Multi-Level Deck Opens Up Yard in Arkansas

We’ve discussed at length the importance of a good deck design. It not only has to work for the intended use, but also for the home and the rest of the yard. All components of the property should complement one another instead of combat it. When our deck builder in Little Rock, Tom Duncan, shared the following project with me, I noticed it was a great example how design can impact a yard.

deck-design-ideasThis particular backyard had an existing pool, but no deck. Instead, it had an enclosed area under the the small roof structure seen in the picture. The two spaces didn’t work with each other and inhibited interaction between people using the outdoor areas. The enclosed area was too small to entertain guests and the only access to the yard was on the opposite side of where the pool was. It just didn’t make sense for homeowners who like to entertain and have pool parties and barbecues when the weather is nice.

Tom and his team looked to create an open entertaining space that created a smooth transition from the deck to the pool. They designed a multi-level deck with wide steps Deck-builder-arkansasto open up the space. By having only three steps at any one place, the different levels, although separate, don’t feel disjointed and invite conversation and interaction between people throughout the whole yard. It also created a low-to-grade deck at the lowest level. A low-to-grade deck or patio is low to the ground and doesn’t require a railing by code. Without a railing blocking views, it invites the eye out into the pool area and yard. The higher parts of the deck do include a railing for code purposes, but the homeowners enjoy the definition and seclusion of those areas.

Access to the pool and the yard was one of the biggest issues with the home’s existing outdoor living space, but the Archadeck of Central Arkansas opened it up. Not only is all of one side of the pressure treated deck open to the pool area, but there is also an opening from the far deck area to the yard below.

Deck-PorchThis once closed off and fragmented space is now open and conducive to entertaining and interaction. There is space and areas for everyone to enjoy. The built in bench on the low deck offers a place for people to sit and enjoy the sun, while the now open porch is perfect for the person who would like some shade. It was important to the homeowners to incorporate the existing roof structure into the space. By keeping the bones and support of the structure, it was a perfect shaded addition to the structure.

Tom and the Archadeck of Central Arkansas team enhanced the utility of this backyard completely by creating a space that truly works. It all comes back to design. A good design makes for a useful space. A bad design inhibits it. If you aren’t sure what will work best in your yard, make sure you consult a professional outdoor living designer.

On an unrelated topic, we at Archadeck Outdoor Living are thrilled to open voting for our Dream Backyard Makeover contest tomorrow, April 23rd! Make sure you place your vote for the homeowner you want to win the $70,000 backyard makeover!

Four Days Left to Enter Dream Backyard Makeover!

ARCH_7117 Dream Backyard Makeover BlockOver the past two and half months, we at Archadeck Outdoor Living have been thrilled to be running the Dream Backyard Makeover Contest. Unfortunately, there are only 4 more days to enter! If you haven’t submitted a photo of your current backyard along with a description of what you would like in your dream backyard, make sure you do it by April 22nd, 2013! Voting on the six finalists will be begin on Wednesday, April 23rd and the contest winner will be announced on or around May 6th.

As of this morning, there have been just under 1,700 submissions. It’s been wonder reading all of the entrants’ stories and learning more about how they intend to use the space (some of you have great plans!). The grand prize is obviously the $70,000 backyard makeover which will include both a deck and patio component using TimberTech and Belgard products. Recently, I’ve been receiving questions on how the deck design will be settled on and built, so I wanted to describe the process the winner will be experiencing.

Our deck designers and builders take their job very seriously. It is our goal to provide you with a space that is not only beautiful, but also usable and the homeowner is key to that conversation. After the winner is chosen, our local Archadeck owner will visit with the homeowner, survey the entire yard and discuss the needs and wants of the family. By knowing the intended use of the space as well as some of the homeowners likes and dislikes, a custom outdoor living environment can be created that will make everyone happy.

Just like the typical Archadeck Outdoor Living client, the Dream Backyard Makeover Contest winner will be given a 3D design rendering of the space so they can easily envision the end outcome and what it will look like in their backyard. I must say, it can be incredible to see the before, the design and the after.

Once the design is settled on, Archadeck will pull all the necessary permits and get all the necessary building materials ready to get started. And, from there, the transformation begins! Our franchisee and their local team will work to get the space built so that the homeowners can once again enjoy their backyards. Everyone at Archadeck can’t wait to get started on the contest winner’s backyard. Only a few weeks until the winner is finalized!

