Decking Designs – Elements of Good Deck Design

decking designs

Decking Designs – Understanding Seven Elements of Good Deck Design
By David Buster

You’re all comfortable in your favorite lounge chair, reading your latest novel with a cool beverage nearby…the aroma of your favorite BBQ drifting from the grill teases everyone…catching a few rays of sunshine never felt better. Warm weather calls us outdoors, and what better place to enjoy life than your deck!

As an extension of your home, appropriate decking designs will provide an attractive outdoor area that you can enjoy every time the weather allows. Whether just hanging out and lounging, entertaining or playing with your kids or pet, a well-designed deck can be a favorite part of your home. Understanding important deck design and planning considerations will help your deck become a successful project.

Here are some considerations for having the deck that’s right for your home:

1. Where should your deck be placed? A characteristic of all good decking designs is when the deck can merge into the environment of your backyard without being obtrusive and highly visible. If you’re fortunate and have a great view, take advantage of the view and locate the deck to enjoy it. If you don’t have a spectacular view, perhaps your deck could be located near a beautiful garden tree. Maybe you want your deck in a shady area or with a sunny southern exposure. Is privacy from neighbors an issue? Are you near a busy street and is noise a problem? If so and if your space is limited, consider the use of shrubbery, walls or fences to resolve the problem.

2. Will the deck be connected to your home? If you’re decking designs are considering placment near the living room, doing so could be a problem if foot traffic will soil your carpets and disrupt anyone that is watching TV or talking. Placing the deck next to the kitchen will make it easier to move food and dishes back and forth when eating outside on the deck. Use sliding glass doors to make the outdoors look even more inviting from the kitchen. Would having two doors connecting different rooms to the deck be a possibility? Having two doors accessing the deck will be the most efficient and best solution for easy foot traffic flow.

3. Do you want a destination deck? The deck doesn’t have to be built connected to your house; it can be a place to go all by itself. If your backyard extends to woods, maybe locating the deck near some beautiful trees makes sense. If your property fronts a pond or lake, what about locating your deck so that it reaches out into the water? If you have a flat roof, say, over a garage — what about a roof deck? The possibilities are endless!

4. How will your deck be used? If your property is small and you’re not expecting to entertain large groups, you likely don’t need a huge deck. Your deck should maintain a reasonable scale between your home and property size, size of your family and the deck size. You should not have a small house, small property and a very large deck. The elements should be proportional. You should not build a small deck if you have a large house on large property.

5. Are you considering dividing your deck into different areas? For example, you could have an area for lounging, sunning or reading and another area for dining, entertaining and cooking. Involve your family and make a list of the activities you would like to have. You may want to include a section for children’s games and playtime. Have a good idea of how traffic will flow on the deck and in your backyard. Understand how family, friends and pets will be walking from the front of the house to the backyard, from the garage to the kitchen, from the greenhouse or tool shed to the garden and so on. If you are going to have a deck area for relaxation, you don’t want all the traffic coming out of the house to merge into this area.

6. What type of decking designs will be best for your home? When designing your deck, consider using a variety of shapes. Keep it simple, but don’t be afraid to add an angle or two to the deck design. For example, add curves or diagonal lines to connect two rectangular or square spaces for the deck plan. Connect the different sections with paths, paving surfaces, stairways, arbors, gazebos or perhaps a water pond. Consider using planters or flower pots with attractive plants, overhead structures or trellises, benches and steps to create a transition between areas in the backyard. If you’re not a good gardener, you can still create a low maintenance landscape by using shrubs and other easy-to-care-for plants. Formal landscapes are more symmetrical and use geometric patterns and straight lines. Informal styles use more asymmetry and more curves — wooden decks are often associated with an informal setting.

7. Do you hire a deck designer, do you plan on using existing decking designs or do you design the deck yourself?
Consider one of the thousands of available decking designs if you can find one that will fit your needs. One of the best ways to simplify deck building is to use decking designs that have been successfully built before. If you need to make some modifications to suit your needs and home, doing so will likely be cheaper than creating deck plans from the beginning. Unless you live in a very rural area, you will need to check with your local building department to find out what requirements and restrictions exist in your area, especially if you are designing and building the deck yourself. If you’re not comfortable with the process, consider hiring a professional deck designer and a deck contractor.

Done correctly, building a deck will provide countless hours of enjoyment for you, your family and friends as well as increase the value of your home. After all, isn’t enjoying our time off why we work so hard? Visit []Building Wooden Decks and learn more about creating the perfect deck for you and your home.

Copyright 2005 InfoSearch Publishing

David Buster is Vice-President of InfoSearch Publishing and webmaster of yourdreamloghome – visit the website to learn more about home decorating and remodeling, backyard living, home plans, kitchen and bathroom design and d�cor tips, home storage, fireplaces, log cabin rentals and more. Receive the free online newsletter by going to Better Home Ideas Newsletter to subscribe.

