you don’t expect a deck with people, I mean everyone’s having fun, it’s homecoming, everyone’s out here having a good time seeing each other and then you look outside and people are falling to the ground.” Source.

Deck failures are, unfortunately, a common cause of injury in the United States. The average deck lasts about 10 years before it needs to be replaced, but it could be unsafe before then. At Archadeck, we suggest that decks should have regular deck inspections after 7 years or if any issues are noticed. A homeowner may, for instance, notice some creaking while walking on the structure or warping of deck boards.

Trained deck safety inspectors will look at all parts of the outdoor structure before providing the homeowner with recommendations on next steps. In many instances, there are simple replacements or improvements that can be made to make the deck last a little longer. In other instances, the inspector may recommend taking down the existing structure and replacing it with a new one that is up to code and deemed safe.

At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we use the acronym BE SAFER to explain the deck components we inspect when we look at existing structures: boards, exits, structure, attachment, footings and foundation, every connection and railings.

Fall is the best time of year for a deck safety inspection. Heavy snow, ice and yard debris in the winter months can weaken the deck’s structural integrity even more if not inspected before the harsh weather hits. If you need to have a professional deck builder and inspector look at your outdoor space, please contact your local Archadeck office.

Get more out of your deck with lighting

We often talk about the importance of design when enhancing your outdoor living space. Size, structure, flow, material, it is all part of creating a space that you love to spend time in. But as the evenings get darker earlier, homeowners are often forced inside. Incorporating outdoor lighting into your patio and deck design is a great way to ensure that you get the most use out of your space as possible.

Deck lights come in a variety of different styles, but their purpose is clear: to increase the safety and usability of your outdoor living space. When it is dark outside, it becomes harder to see exactly where you are stepping. Lighting the areas where people are walking is the best way to make sure no one trips and falls on your property.

When it comes to design, there are sure to be deck lighting options that can be incorporated into your structure. The most common forms of deck lights are:

step-lightsStep lights. Steps are arguably the most likely place a visitor may trip and fall in the backyard space. To minimize the risk of injury, we suggest including step lighting on all the stairways on your deck, patio, etc. Deck lights, like the ones seen here, are installed on the vertical portion of the step, shining downward to illuminate the step below. They come in a number of difference sizes, shapes and finishes. For example, maybe these dark colored ones aren’t your style. You may ask for a copper option that better fits your outdoor décor.

WRI-013Post Lights. Post lights are down lights that are installed on the deck railing posts. Like step lighting, they increase the safety of the space, but they are also a major factor in usability. Take this deck for example, without the post lights (which you can see sporadically around the space) the deck wouldn’t be nearly as usable as it is now. The light invites the visitors outside to enjoy the space.

post-lightsCap lights. Like post lights, cap lights define the usable space on a structure and are located on the railing posts. They are specifically located on the top portion of the railing or the cap (hence the name). There are two main types of caps lights. The first is where the light is incorporate in the cap, like this picture to the left illustrates. The light isn’t noticed during the day and is a nice design feature at night. WCOL-004The second type of cap light is that which sit on top of the cap. These are more decorative in nature and can take the form of a path light or lantern like the one seen here. When considering your overall style of your space, you could look for cap lights that enhance the ambiance.

Deck lights are important piece of the safety of your space. No one wants their family and friends to hurt themselves while enjoying a nice night outdoors. While they are easier to install in the building phase, deck lights can be added to existing outdoor structures. Please reach out to your local Archadeck office for more information.

Firepits and Outdoor Fireplaces Most In Demand Outdoor Living Feature

Posted by: janegwalker

In the last few years, we’ve noticed an increase in the number of projects that are including an outdoor fire feature, whether it is a firepit of fireplace. It’s not surprising when you look at the American Society of Landscape Architects’ (ASLA) Survey of the top Outdoor Living Features for 2013, firepits and fireplaces is at the top.

According to the ASLA, more U.S. homeowners are enhancing the outdoor areas around their home for added entertainment space. Nancy Somerville, Executive Vice President and CEO of the ASLA explains, “in this uncertain economy, homeowners want to get more enjoyment out of their yards. They want attractive outdoor spaces that are both easy to take care of and sustainable.” Source.

As people look to improve their outdoor living spaces, it doesn’t surprise us that firepits and fireplaces are at the top of the list of trends. Fire features are a great way to make a space feel more intimate and cozy.