As always, we’ll be here updating you on the project along the way.

Again, if you haven’t yet submitted your entry yet, you have four more days to do so! You can enter at DreamBackyardMakeover.com.

Good luck everyone!

Deck and Patio Design for Optimal Outdoor Entertaining

Outdoor entertaining has emerged as a large theme in outdoor living. Many people really want a place for family and friends to gather and spend quality time outdoors.

When it comes to outdoor entertaining, it helps to have an outdoor space that was designed to accommodate that. A good patio or deck design will address flow and layout so that your outdoor parties are enjoyed by all.

Before we get into deck design ideas, if you are planning to have a barbecue or outdoor party and have an existing outdoor structure, make sure you have a deck safety inspection if you haven’t recently. The average lifespan of a deck is 10 years, but at Archadeck Outdoor Living, we suggest having your first safety inspection when the structure is 5 to 7 years old. Just because the deck looks OK, doesn’t mean that it is structurally sound. A professional can come and give you an idea of the current shape of your deck as well as tell you what small fixes you can do to make it last longer.

When considering a new porch, patio, deck or combination outdoor project, make sure you tell your deck designer how you intend to use the space, especially if you are looking to entertain outdoors. Be specific so they can create a space that will fit all of your needs and wants. Planning to have your guests sit around in an outdoor living room is very different than needing an outdoor dining room.

DSC_0506Defining the different areas of your outdoor space is key to keeping the flow open and useful. Take this deck for example, I love that the dining area is clearly defined. In this instance it was done by elevating the area a bit, but this can also be achieved by adding a pergola or other roof structure to create a “room” or by switching the material pattern.

A space that is well designed for entertaining takes into account that entertaining means people and people means space to sit. For some homeowners that means an open space where they can place outdoor furniture. That allows for some flexibility if furniture needs to be moved or if you would like to switch out the furniture periodically. Other deck builders will include a built-in seating bench or retaining wall to accommodate guests. Normally benches or retaining walls are used both as a place to sit and a way to designate the use of the space.

287814661210_0_BGWhen people entertain outdoors they sometimes like to do the respective cooking outdoors too. For that, an outdoor kitchen is perfect, however, the design should be able to hold more than just the chef. This outdoor kitchen is perfect for entertaining, for example, because it has space for people to circle around and talk while people cook on the grill or outdoor pizza oven. It keeps the chef in the middle of the action and conversation.

The key to any good patio or deck design idea is that it checks off your list of needs and wants. An outdoor living structure can be pricey, so it is best to be very clear with your deck builder what you want out of the space. If you aren’t sure, download our free Archadeck Design Guide. The guide asks a series of questions that will help you envision the backyard of your dreams.

March Dream Backyard Makeover Finalists Announced

It has been a busy month for Archadeck and its Dream Backyard Makeover Contest. We are thrilled that so many people have taken an interest in the contest. With over 1,000 entries, it was extremely difficult to pick two for the month of March, but somehow we did it.

We are still accepting entries through April 22nd, 2013. On April 23rd voting will open for all six finalists. If you need a reminder on the prizes, here they are…

First prize – a $70,000 backyard makeover sponsored by TimberTech Decking and Belgard Hardscapes. The winner of this will have an absolutely gorgeous new outdoor living area with both a deck and hardscape component design and built by Archadeck Outdoor Living.

Second prize – a $7,000 deck or patio renovation by Archadeck Outdoor Living.

Third Prize – a $3,000 outdoor lighting system from Outdoor Lighting Perspectives.

The full descriptions of the finalists’ photos will be posted on the Archadeck Facebook page when voting opens, but here’s a glimpse at the March finalists!

March Finalist2The first March finalist comes to us from Connecticut. The first time homeowners and parents fell in love with this home despite the old, not up to code deck and porch. The backyard has great potential to be the perfect space for this growing family. This house is not only the first home the couple has owned, but the first backyard both of them have ever had after growing up in the city! We at Archadeck Outdoor Living see the possibilities!

March Finalist1The second finalist comes out of Iowa. This family had to move to a larger home after adopting two kids from foster care. Now with four young kids (under the age of 10), the homeowners would like an outdoor space for the kids to play away from the television and computer. The parents hope to have a space to relax (maybe cook) and watch their kids enjoy the outdoors. With a large yard like this, the options for a Dream Backyard Makeover are endless!

