Decks extend our living space both practically and aesthetically, making it one of the top home improvements you can make for the money, especially if you build it to last by sealing it and using deck joist tape. Often listed among the best additions for the return on investment, a deck may seem like warm-weather fun, but can also be enjoyed through the winter.
Yes! Why miss out on three months of fresh air and sunshine? You just need to make a few adjustments. Consider these six ways to make the most of your deck this winter.
- Warm it up. Adding a heat source to your deck can make it a cozy spot through the winter months. While you must exercise caution, you can use a gas fire pit on decking, just not directly on top of the boards, because a fire pit can reach temperatures of 800°F. You need to create a thermal barrier, which will protect your composite or wood decking boards beneath the fire pit. There are several products on the market that provide this barrier; Decks.com recommends DeckProtect, which uses flameproof basalt rock-fiber insulation to block the transfer of heat. Do not use a wood-burning firepit, as embers can escape and land on your deck boards, causing damage or even a fire.
If you are building a new deck, you might want to add a fireplace. Outdoor fireplaces come in many shapes and sizes: pizza ovens, Italian-inspired stone, brick, or a minimalist design. Be sure to check any local codes or restrictions on adding a heat source to your deck.
- Enclose it. If you are building a two-story deck, you can enclose it to create an outdoor room protected from the elements. By adding an under-deck drainage system, you can pull away dangerous moisture and create a dry, useable space just behind your house. You might add screening to protect against bugs and birds or leave it open for a more natural feeling. Once you’ve done this, it’s easier to add lights, a heat source, fans, an entertainment center or outdoor kitchen. The possibilities are as endless as your imagination.
If you cannot enclose under your deck, add cover over it. Depending on your home’s architecture, you might extend your roof, install an awning or other deck covering. With cover overhead you’ll have more options for using your outdoor space.
- Add a hot tub. Nothing feels more relaxing or more romantic than a soak in a steamy hot tub underneath a clear winter sky. As with most additions, it’s easiest to plan during construction. If you’re adding a deck, talk then to your builder about the electrical, plumbing and structural needs for your beams and joists to support the weight of a hot tub.
- Invite the birds. If you enjoy wildlife, create a bird sanctuary around your deck. The World Wildlife Federation advises three steps: First, add some feeders on or around your deck. There are a number of feeders specifically designed for balconies and deck railings. Second, be sure to offer a water source. A deck-mounted bird bath can be used even on small decks. Third, add some greenery. While your choices may be limited in colder months, you might plant some evergreens around the deck or in containers. Coniferous trees around your deck also provide a nice barrier to strong winds. Find a quiet spot where you can sit and watch your little woodland friends enjoy the treats you’ve left for them.
- Keep it safe. If you’re in a snow or ice-prone area, be sure to clear off your deck early and often. When you allow snow to sit on your deck, it can melt in the day and freeze at night, making it very difficult to remove.
How do you safely remove snow and ice from your deck boards? Use a broom or plastic shovel to remove the snow. Avoid a metal shovel that can cause damage to deck fibers. Also, look for de-icing salts safe for your deck boards, patios and “safe for children and pets.” Don’t use sand on composite decking, as it can scratch the surface of the boards.
While you’re thinking of safety, be sure to add lighting to your deck. Think about how to brighten areas all around your deck, including on walls, stairs and railings. You might add permanent recessed lighting or more temporary party or string lights.
- Make it comfortable. Add beautiful seating that can withstand the elements year round. If you want to make it extra cozy, buy heated cushions. You can get luxury plug-in furnishings or more budget-friendly battery-powered options. Keep a deck box nearby where you might store pillows and blankets.
As the snow begins to fall, you don’t have to abandon your outdoor oasis. Especially during these socially distanced days, you’ll be able to meet with friends and family in unique and creative ways.