Have you finally found the perfect set of outdoor furniture, only to find that it dwarfs your deck? Are you tired of tripping over lawn chairs each time you squeeze past the barbeque? Would you like to be able to entertain a bigger crowd in you backyard than just you and the dog?

Many people who are saddled with an undersized deck or patio hesitate to do anything about it, fearing that they can’t add on because they can’t match what’s there, and they don’t want to undertake the expense and hassle of tearing everything out and starting all over again. However, there are lots of ways you can enlarge and enhance your outdoor living space with a complimentary addition, even if it doesn’t match the original.

One way of expanding a deck is to change height levels, which simplifies the transition and makes for a very interesting layout. You can make the deck feel like a very cohesive design by then using those different levels for different purposes, such as cooking in one section, dining in another, and perhaps lounging or even a spa on still another level.

Changing height levels doesn’t need to be radical — in fact, small step-up or step-down transitions often look the best, and allow for easier traffic flow. For example, if you have a deck off the back of the house and your yard slopes up or down, you might consider a deck extension that is one or two steps higher or lower than the existing deck, in keeping with the yard’s natural terrain. Even in a yard with no slope, a single step up to the next deck level will allow a transition with great visual results.

Another effective alternative is to extend the deck or patio using a different material than what’s existing, which can also add a lot of visual interest. Perhaps you have the typical concrete patio that is laid flat on the ground, a step or two below the door leading to the house. Rather than try to match that concrete with another slab, you could extend the deck in one or more directions by adding concrete pavers in a contrasting color to the concrete.

To really create some interest and solve a lot of decking extension dilemmas, you can combine a material change with a level change. With the flat concrete patio, for example, you could do a very attractive extension by stepping up from the concrete to a wood or composite deck, which again would serve a different use from the patio itself. Set up your barbecue or other cooking applications on the patio, where it’s closest to the house, and then set up an outdoor dining set on the raised wooded deck.

The transition between the two materials and the two levels can be further disguised or enhanced by using still a third material to make the level change. For example, the transition between a concrete patio and wood deck might be made with a step that is constructed from poured concrete with a ceramic tile covering, or a wood step that has a ceramic tile face.

You can make an even bolder transition — and gain some additional usable space — by making the elevation change higher than just a couple of steps. Depending on your yard and the size of the intended addition, you could make the new deck section 2 feet or 3 feet higher than what’s existing. Install a railing along the edge of most of the new deck, with one or two openings that have steps down to the original level. This simplifies the installation of the addition by reducing the length of the steps that you have to build, and you can put additional furniture or storage boxes up against the vertical railing areas, especially on the lower level.

Level and material transitions don’t need to extend straight off of the original deck or patio either. You can often create a beautiful, very workable space by extending off to one side at an angle, or perhaps off one corner.

Also, don’t be limited by the shape of the existing deck or patio. Prior to constructing the new deck, you can cut off a corner of the old one, or consider cutting a side or an edge into a curved or sculpted contour. You don’t even need to actually cut the old deck or patio — if you are extending out with a new deck that steps up, you can construct the new deck partially over the top of the old one, creating a new angle or curve at the transition point.

The main thing is, don’t be afraid to let your imagination out. Make a scale drawing of what you have existing, and then play around with some additions on paper. You might be surprised at how easily you can transform that bland, “postage stamp” patio into a real crowd-pleaser!

Remodeling and repair questions? E-mail Paul at paul2887@ykwc.net.

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