Congrats to our March finalists! For everyone else, keep the entries coming. The last group of finalists will be announced on April 22nd! There is still time to enter!

Picking a Contractor that Won’t Leave You High and Dry

Over the past month I’ve been spending a lot of time reading and looking at the Archadeck Dream Backyard Makeover submissions and themes have started to emerge. One that seems to be recurring is homeowners being left high and dry by their deck contractors.

deck construction

Make sure you pick a contractor that will complete the backyard of your dreams, without hassle

Several entries have shown (including one of our February finalists) decks that are half or barely finished. The descriptions reference a contractor that they found out wasn’t licensed and the building they did do wasn’t to code. It’s no wonder why so many homeowners are hesitant to invite contractors to do projects on their home.

Deck construction is a serious topic that can lead to personal injury or damage to the home when done incorrectly. To ensure that the person you hire is going to treat your property as if it were they own, make sure that you ask all of your candidates these questions:

What’s your contractor license number? Many homeowners ask prospective contractors if they are licensed, but reading the contest entries has made me realize that sometimes people lie. You should be able to get the contractor license number from the people you are thinking of working with. That way, if something happens, you have it on file.

How are you insured? A good contractor has the appropriate insurance to protect you against damage that is done to or on your property. If something happens, it shouldn’t have to go through your homeowner’s insurance.

Will you pull the local building permits and have them on file? Any structures built on your property need to be built to the local code. Permits must be pulled and inspections must be made (sometimes a few times during the building phase).  A contractor who is good at patio and deck construction will do this for you, but you should have access to permit numbers if needed.

What warranties do you have? No one wants to invest is a large home improvement project just to have  it break or fail. It’s even worse when there is nothing you can do about it.  At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we pride ourselves one having 2 guarantees to protect our clients. Additionally, if you have an issue with the material, we will work with you to get in touch with the manufacturers to look at their warranties.

Could I have some references? It’s understandable that homeowners are careful about who they invite into their home. Every deck contractor should have a list of clients that you can reach out to and ask questions.

Asking these questions will help you to choose a deck construction provider that you know you can trust. If you have questions regarding our process, please contact your local Archadeck Outdoor Living office.

Decks Ideas to Fit Your Style

When it comes to large home projects, I do my research. Before reaching out to any companies or contractors I’m considering working with, I like to have an idea of what I want so I can provide clear guidance to whomever I choose to work with. At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we recommend our clients visit our website to get patio and deck ideas to spur our thinking.

Everyone’s tastes, styles and budgets are different. What works for me and my house may not work for my neighbor. Looking at images will inspire likes and dislikes that should guide your designer to create an outdoor living space that you love and complements the structure and finishes of your home.

When looking for different patio and deck ideas, keep these things in mind:

This patio is more natural looking with its flagstone finish

This patio is more natural looking with its flagstone finish

Color and Material – Fifteen years ago, the majority of decks were wood. If you like the natural wood look, look at different types. Do you like the standard pressure treated pine? Or maybe the IPE is a better option for you. Between decking stains, paint and composite options, your designer should be able to find the perfect color for your deck that enhances your outdoor space.

Material is also a key component of patio design because the options are so varied and are a large part of the design. Some people prefer the look of the traditional red brick, while others like a more natural flagstone finish.

Lattice skirting is used to hide the under deck area

Lattice skirting is used to hide the under deck area

Skirting – Unless you keep the space beneath your deck in beautiful shape, you may want to include some type of skirting to your design. Skirting gives the deck a finished and streamline look while adding another detail that some homeowners may not think of. A few types of skirting are lattice and solid board skirting. Lattice skirting, as seen to the left, has a crisscross look that you may also find on privacy walls. Solid board skirting can be installed in both vertical and horizontal patterns and is similar to the finished look of a fence.

Railings – Railings are not only necessary for safety concerns, but they are also a great place to add a design feature. From iron and glass to vinyl and wood, there are options of every kind.

fire-pit-atlantaBuilt-in features – the last component I would look at for ideas is built-in features. These can include anything from fire pits, fireplaces, kitchens, benches, planters and more. I personally like something that’s a little more functional, so while I think a planter is great, I would add a wider border to it so it can also work as a bench. Other people, however, are fine with just having something that looks great.

To get some patio and deck ideas that may work for your space, take a look at The Archadeck photo galleries. Also, if you want your Dream Backyard and want us to do all the thinking and doing to make it happen, don’t forget to enter the Dream Backyard Makeover Contest.

