From canopies that simply just snap into place to gadgets that'll keep you cool in summer and warm in the fall, there are many accessories available to liven up a back deck.
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Tips for Building a Deck
Nothing expands outdoor space like a deck, but building one yourself can be expensive, time-consuming and a real pain, right? Not necessarily, as long as you have home-improvement skills that are just slightly above average. And you can save as much as half the cost by building your own deck.
Most home centers and lumber yards offer free design services that will help you figure out the structural issues. They'll also help you determine how much lumber and what kind and sizes you'll need. The most economical choice of wood is pressure-treated pine, but you may also consider redwood, cedar and composite materials.
Take some time to check out the different styles of balusters that are available, both wooden and metal. There are also several options with post caps, which add a decorative touch to the finished deck.
For fastening, try split-stop screws. They're self-drilling and finish very well. Screws are less likely to pull out over time than nails.
Tips for Building a Chaise Longue
To really enjoy the great outdoors from your deck, you'll want to stretch out on the perfect wooden lounge chair, but they can cost big bucks. But for about $100, you can build your own custom cedar chaise longue.
When you're designing your chaise longue, it's a good idea to keep it close to standard dimensions: 6 feet long and 2 feet wide. That will let you buy cushions for it at just about any store that sells patio furniture.
Building a large piece of furniture may seem intimidating, but think of it in its component parts. A chaise has a basic rectangular frame built with 2x4s. The legs are just 10" lengths of 2x4. The back support may look complicated, but you can make it by drilling a line of holes in a 2x4, then ripping the 2x4 with a table saw or handsaw.
The back of the chaise should be about one-third of its total length, or about 2 feet. Use a piano hinge to attach it to the seat. Then attach the movable support to the back of the chaise with carriage bolts, which will let the support adjust easily.
You can stain or paint the chaise longue, but most people prefer to let the wood weather naturally. It depends on the kind of wood, though. If you use pine, you should consider using a preservative or stain.
You can get more usable space from your home if you know what products to buy. Here are some suggestions for bringing the comforts of indoors to the back yard.
A canopy provides shade as well as a sense of defined space. You can find models that need no hardware for assembly; the pieces just slide into each other.
Wooden outdoor furniture has become very popular again. While teak is the wood that often comes to mind first, eucalyptus provides a slightly less-expensive alternative. Look for products made with wood from managed forests, which help protect the environment. While this kind of furniture is very weather-resistant, it's still a good idea to bring it indoors during the winter. That will add years to its life span. Some manufacturers now offer ready-to-assemble furniture, which helps keep the cost down. All you need to provide is some wood glue.
Cast-aluminum is another kind of furniture that is extremely popular. It's sturdy and affordable, and you can choose from many styles ranging from contemporary to traditional. Also take a look at furniture with aluminum frames but all-weather wicker seats and backs. It's very durable; you can leave it outside all winter.
Consider buying a battery-operated fan that mounts under your umbrella. It will provide a breeze even on a still day. Some even come with a radio.
Most people like to dress up their patios with potted plants, but you have to make sure you're getting a container that will stand up to the elements and can be moved without too much trouble. Look for lightweight metal containers from a company called Novelty Manufacturing; they have a finish like automotive paint, so they are very durable.
Plastic planters are another option. You can find some that are self-watering. They have reservoirs that will hold a couple of gallons of water, which helps keep the plants happy if you have to go away for a week or two.
If you want to customize your containers, use a spray paint such as Rust-Oleum American Accents. You can get very creative with them and end up with great-looking containers for very little money.
If you like the look of stone edging for raised garden beds, check out SmallRock Designs. The pieces in their kits all fit together to use as borders or small, natural-looking retaining walls.
Outdoor heaters can increase the number of hours you can use your outdoor space, but they used to be very expensive. However, BernzOmatic, a company that's been in the construction industry for years, makes an affordable propane unit that looks great and keeps everybody warm.
And with the deck looking so good, you'll want to have everybody over just to go "ooh" and "ah." For the perfect finishing touch, install solar or low-voltage ambient lighting right on your deck posts. DIY kits for deck lights can help get you started.
Outdoor kitchens are all the rage in high-end homes. While not everyone can afford a complete kitchen on their decks or patios, just about anyone who does much grilling can use an extra work surface. Find out about what may be the perfect outdoor serving cart.
The cart itself is made of redwood, which is naturally weather-resistant. The slide-out cutting board, though, is maple — a tight-grained, non-toxic wood.
Before assembling anything made of redwood, sand the wood first. And since this cart will be outside, use stainless-steel fasteners. Regular steel fasteners will cause stains. One good tip is to use a 1/2" spacer to place all of the slats to keep them evenly spaced. Put the spacer in before you nail your pieces down, and you'll get nice, regular spacing.
Put a good pair of wheels on the cart to make it easier to move. Use an exterior glue, such as Resorcinol, that will hold up against the weather. You may not want to put a finish or sealant on redwood. It will turn silvery over time and look great.