Contrary to popular opinion, a deck isn’t just a summer thing, nor is it only for people with a lot of friends in the neighborhood. A deck offers the perfect cozy setting, whether it’s spring or fall, or whether you enjoy alone time with a good book or a cookout with your closest friends.
Trouble is, some decks just aren’t that inspiring. A deck can look plain, boring and even ugly, especially if it hasn’t been maintained in years.
That said, you can transform it from utilitarian to inspiring with just a little investment and intention. Additions like pergolas, creative colors, under-deck patio ideas, and other little touches can make a big difference.
Those are just the tip of the iceberg, though. Here are other more specific ideas for your next deck—or even for the one you already have.
10 Creative Ideas for Decks
Decks aren’t cheap, so it’s a good idea to make the most of it in terms of the time and money spent. A deck can be spruced up in a variety of ways, such as the following.
1. So many hues.
Add creativity by staining the wood or choosing distinctive colors for composite boards. Most people think decks have to be one color, but thoughtful color combinations can create patterns in the flooring and be used as an inlay.
2. Elevated railings.
Railings aren’t just a safety measure; they can also add to the aesthetic of any outdoor living space. In addition, spindles don’t necessarily need to be the same color or material as the deck boards. Here are some different combinations of railings and materials that you can take inspiration from.
3. Look for shade.
Materials made of highly conductive materials, like metal, will be too hot to touch when the summer is in full swing. Shade options, such as pergolas, awnings, umbrellas, or a roof can lower the temperature by as much as 20 degrees.
4. A blooming good idea.
One of the newest trends to come out of this generation is greening up the deck with container plants. Place pots on top of risers, so water from the plants doesn’t stain or damage the deck boards. Additionally, the landscape around the deck can help merge the backyard’s visuals with the deck.
5. Under-deck patio.
Under-deck options expand the home’s actual living space. For example, the space under the deck can be maximized and converted into another area entirely—but make sure there’s a high-quality drainage system beneath the deck boards to prevent rain from seeping through. An over-joist drainage system of troughs and gutters can do the job just fine. Provided you did it correctly, you can place fans and lighting under the boards or use it for other functions, such as storage, a patio, a hot tub room, or an all-weather play space for the kids.
6. A focal point.
A water element or fire table can draw the eye and act as a focal point. It's usually a bad idea when placing a wood-burning fire pit on the deck, but elevating it and using propane (instead of wood) as fuel may offset some of the risk. Meanwhile, water features are far safer, but they can weaken the deck due to moisture if they’re not contained. Either way, these equipment are quite hefty, so reinforcing the deck is ideal.
7. Comfortable design.
Along with standard couches or chairs, homeowners can also consider a hammock, bed swing, or Papasan chair. Furnishings provide space to express personal style, with throw pillows or an outdoor rug in orange and teal, which seem especially popular now.
8. Brighter nights.
Place lighting on the posts and steps in and around the deck. String lights or fairy lights can also add whimsy to the setting. Consider permanent lighting for new decks.
9. Party on deck.
Set up for the Super Bowl (or the halftime show) with an outdoor TV and surround sound right on your deck. That said, buying an outdoor television requires looking at water resistance, durability, and screen brightness so you’d still see what’s happening even when the sun’s directly overhead.
10. Eating al fresco.
A deck that doubles as an outdoor kitchen, memorable dinners are just a few steps out the back door. With the right seating, the deck can become a regular hangout for friends and family.
Practical Matters and Decks
Decks add more than just aesthetics; there’s a real return on investment (ROI) to consider. The 2021 Cost vs. Value Report by Remodeling Magazine lists both wood and composite deck additions as top-10 home improvements for ROI when the house is resold down the road.
Deck material also affects the investment when considered across 25 years. Wood brings the most ROI, but composite (made from recycled plastic and wood grain) aren’t far behind. This point is moot when you consider that wood requires more maintenance than composite, and you need to scrape and stain it every two to five years, so the ROI is more or less the same.
Because most of the decks in the United States use wood in varying capacities, knowing how to protect this investment goes a long way. Even if the deck itself isn’t made of wood, the deck’s substructure (the joists and beams beneath the deck boards) often are to brace the structure. For example, you can apply butyl tape to the tops of the joists, beams, and ledger board to keep moisture out and hold the screws tighter.
All in all, attention to detail matters—both financially and in homeowner enjoyment. With these ideas, homeowners can enjoy more fresh air, more space, and excellent ROI.