More Living from the Inside Out

Article provided by: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection

A properly planned deck or patio can add charm to a home’s design, but even more importantly, it can expand the living area with the creation of elegant and functional outdoor living spaces.

The first step to creating a deck is finding the perfect design to compliment the exterior of the home and accommodate the desired outdoor lifestyle of the homeowners. Large home supply stores have design software accessible on their websites allowing homeowners to create and print a customized 3-D deck design. Designs and materials can be changed with a click, and do-overs are definitely allowed.

But spending time envisioning the deck before putting pen to paper or mouse to hand will help. Ideas are everywhere – readily available in magazines and on-line. Some questions to consider include: what will the deck be used for; how often will it be used; who will use it; and what time of the day or night will it be used.

With these ideas in mind, a homeowner can create a variety of areas on and around the deck for a variety of uses including food prep, eating, relaxing and entertaining. If a pool or hot tub is also part of the design, other issues will need to be addressed such as electrical supply, privacy and adequate safety measures.

Where the deck will be constructed will be determined by the available yard space, accessibility to and from the home, and showcasing the best views. Enclosing part of the deck with a roof can make the deck more convenient to everyday use.

Location of the deck may also be dictated by local building and zoning ordinances. These ordinances will provide guidance regarding the size and placement of the deck, height of privacy screens and the distance needed from property lines. Subdivision or other community restrictions may also apply. Additionally, most villages and towns require a copy of the design plans in order to issue a building permit. A call to the utility company to check on the location of buried pipes and utility lines can prevent any loss of service, as well as save of time and aggravation later.

Some of the requirements listed in building codes for an above-ground deck include the distance between support posts – usually no more than 6 feet apart, and distance between railing spaces – usually no larger than 4 inches apart.

The height, design and spacing of the railings is crucial, because they are the most repeated and most prominent visual element on a deck. Railings may be adhered to posts that are placed in the ground or attached to the decking itself. Material choices are many and include wood, metal, heavy cording or rope, stone or other building material, as long as code requirements are met.

One of the complaints most often heard after a deck is built is that “we should have made it bigger.” To make sure to get it right, staking the layout into the yard can help. String can be tied between the stakes at the height of the railing to help with visualization. Grouping lawn furniture in various areas can simulate the ways the deck might be used.

On the other hand, a deck that dwarfs a home will likewise not be aesthetically pleasing. To get the most out of the available space, multiple levels can add extra space without over-taking the home.

Making a deck blend in with a home’s décor can be done by incorporating and repeating design elements from the home. Paint in a similar or complementary shade will also help.

Built-in benches, tables and planters add a feeling of stability and permanence to the deck and create the tie between deck and the landscape. Flowers, potted ornamental trees and other deck accessories can create a seamless transition between the deck itself and the nature surrounding it.

Source: John Watkins, Nashville Home Inspection | Blog distribution provided by Kenneth Bargers and Bargers Solutions, member of Pilkerton Realtors, residential real estate services located in Nashville, Tennessee

Author: Kenneth Bargers

REALTOR®, Tennis Player, Titans, Vols & Preds Fan, Nashvillian... let's connect on Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Twitter. -- contact Kenneth at

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