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyAt Archadeck, we see an uptick in interest in firepits and outdoor fireplaces in the fall when the weather begins to cool down. Personally, I love gathering around a fire on a cool fall or winter night with friends and family.

Outdoor fireplaces and firepits are great add-ons to existing structures that will extend the amount of time you can use your decks, patios, sunrooms and other outdoor areas. You may be forced inside as it cools off in September for instance, but with a fire feature, you can enjoy it into November possibly.  At Archadeck, we custom design outdoor fireplaces and firepits to fit the spaces they are incorporated in. We’ll talk to our clients about how often it will be used, if it should be gas or wood burning and other aspects they may want to include.

The other outdoor trends mentioned on the ASLA survey align pretty closely with what our clients are asking us about. Here are the rest of the top 5:

2, Grills – Outdoor kitchens are growing in popularity and in most cases the grill is the focal point (you need somewhere to do the cooking, right?). Grills can be as simple or as complex as the client wants. Personally, I just need to know it can cook a mean burger.

deck-design-ideas3, Seating and Dining Areas – Outdoor living is truly about that, living. A deck or patio without a way to enjoy it is just a structure. The key to making sure that the space is as usable as possible is the design. Talk to your deck builder about how you intend to use the space so the size, shape and flow allow you to have the space you’ve always wanted.

4, Lighting – Gone are the days of floodlights attached to the side of the house. In are the days of beautiful outdoor lighting that accentuates the space entirely. Lighting will also allow you to spend more time outdoors and will illuminate traffic paths for safety and security.

5, Installed Seating – Installed seating can take the appearance of benches, seat walls, ledges, steps, etc. This plays into the seating and dining areas at number three. It is sometimes easier and better to create seating that is installed in some areas as opposed to pieces of furniture.

If you have questions on outdoor living spaces, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Deck and Patio Design that Gives You All You Need

Posted by: janegwalker

One of my pet peeves is wasted space. When my husband and I were looking at new homes, it was something that always jumped out at me. Getting the most out of a space is important to me; it has to have purpose. And that goes for outdoor living spaces as well. A lot of our Archadeck clients use their outdoor living spaces for multiple purposes which makes the patio or deck design all the more important. The flow of traffic and areas for different purposes have to be considered so that the homeowner gets exactly what they want, without wasted space!

deck-builder-BostonThis recent project from our deck builder in Boston really stood out to me because it is multi-purpose and laid out beautifully. The homeowners wanted an outdoor living structure that could be used a lot of ways, but they didn’t want it to feel completely disjointed. They love to be outside and wanted areas for sitting and relaxing, dining, a place for their hot tub, a shaded area and a fire pit for the cooler fall nights.

deck-design-ideasJim Finlay from Archadeck of Suburban Boston was put to task to create a space that could fit all of these needs, and personally, I’d be thrilled to have a space like this. Because the main level of the house is two stories up in the back, it was clear that an elevated deck would be a large component of the space. The deck is used for seating and for dining. Having the dining area on the deck was a logical decision due to its proximity to the kitchen. To define the space, Jim designed a portion of the deck that is multi-sided and the decking boards were installed in a different direction. Small stone columns were added to the entryway of the space adding more definition.

composite-deckThe deck also acts as a sitting area. This section has a three-sided built in bench that provides adequate seating for multiple guests. As you can see in the picture, additional seating was placed around the bench to make it even more conducive to conversation.

Off the side of a deck is a staircase leading down to the other parts of the space. Because the hot tub is the only space they would like a little more seclusion (without being completely cut off from the deck and patio) that space was kept to the right of the stairs. To the left is a large partially-covered patio.

Archadeck 2013 PhotographyThe patio was a perfect spot for both the fire pit and shade. Classic pavers were used for the patio. The fire pit section jets out past the deck and into the yard so that people on the deck can still see and speak with visitors below. One of my favorite details is the stone surrounding and defining the fire pit. They match the stone on the columns on the deck and underneath the porch.

Since the deck had to be elevated, it became the perfect place to escape the sun. Under decking was added to ensure that the space stays dry even when it is raining. The homeowners installed a television on the porch beams for nighttime entertainment outdoors. Talk about relaxing!

This patio and deck design fulfills all of the homeowners needs and is stunning. If you are looking to have a space designed for your yard, make sure you consider how you are using the space and even what furniture may be placed. If it doesn’t flow well, ask for changes. As always, your local Archadeck office is there to help you will all your outdoor living questions.