Proper Deck Design Leads to Increased Use

I’m a true believer that when you enhance a space, whether through renovation or furniture, that you should get your money’s worth in its use. What’s the point otherwise? When it comes to building or replacing a deck, it all comes down to design. A good deck design will lead to it being used.

I went home to Maine this summer and visited some family friends and saw first-hand how a poor deck design doesn’t work for homeowners. Our friends recently had their outdoor living space updated with a deck and patio. While it was large, I realized that all the furniture was placed in only 2/3rds of it. When I asked what they were planning for the other part they said nothing. They weren’t sure how or if they were going to use it. That area was completely useless to them, and in my opinion not worth the added cost.

At Archadeck Outdoor Living, we pride ourselves on “better building by design.” All of our projects are custom designed to fit the clients’ needs, wants, tastes and budgets. Function is one of the most important considerations our deck designers make. How is the space going to be used normally? Will it be used as a place to cook and eat? Is it a space to have quiet time? Based on answers to questions like this, a space can be created that will look beautiful and be functional.

The existing home’s architecture plays a large role in deck design as well. Our goal is to make the new space look like an extension of the home, not an afterthought. I hate looking at outdoor living spaces that look like they were bought out a magazine and simply placed on the property. The style and finishes just don’t match and it just looks odd.

Very few Archadeck outdoor living spaces are square decks added to the back of the home. The boxy nature of a deck like that, while it works in some instances, doesn’t always allow for the flow and function that homeowners truly want.

Here are some great deck before and after photos from our franchisees:

deck-design-central-ohio

This homeowner had a small patio that wasn’t big enough for entertaining family friends. They wanted to expand over this unused mulch bed. The local Archadeck deck designer in West Central Ohio was about to created a curved deck design with a built-in bench that invites conversation. The railings and posts were finished in the same color as the window trim to make a seamless transition from house to deck. deck-central-ohio

Austin_Zavala Deck_Before2

This deck in Austin had seen better days. While it has a great view (see the canal in the background), it didn’t have much space. The property owners wanted one main place for cooking, entertaining and relaxing in the sun. Below is the final outcome. It’s a big difference; don’t you agree? The outdoor kitchen is really the anchor to the space, but everything is open to the view, making it a big focal point. This home has a very contemporary architecture so our designer stuck with minimal lines and open iron rails to match existing features.

deck-austin

deck-before-suburban-boston

This outdoor space in the greater Boston area was just too small. While the homeowners, liked the small patio area for dining they wanted a more inviting space. Our deck designer created a space will several areas for sitting and entertaining. By adding new french doors and a deck that’s pushed back towards the tree, it pulls people outside into the new space. I love the white trim on the deck and pergola that brings the clean white trim from the windows into the outdoor space.

deck-design-boston

If you are wondering how a custom deck design could enhance your outdoor spaces, please contact your local Archadeck office.

Curved Deck Adds Charm to Georgia Home

At Archadeck Outdoor Living, our motto is “better building by design.” We take great pride in the fact that each and every one of our outdoor living projects is different and custom designed to fit the homeowner’s needs, tastes and budget. We have a needs assessment that guides our designers as they create the perfect space for their clients. Our deck builder in Hawkinsville, GA recently created an outdoor living space using an old feature of the property as his inspiration.

This rendering shows the rounded deck design that Archadeck of Central Georgia was envisioning. The 3D image allowed the homeowners to see what the project would look like before the built it.

Stephen Denton, the owner of Archadeck of Central Georgia, was asked by his clients to create a deck design around an old well that the home had. The house was built in the 1800s and had some beautiful charm as a result of its age. The old well had been filled in and works as a flowerbed, but the homeowners did not want to get rid of it due to the history behind it. Instead, they wanted a unique outdoor living space that mirrored its shape, thus the curved deck was born.

The curved edges of the deck enhance the curve of the well that sits in the center of the deck. Rounded decks, however, don’t work on certain properties due to the landscape. In general, decks must having railings for code and safety issues (no one wants an injury), but curved railings are expensive. They have to be specially made because you can’t bend wood or rail caps to follow the unique curve. Luckily this project didn’t need to have railings. The evenness of the yard allowed Stephen to build a low-to-grade deck which means the structure is low to the ground. If the deck is less than 30 inches off the ground, code says that the structure doesn’t need railings, so the sides of this project were left open. The homeowners are thrilled that the view from their deck isn’t blocked by railings and is completely open to the backyard (not to mention it saved them money). Railings were added to the straight edges of the deck and stairs so visitors have something to hold on to while traveling around some parts of the space. The railings on the side also give the deck added definition.

