3 Basic Deck Design Elements

Decks are no longer simple rectangles located at the rear of a home. Homeowners are utilizing three basic deck design elements in creating outdoor living spaces that will meet the needs and tastes of their occupants.

Wooden_DecksThe ideal deck should not blend completely in with the house but at the same time, it should not be shockingly different. Three elements to consider when designing a deck to match a house and yard are mass, shape, and color.

A deck’s visual mass is not just a function of its actual size. Constructing a deck low to the ground or utilizing railings that are low or not too heavy looking will enable the deck to recede and appear smaller. Allowing large beams to be visible, using thicker or more ornate railings as well as using wide facing boards will work to make the deck appear more massive.

In order to make the house to which the deck is attached seem less massive, plant trees or tall shrubs beside it. To increase the area of the deck without causing it to look too large for the home, plan it in such a way as to hug the house rather than just project out into the yard. The wraparound deck is an excellent choice for wrapping the deck around one or more corners making the deck seem to be an integral part of the house rather than a solitary structure.

The shape that is chosen for the deck should be in harmony with the lines of the home. The deck alignment should be more horizontal than vertical.

Consider the overall shape of the house. An L-shaped deck can mirror that of the home. A plain looking home can be enhanced with a boldly shaped deck while a house with a confusing shape can benefit from a more simple deck shape.

Perhaps it’s time to consider a deck that is uniquely different such as one that incorporates a tree, is an island deck or even a peninsula deck.

desks

In terms of color, the traditional approach is to stain a deck to a redwood or cedar color or allow the deck to weather to its natural grey. However, it might be more meaningful to consider applying a semitransparent or solid opaque stain to the deck. The advantage is twofold. The pigments in the stain will help to protect the wood from the sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays. But more importantly, it is possible to obtain the desired color and look that will go best with the house.

In the end, the application of these three basic deck design elements will go a long way to assisting homeowners with the creation of deck designs that will fulfill their desires and tastes.

Stud finder when hanging heavy objects, a stud finder can help you mark the right spot

If you don’t want a quick picture-hanging job to turn into a lengthy plaster repair, it’s important to anchor your fastener to a framing stud.

This is especially true for heavy objects, but even lighter loads can damage delicate plaster. A stud finder can help identify the location of the wood framing hidden underneath vast expanses of walls or ceilings.

What to Look For

Most modern stud finders use electrostatic fields, which measure the absorption of tiny electric charges in a scanned surface, providing a density reading that can distinguish between a cavity and a framing member. When passed across a surface, an LED display and/or sound signals the change in density that indicates a stud.

Stud finder when hanging heavy objects, a stud finder can help you mark the right spot

Most stud finders penetrate up to 3/4″ into the wall, but some allow “deep scanning” of up to 3″ or more. If you have particularly thick wall surfaces (i.e., ones with multiple coats of plaster) or plan to use the tool for ceilings and floors, select a unit that can scan to at least a 1 1/2″ depth. Additional built-in features may include live-wire detectors, bubble levels, laser lights to mark lines, and adhesives to attach the tool to the wall for hands-free usage. Larger models may offer additional features, but keep in mind that they’re heavier and will be more fatiguing to hold over sustained periods of time.

How to Use It

While using a stud finder is pretty straightforward, there are some techniques to ensure greater accuracy. You may need to calibrate it against the surface you’re working on before using it–check the manufacturer’s instructions for how to do this. Many stud finders only detect increases in density, not decreases, so try to calibrate it in a vacant cavity (several inches away from a door or window frame), or test the calibration in a few locations before you start.

Thick plaster and wallpaper coverings, wire lath patches, moisture, foil-backed insulation, and metallic wallpapers can disrupt readings. Go over your work area multiple times to better ensure accuracy. Stud finders are capable of finding other masses, such as plumbing or heating ducts, which you obviously want to stay away from. (Pay attention to the familiar sound and feeling of nailing into a wooden stud so you’ll notice the difference should you accidentally hit another object.)

It’s always a good idea to install your fastener as closely to the center of the stud as possible. Hitting the center of a stud will give you a solid grab, and you’ll avoid potentially hitting electrical wiring that could be secured beneath. Find the center by patiently moving the finder over the area, paying attention to its alerts–you’ll be able to tell where it begins to hit density and then dissipates.

The Bottom Line

Although you don’t need every bell and whistle, buying the best stud finder will give you better luck. Framing and wall surfaces can be tricky in old houses, but a stud finder can offer you some assurance as you hunt for a solid spot.

Contributing Editor Noelle Lord Castle is a preservation consultant, writer, and educator who shares her passion for older buildings at oldhousecpr.com.