Decking Designs

Designing a Perfect Garden

designing a perfect garden

Steps to Designing a Perfect Garden

By Linsey Evans

Designing a perfect garden is not just the ability to create a beautifully illustrated plan, although this is one of the many outputs of the garden design process and arguably the most exciting. A garden designer’s role is to find creative, practical solutions to the many technical challenges presented by an outdoor space. A good garden designer can make a garden that is useable and suitable for a specific set of requirements as well as being beautiful and a pleasure to spend time in.

It would not be possible to describe fully how to design a perfect garden in a single article. A great deal of training and experience is required to understand how to obtain the correct ratio of mass to void in a garden design scheme, or how to create rhythm in a garden design, or working with shapes to ensure the garden flows and feels comfortable to use. So, the following paragraphs outline major steps in the garden design process and I will go into more detail about each phase in separate articles.

1. Decide on the requirements for the garden

Before considering aesthetics it is necessary to understand the practical requirements for the garden such as how it will be used, by whom and who will look after it. Answering a series of questions is the best way to arrive at the requirements. These are the kind of questions that need to be answered to arrive at the requirements:-

• How much time is available to look after the garden?

• Will a professional maintenance company/garden be looking after the garden?

• Will the garden be used by pets or children?

• Does the garden need to cater for elderly or disabled visitors?

• Will the garden need to cater for users with mobility problems?

• Will the garden be used for eating and entertaining?

• How many people will want to use the garden at one time?

• Is the garden owned by a keen, knowledgeable gardener?

The aim is to arrive at a list of requirements which forms the basis of the design process.

2. Get inspired

Experienced garden designers know the value of regularly looking at all forms of art and architecture in order to keep their ‘visual vocabulary’ up to date and get inspiration for their designs. Inspiration can come from a shape in nature like an old, gnarled tree, an architectural detail on a building, a combination of shapes and colours in a painting, almost anywhere if you are looking with a creative eye.

Look at materials, interior and exterior. Textures and patterns in wall and floor tiles, stone cladding, marble mosaics, etc are a great source of inspiration and can result in a piece of detailing that lifts the garden design scheme out of the mundane. Visit landscaping supply yards, reclamation yards and interior design suppliers like the Design Centre in Chelsea Harbour in London.

Visit some gardens, look in gardening books and magazines, go to some garden shows like the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society) Chelsea Flower Show and Hampton Court Flower Show and look at the show gardens.

3. Take the site survey

Take a thorough site survey and analysis. Measure the house including the position and height of all doors and windows. The survey should show steps, drains, manhole covers, chimney breasts, and anything else that will affect the final garden design.

A garden is rarely square or flat. Use triangulation and offsetting to plot in the garden boundaries, and the location of all plants, garden features and buildings. Make a note of things outside the garden like overhanging trees or a fabulous view as they will affect the eventual design of the garden. Survey any level changes in the garden and mark these clearly on the survey.

Take a soil sample for analysis. It’s important when planting to know what the ph level (acidity or alkalinity) of the soil in order to choose the correct plants. Some plants prefer a soil that is more acidic and others will only grow in a more alkaline soil. It is also necessary to identify boggy places, shaded areas and other potentially troublesome parts of the garden.

A note must be made of what lies beyond the garden boundaries. If the garden overlooks a great view this can be used as part of the new design – this is called ‘borrowing’ the view. However, if there is something ugly outside the garden like a derelict building, or the garden is overlooked by neighbouring properties these will need to be screened out as part of the garden design.

The site survey must be drawn up to scale, in ink on a piece of tracing paper large enough to show clearly the new design and put in labels – most gardens will fit onto an A1 sheet.

4. Designing the perfect garden

Using the requirements and site survey the new design is created using a series of interconnected geometric shapes. The final design should create a pleasing picture on paper and each element that comprises the design should be the correct size for its intended purpose. For example, if the terrace needs to seat 6 people for dinner it must be large enough to hold a table of the correct size with room to pull out chairs so that people can sit down and stand up comfortably.

The design must addresses any sloping parts of the garden. If flat spaces are required for lawns, seating areas, etc and the site is sloping retaining walls will be required -these should be shown clearly on the plan.

The new design should be drawn to scale in ink on a piece of tracing paper. Everything must be labelled clearly including wall heights, paved areas, lawn, edgings, pergolas, planted areas, walls with their heights, water features.

5. Choose construction materials

Select materials for constructing each area and make sure these are labelled on the plan. There are many different construction materials available and these vary greatly in price and quality. Research DIY stores, garden centres, and landscape and building suppliers to find materials that suit the intended purpose, and fit the budget.

