Elements of a Custom Deck: An Example

Backyard deck
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  • 01 of 12

    A Typical Do-It-Yourself Deck

    Deck image.
    Deck Photo: The Before Shot Deck image. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    The basic DIY deck is often barely more than a platform added to the side of a house. But a custom deck—or a DIY deck dressed by the skill of a patient and dedicated homeowner—can have a number of designer features, as you'll see in the following examples.

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  • 02 of 12

    A Designer Deck (Lawrence Winterburn)

    Picture of a deck.
    Building a Deck: DIY, Professional Work Picture of a deck. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    The same setting can be the site of a true designer deck in the hands of a skilled professional or even a DIYer with good skills and a lot of patience. In this setting, the final deck is a piece of design genius with features that are both classic and modern. From Lawrence Winterburn, a career carpenter, writer, and designer, this deck in blends perfectly with the New England styling of the house, yet features modern see-through railings and some interesting curved lines that give the deck and home a contemporary aesthetic.

    "The most challenging jobs are the ones that someone else started," writes Lawrence Winterburn. "These are also where you earn the admiration of the client. Often they have been looking at a semi-finished project for years and when you pull it all together and make it happen they are exuberant."

    A closer look at the deck details will help explain why this homeowner was so thrilled with the result. 

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  • 03 of 12

    Classic Decking

    Image of a deck.
    Photo of the Decking Image of a deck. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    Winterburn added high-quality oiled wood decking with a finished edging, combined with painted white railings for contrast. While a variety of synthetic decking materials are often used in DIY decks, for a classic look, nothing beats natural wood, treated with a natural finish. 

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  • 04 of 12

    Railings that Are Both Classic and Modern

    Deck photo.
    Stylish Deck Railing Deck photo. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    Stylish deck railings can be the finishing touch for a custom deck project. In our first example, Winterburn created clear see-through railing panels to allow a view down to the adjacent patio and yard, but built in privacy screening on the side railings, using innovative curved lines. 

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  • 05 of 12

    Another Winterburn Construction Site....

    This yard needs a deck!
    The "Before" Shot on a Deck Design Project This yard needs a deck!. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    In this second "before" location, Lawrence Winterburn faced a stark backyard that had not yet received even rudimentary landscaping. A blank canvas like this one can be an ideal place to create a deck—and a large one. 

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  • 06 of 12

    ....Another Winterburn Creation

    Photo of a deck.
    "After" Shot of a Deck Project Photo of a deck. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    A well-designed and well-constructed deck extends the visual lines of the house while also providing comfortable outdoor living space. In this example, notice how Winterburn echoed the colors and patterns of the brick house to make the deck a natural extension of the home. Classic vertical railing balusters echo the stately upright lines of the tall home, and the pergola echoes the French manse feeling of the home's architecture.

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  • 07 of 12

    Adding Landscaping Completes the Project

    Photo of yard with deck.
    Decks for Tall Houses Photo of yard with deck. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    In the large property that is the setting our second deck, notice how the addition of a ground-level patio and detailed landscape plantings completes the transition from home-to-deck-to yard. 

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  • 08 of 12

    View from the Completed Deck

    Picture of deck furniture.
    Picture of Decking on a Curved Deck Picture of deck furniture. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    Well designed decks will always be constructed with an eye to what the users want to see—or don't want to see—when using the space. Here, the curved lines and see-through railing panels allow the homeowners to enjoy the wooded backdrop of the property. 

    "The brick columns supporting pergola beams along with the curve worked well to make the deck one with the house-part of the home," says Lawrence. "An extension rather than protuberance."

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  • 09 of 12

    An Ordinary Platform Deck....

    This yard needs a pergola!
    The "Before" Picture on a Pergola Design Project This yard needs a pergola. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    Sometimes an older, established deck will simply need to be removed to make way for something new and exciting. Platform decks were all the rage at one time in the 1970s and 1980s, but when Lawrence Winterburn faced this location, it soon became apparent that the outdated design would have to go....

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  • 10 of 12

    ....Calls for Complete Replacement

    Pergola picture.
    Pergola Picture Showing How to Create a Courtyard Pergola picture. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    ...in favor of a large paved patio surface and the construction of an elegant pergola that gives the landscape the feeling of a Mediterranean courtyard. By offering several walk-out access points from the house and sunporch, this patio/pergola combination makes the landscape a part of the home's living space. 

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  • 11 of 12

    When a Deck Calls for a Privacy Screen

    Picture of a stylish deck.
    Privacy Screens for Decks Picture of a stylish deck. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    Good deck design will take advantage of desirable views, but will use creative solutions to block other views, such when neighboring homes or decks are quite close by. Simple lattice panels are the standard solution in DIY decks, but there is no reason you can't be more creative about it, as this clever and attractive curved side railing treatment shows. You may recognize this as a detail in the first Winterburn deck we saw. 

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  • 12 of 12

    Another Screening Option

    Picture of deck with pergola.
    Gaining Privacy on Your Deck Picture of deck with pergola. Copyright 2008 www.gardenstructure.com - All Rights Reserved

    Tall, stately lattice panels can also be used to create a more private screen, as we see on the far edges of this deck. Notice how glass panels open up the view to the front side, while screens simultaneously create good privacy to the other sides of the deck.