When considering what the deck in Hawkinsville should be made of, the homeowners were clear: they wanted low maintenance. Stephen used TimberTech composite decking in a deep walnut color so his clients can easily keep the space looking like new and don’t have to worry about rot, mildew or bugs as the boards age. Archadeck of Central Georgia was able to build the deck without breaks in the boards too. No two boards are right next to each other on the ends, creating a clean finished look.

The last part of the deck design was the trellis. Not only can the homeowners use it as a place to hang or grow vegetation, but they also added an outdoor curtain that they can open and close for added privacy.

I love projects like these where a request to keep and highlight a special feature, like this well, drove the deck design. It’s a unique project that the homeowners love. It’s functional, yet charming.

To learn more about designing an outdoor living space that you and your family can enjoy, download the Archadeck Design Guide, or contact your local Archadeck office.

Construction Details that Make Your Deck Last

Deck safety is a topic that we cover regularly on Beautiful Back Yard blog because it’s important. We at Archadeck Outdoor Living want your deck, or other outdoor living space to not only last, but stay safe as time goes on. After each completed project we survey our clients regarding their experience with us and our craftsmanship is a common theme:

“The materials and workmanship are very high quality” – customer in Birmingham

“High quality of workmanship delivered with excellent communication in a very professional manner” – customer in Golden, CO

“The whole experience was positive – from the planning phase, to the construction, and then finally the finished project. We’re extremely happy with the result.” – customer in Kansas City

“The sturdy construction, the ingenuity and the way it looks like it was always meant to be on the house.” – customer in Pittsburgh

Can you see the screw heads? Yeah, neither can we.

The way you build a deck is the key to making both beautiful and worth the investment, that’s why we make sure that go above code requirements. On average, our projects are built to exceed code by 40-60% to guarantee that our clients have a solid and secure structure. Strong craftsmanship is often noticed in the details. While nails can be used to add decking to a structure, Archadeck Outdoor Living regularly utilizes screws or hidden fasteners that are less likely to back out of the board with time.

How the boards are placed is also important, especially if it’s wood. Whenever we can, we place the boards so the grain is perpendicular to traffic so that the splintering becomes less of an issue as it ages.

Our Archadeck standards also emphasize the small details that make a big difference. Risers are incorporated on stairs, trim hides unsightly board ends, and hidden fastener systems are employed where applicable. These are the finishes that make your space extra special.

If you have questions regarding Archadeck Outdoor Living and our construction process, please contact your local office.

Garapa Deck in Old Greenwich, CT

I was recently looking for pictures of some new Archadeck Outdoor Living projects when I came across

This before picture shows the rectangular deck that needed some updating

this one from our deck builder in Greenwich, CT, Rick Crossman. I thought the before and after photos from the space were incredible, making the space not only bigger, but more open and usable.

When Rick first visited these homeowners, they had an old bi-level rectangular deck and railing. Their biggest objective for the new deck was to increase the amount of livable space. Their original deck was too small and the dining and seating spaces were too close together for their liking.

The after shows a larger more open deck

Rick designed a space for them that would better fit their entertaining and relaxing needs. Two design components that really helped open up the space was keeping the deck on one level and removing the railings.

Multi-level decks are a great way to separate different parts of an outdoor living space that needs to serve multiple purposes, but if it isn’t done correctly it can cut off part of the space. The one level deck Rick designed was large enough to have clear areas for dining and for lounging while still having an open feel.

The dining space of this deck and now clearly separate from the seating area

The homeowners wanted their new deck to open up to their backyard and garden. The original railings were cutting those off completely. Rick suggested removing the railings and replacing them with stairs and a built in bench to keep from obstructing the views, and man, did it open it up.

Once the design was finished, Rick and the homeowners had to decide what to materials to use in the build. The homeowners wanted wood as opposed to composite or pvc decking. Rick decided that Garapa decking (with an Azek trim), a Brazilian oak, would be the best choice for their home. Garapa is an exotic wood that is intrinsically hard and is naturally resistant to rot and insects. Garapa projects are known to last over 20 years in some cases.

If you have questions regarding outdoor living spaces and how they could enhance your home, please contact your local Archadeck office.