Decks add form, texture and interest to your landscape. The most common deck design attaches the deck to the house, although freestanding decks can be quite dramatic.
With the variety of materials available today, deck designs come in all forms and shapes from their inclusion in a small garden design to an unexpected urban landscaping project to a sprawling hillside sun garden.
Decks add natural beauty, warmth and desirability to your home. And not just for you and your family. A well-designed, properly built deck—one that is sturdy, long-lasting and beautiful—will add value to your property as well.
Choosing a Designer or Contractor
The long list of choices you will face concerning the design of your deck begins with choosing who will build it. In this region, you have a wide choice of Houston landscape professionals and landscape contractors to choose from. It is a critical decision for many reasons, not the least of which is the desire to avoid an under-built design—one that is inadequately attached to the structure or inadequately supported.
Here are some tips for finding someone suitable for your project, courtesy of Jeff Halper, landscape design specialist at Exterior Worlds:
• Spend time interviewing the designer. Discuss the types of projects they’ve done and how long they’ve been in business.
• Ask friends for referrals.
• Ask for references and then follow up on them.
• Halper advises you to keep in mind that “the more complex the project—the more sophisticated the design—the more important your designer and contractor become.”
Once selected and hired, your contractor or designer will start the interview process. It is during these discussions that you define and convey what you want out of your deck design. For instance, whether to cover the deck or not. Be creative in thinking through this aspect since other solutions, like planting trees, might work. (This type of issue is where professional designers really earn their keep since they’ll be mindful of the deck’s impact on the total landscape.) You also might want to consider deck railing and built-in seats.
Other add-ons include outdoor fireplaces or fire pits, outdoor kitchens, and outdoor water fountains. Houston’s infamous rainstorms need to be taken into account so you will want to tie the deck’s design into any existing drainage systems. Consider the need for gutters, French drains, or decorative drains. Decks also present a great opportunity to enhance your landscape lighting.
Your professional landscape designer or contractor will work with you to make sure the deck is in proportion to your home and other structures. The deck design will also take into consideration the house’s architecture, exits and entrances, what space is available on which to build, the grade of the yard, and any existing trees or gardens.
Deck Design: Material Choices
In landscape design terminology, the term “deck” refers to both a wooden deck and the decking, usually some kind of masonry or stone, around a luxury swimming pool. Materials used vary with personal preferences, design considerations and your desired budget. Main choices include wood, stone (cut stone, flagstone, limestone, bluestone, slate), brick, concrete (colored or textured or both), and pavers.
When choosing wood for a patio or terrace, pressure-treated pine is the mainstay option.
Another good choice is an engineered product like Trex. The original financial outlay is a bit more than with wood, but, if maintained properly, the longevity is 1 ½-2 times that of wood. Trex offers another benefit in these eco-conscious times: its decking, railing and fencing are made primarily from recycled plastic grocery bags, reclaimed pallet wrap and waste wood. Halper also points out that Trex is great for tree preservation. “You only have to make a few holes to hold up the decking. And you don’t cover the ground with it, something that suffocates trees,” he says.
For pool decking, surfaces like stone, brick and concrete are durable options. Beautiful, too. These products are also valued because they can be roughed up and made to be non-slippery, which is essential for the wet areas around a pool.
Deck Design: Maintenance
Houston’s weather is hard on everything, including your deck. Wooden decks can be cleaned with a special cleaner, which will remove the gray mildew. Whatever cleaning agent is used, be sure to rinse thoroughly.
Stone, brick and concrete are relatively maintenance free. However, you will want your landscape service company to perform regular checks for any cracking or splintering. Also, if your deck is deeply shaded, mildew can grow on these surfaces. A deck cleansing product or a mild bleach solution will take care of most problems. Make sure your landscape maintenance contract covers all these items.
Founded in 1987, Exterior Worlds has been specializing in high-end landscape design and services for the Memorial Villages, Tanglewood, River Oaks, West University, Bellaire, and the greater Houston area.