Deck Tips

Deck Temperatures Heating Up?

Here's a question that we get often as temperatures climb to ridiculous levels in the summer: Is there a certain deck board that stays cooler or gets hotter than others? And for that question, we have an answer!

In simplest terms, you'll find that lighter colors will not get quite as hot as darker colors as with everything else. Also, the pure plastic boards don't get quite as hot as their wood and composite counterparts. But the location of the deck makes a huge difference in how hot the products get - southern facing decks will be much hotter than a northern facing deck because of the amount of sun exposure. A vinyl-sided home with many windows will reflect a much greater amount of energy down on a deck's surface making it much hotter than other settings.

The bottom line seems to be that when it is hot outside and the deck is in direct sunlight, everything gets too hot to the touch. Some folks have even tested this at our showroom by doing barefoot tests outside. And don't be shy, we won't mind if you'd like to do that, too! Come on by and say hello!

Deck Lighting: Added Safety or Jewelry

Many decks we build now include low-voltage lighting, and the possibilities are greater than they've ever been. Five years ago, basic post top lights and small step lights were the norm and only installed on a handful of decks, but with the outdoor spaces becoming a more critical element in day-to-day living, people want their decks to be nicer and to be seen - even at night.

The question of why to add lighting is answered with two main reasons: adding an element of safety and adding aesthetic appeal. Safety naturally comes as the exterior space is lighted and more visible for the entire neighborhood, but even when on the deck, highlighting level changes and stairs can help visitors to safer footing when out on the deck beyond sunset. The fun part of lighting, however, is the appearance of the fixtures and the ambiance that dusk to dawn lighting adds to a beautiful space. We often compare it to jewelry to compliment the rest of the ensemble. To some, the outdoor space isn't complete without the jewelry.

The lighting options are narrowed to four main types for most spaces: post top lights, post accent lights, stair riser lights, and recessed lighting that sits in the floor. Post top and stair riser lights were once the most popular, but we've seen a great increase in the newer, sleeker styles in the accent and recessed lights. We have a wide array of choices displayed in our showroom, and this is really the best way to get a feel for what might be the best fit for your deck. Visit us to take a look or get recommendations on ways to add this element to your existing deck or the new one you are planning!

Time to Clean the Deck

We're often asked about the required maintenance for a deck - what do I do? how often? what to use? - and we'll try to provide some basic guidelines here.

Synthetic products like composite or vinyl decking, aluminum railing, vinyl siding, even paver patios are fairly simple to tend to. You should regularly sweep and hose off the areas to keep them free of dirt and pollen. If you have an area that is very dirty, you may need to use a mild dish soap and agitate the area, or even possibly use a deck like cleaner like Corte-Clean that is bleach-free. We advise extreme caution when using a pressure washer, as it is very possible that you could damage the products if you are too aggressive. A great comparison is to think about how you keep your car clean - vacuuming and washing - and just apply that to your outdoor space.

Wood decks will take a little more effort because not only do you have to clean, but also stain, most woods. The lone exception can be hardwood, which some folks allow to weather to a silvery patina. Most prefer the rich, darker color that the wood naturally has before it is exposed to the sun's UV rays. Again, we recommend use a cleaner and brightener, as opposed to pressure washing, when it comes to prepping the deck for staining. These are simple products to mix and apply, contain no bleach, and often do a better job with less effort. Penofin makes a Pro-Tech line of products - stripper, cleaner, and brightener - that can be used to prep a wood deck. Penofin also makes a diverse line of penetrating oil products that can be applied to the deck for the staining component. The penetration protects the wood from the inside out and provides a simple process for re-application in the future. There are other stains that you might prefer in a similar fashion, but we also caution against painting anything exterior, especially a deck. For any questions or further assistance, feel free to contact us. We don't clean and stain decks, but are happy to share the knowledge we've obtained and sell the Penofin line of products for you to use on your own deck.

Enhance Your Deck

Container gardening allows you the opportunity to add color and texture to your deck. The easiest way to start is to combine these three categories of plants: thriller, filler and spiller. You may want to have an upright, bold architectural plant. That's your thriller. The filler is the plant with medium height in the pot, or the next step down from the thriller. The spiller sags out of the edge of a container and tumbles toward the ground.

When thinking of plants to use as your thrillers, fillers and spillers, think about their color combinations, texture and fragrance. Every plant conveys color, shape, dazzle, and texture. Do some colors in a plant bring out subtle complementary colors in another? How do the various leaf sizes, textures and shapes carry through the container plantings? Is there an hidden theme that connects all the plants together?

Choose a Thriller

The thriller is a plant that provides architectural structure in the pot. Good options for thrillers are bananas, elephant ears, cannas and ornamental grasses.

Choose a Filler

Fillers are plants that are in the middle and connect the thrillers to the spillers. Consider using plants of moderate size, such as coleus, pentas and lantana. Fillers are mounding, billowy plants planted around the thriller. They cover up the base of the thriller and fill up the pot with neat shapes.

Choose a Spiller

Spillers are the final pieces to consider when designing your pots. They cascade to the ground, soften the edges of the pot and secure it in to place. They provide a colorful skirt around the combination of thrillers and fillers. Verbena and sweet potato vine are good examples of trailing plants.

Select a Container

Before selecting a container, think about where you want to put it. Will it soften the corner of the deck? Do you want to place it within a grouping of containers? These are important options to consider when choosing a pot and will help to determine if you need small eight-inch pots or big four-foot containers. You should also consider color combinations, formal vs. informal, style, access to a water source, general care and maintenance. For a large container, consider putting it on rolling plant caddy.