Sunday, April 19, 2009

Porches, Patios, and Decks: Mistakes to Avoid

Misti, my talented blogging friend invited me to do a guest post on her blog StudioMDesign last Friday. In case you missed it and want to read it, click here. I like to follow up my residential design posts with a related Mistakes to Avoid post so here is the Porches, Patios, and Decks Mistakes to Avoid. I realize the Mistakes to Avoid post related to bath tubs is still due and I will post it soon.

Porches, Patios, and Decks: Mistake to Avoid

1. Building a porch, patio, or deck without defining its purpose and use only to realize after you begin using it that you wish you had this, that, or the other.

Identify why you are building a porch, patio, or deck and for what purposes will it be used.

2. After building a porch that is detached from your home, you learn that the Homeowner Association does not allow detached structures.

Know your HOA covenants and bylaws before building anything!

3. Not having enough seats either in the lounging area or at a dining table to accommodate your usual gathering of people.

Identify the minimum number of people you will have at a routine gathering of family, neighbors, supper club, etc. Make sure you design allows for at least this number of people to have seating.

4. Wanting to add a swing,hammock, or bed hung from the ceiling only to learn there is no structure that will support any of these.

5. Not doing a furniture plan to ensure the furniture you plan to use will fit appropriately.

6. No forethought for a grill or grill area.

Once your porch, patio, or deck has been built you decide to add a grill however there is no area in the design for a grill to fit. Or you want to build in a grill and again the design you built does not allow for adding a grill. Additionally, you did not plan for a natural gas line if you wanted a gas grill. You did not plan for electric power for any outside kitchen appliances.

Be aware of the smoke created by a grill and make sure it will not be a nuisance to guests.

7. Inadequate light around a grill area.

You are doing your best to grill hamburgers or steak but due to the poor lighting you cannot tell if they are cooked. Nothing worse than hearing your beef moo once it has been served.

8. The fireplace you built with a chimney is against the HOA bylaws and covenants.

9. After you built your fireplace, you then wish you had a heath to sit on and an area to store firewood that will keep it out of the elements. You also did not plan for a natural gas line to use as a starter.


10. Your fire pit does not have a ledge around it for seating nor does it have a gas starter line.

11. Your flat screen TV has been mounted but when you go to watch it you find the afternoon sun shines right on it or creates a glare preventing you from seeing the TV screen.

12. Your lifestyle requires parties with a tent erected however due to the design of the patio there is no place to secure the tent so you are forced to rent a much larger and expensive tent than you need.

Work with your builder and tent rental company so that you can make provisions in the design of the patio or deck that will make installing a tent easier and more secure.

13. You had a vision of exteior awnings around your porch but the design of the porch does not lend itself to having awnings.

Let your design team know awnings are important to you early in the design process.

14. You have a mulit-level patio or deck but find guests have a hard time maneurving the steps.

Unless you are built on a side of a hill or mountain which will require a multi-level deck, multi-level decks are just an accident waiting to happen. Usually on a porch, patio, or deck the light is dim and libations are being served thus a recipe for a fall.

15. You did not plan for an outside powder room and realize your guests have quite a distance to go to reach your home to use the powder room.

16. You are having a party on your porch, patio, or deck and you realize you will need trash cans. You wish they had been built in instead of free standing plastic cans. You also wish you had an area built in for recycle items.

17. After using your patio or deck you would prefer some sort of covering whether it is panels of fabric, wood, or vines.


IMG_0018IMG_0016 Think about the times of day you will use your patio or deck and decide if a covering or partial covering is necessary.

18. The area you live is gets humid but you did not think about having a ceiling fan installed.

19. You forgot to specify natural gas for your outdoor lanterns, sconces, chandeliers, or lamp posts or you forgot to specify electrical power for all as well.

20. Your location for the porch, patio, and deck light switch is not convenient.

You need at least a three-way switch so you can turn the lights on from inside your home as well as outside. It is a good idea to install a light switch outside on your porch that you can flip on when entering a dark house.

21. You want to plug in an oscillating fan with a misting system but there is not a conveniently located outlet. The same with a margarita machine, ceiling hung heater, waterpoof lamp, cordless phone base, and even your computer.

Note in photo below upper left corner is an electric heater which needs an outlet.


Pay close attention to what you might want to plug in and the exact location of those outlets. Identify any outlet that needs to be on a light switch.

22. You have planted beautiful flowers in pots all around your porch, patio, or deck only to realize when you go on vacation you have to pay to have someone come water them.

Decide ahead of time if you will want a drip system for your flower pots or planters. Will it require electricity to operate?

23. You are enjoying your porch, patio, or deck and would like to hear some music only to realize you did not plan for music.

24. It’s Christmas and the location of your porch, patio, or deck would be a perfect location for some Christmas decorations. However, you don’t have any outlets to plug in the lights.

Plan ahead for Christmas decorations and specify outlets to accommodate.

25. After a few gathering on your porch you realize the mosquitoes and flies are having more fun than you are. So you want to add a retractable motorized screen but you need electrical power to operate the motor which is not available.

The retractable motorized screens such as those by Phantom are great. When bugs are not an issue, they retract and you don’t even know they are there. Plan ahead for pests.

26. You want to hose off your porch, patio, or deck or want to water the plants and there is no faucet nearby.

Every porch, patio, deck, and balcony should have a faucet and depending on the size, some should have more than one faucet.

If using a fan with misting system you will need to attach to a faucet.

27. Water puddles on your porch, patio, or deck after a rain or after being hosed off.

Be diligent during the building process about a proper slope. You might even use your own level and check and recheck. Adding a drain may help however, make sure the cap on top of the drain pipe is lower than the floor.

28. You add some outdoor appliances and a sink but do not have a water line for those that require one.

29. You have cushions and pillows for your furniture on your porch, patio, or deck and have to haul them into the house to keep them clean and dry.

Consider a using a bench that can double for storage for your cushions and pillows. On your porch you might add a closet for cushions and pillows as well as other items used when entertaining.

30. When your dog or children are on the porch, they keep trying to escape causing you to have to get up and down often.

Have a gate made to match your railing so you can close off the exits to keep your dogs and children contained.

Consider using a dutch door between your home and the porch.

There is still time to be eligible for the book giveaway. The winner will be decided and announced at noon on Monday, April 20, 2009. To participate, scroll down to the post titled “Guest post and Giveaway! and click on comments at the end of the post.


Misti of Studio M Designs said...

Geez Susan--YOU ARE GOOD. So many things to consider! I will be so ready when we decide to enlarge our deck. We will then have a covered patio, and the longer deck space to consider options on. Thanks so much!


kathleen said...

Great insight. I went right to Amazon and bought your book.

J.Covington*Design said...

This is a great list Susan. Thanks for taking the time to post it. Preperation and taking the time to think about how something will be used is often played down of forgotten.

Lindsey Batavia said...

Suzy just told me about your blog last night so I checked it out today. Neil and I are about to build a terrace so this was perfect timing. Thanks for all of the great tips!
Hope to see you soon.
Lindsey Batavia

Susan Lang @ Designing Your Dream Home said...

Lindsay, Thanks for commenting! I will be in Greenville for Suzy's leg surgery in May. I can't wait to see my grandbabies! Feel free to call me or email me if you have questions. I hope you and Neil will stop by when I am there. ...susan

Mary at Front Porch Ideas said...

You really put together an awesome list for people building or renovating their outdoor spaces. Thinking through those things in advance is priceless. Wonderful article. Thank you.

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