6. Create the planting plan

A planting plan is required that shows the location, type and numbers of plants clearly labelled with their Latin names for each planted area of the garden. Planting should comprise a mixture of evergreen and deciduous shrubs, herbaceous plants and bulbs that will give a year-round display of colour and scent. The plants give the garden structure and that important quality of seasonal change.

7. Create the construction plan

The construction plan helps remove margin for error and ensure the garden is constructed correctly to a high standard. The construction plan is a technical drawing that shows contractors how to construct specific features in the garden such as steps, pergolas, fences and retaining walls. It should contain details of required paving patterns and sections showing how paving is to be laid, how footings for walls are to be constructed, how edgings are to be laid.

8. Create the setting out plan

The setting out plan is another technical drawing that enables landscape contractors to construct the garden accurately. This plan shows the dimensions and location of all features in the garden. The central point of any circular features such as seating areas and lawns will be shown as a measurement from a fixed, measurable point such as the corner of the house. This plan will also show angular dimensions, wall heights relative to finished paving height, and the finished ground level of any terraced areas.

The setting out plan enables landscape contractors to quickly mark out the garden before they start building the garden. This allows them to check there are no errors in the design or survey and that the design will fit correctly into the space. It enables adjustments to the plan, if necessary, before construction work starts, thereby avoiding expensive mistakes further down the line.

Linsey Evans is a garden designer who specialises in designing sloping gardens and tricky spaces.

Visit the Linseysgardens Web site today and get in touch if you need help designing your garden.

Designing a Perfect Garden

Meditation Water Gardens

meditation water gardens
Villa d’Este at Tivoli

From history’s earliest time, man has endeavored to have a sanctuary-like setting to free his mind and body from stress, make a connection with “the gods” and to commune with nature in his own way. For centuries, man has created meditation water gardens to help with the task.

Zen gardens were some of the earliest meditation water gardens designs. They use earth’s basic elements – earth, rock, water and sky to create a setting that summons serenity at every turn. Plantings in the Zen garden make up an assorted ecosystem that’s surrounded by walls or some other means to set it off from the area surrounding it.

Zen gardens vary in their makeup according to the region of the garden. For example, a Zen garden in New York will look very different from one in California. The environment of the surroundings should incorporate the elements that are designed in the garden.

The main purpose for man-made meditation water gardens is to display a water feature along with plants and possibly fish so that it becomes a focal point of a garden or area that is used for meditation and relaxation.

Ancient Persian and Chinese gardens have existed for centuries and became popular in Europe during the sixteenth century. The early Greeks used elements such as steam-powered mechanical birds that sang and there are many European palaces that have incorporated many such unique devices.

One of the best known water gardens in Europe is Italy’s Villa d’Este at Tivoli. The 1550 A.D. garden features fountains and grottoes and water-powered figures that spout water.

With all of the products now available, it’s easy to design and implement a meditation water garden – whether you only a small patio or porch or a large area in your yard.

Landscape Architecture

landscape architecture,what is landscape architecture,landscaping architecture
Landscape Architecture
By David Widelock

What is Landscape Architecture

Landscape architects, along with engineers and architects, design the environment that is created outside of buildings. That is a broad definition for a broad profession. The FDR memorial in Washington D.C. was designed by a landscape architect, Lawrence Halprin (who also laid out the Sea Ranch development in Northern California, among his other notable accomplishments). Your front yard may well have been designed by a landscape architect working with the original developer of your neighborhood. Parks and trails, street-scapes, remediated brown fields, commercial, public and residential gardens and landscapes are all part of landscape architecture.

For most site designs, meaning a set of drawings a specific address, a typical set of drawings and services might include all or some of the following:

Preliminary plans:

Also called “Master Plans”, this is the conceptual phase, where the elements of the landscape architecture are planned. The shape and location of such features as walls, fences, decks, trellises, steps, paving and circulation, and major planting elements such as trees, lawns, shrub massing, and screening are fit together into a whole.

Design development:

In this phase materials to be used in developing the landscape architecture design are selected such as types of paving, stone, finishes, and accessories.

Construction Drawings:

This can include planting, irrigation, layout, grading, drainage, and construction details for decks, trellises, fences, paving, retaining walls, etc. These are drawings that a contractor uses to bring the planned landscape architecture off the page and into real life.


Working with city planning and building departments and design review boards to ensure that the plans meet the requirements and that required calculations are submitted, such as for the California WELO (Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance). Obtaining proper permits is an important part of any landscape architecture project and should not be overlooked.

Cost Estimating:

Providing accurate and complete estimates of the costs that will be incurred bringing the landscape architecture project to completion.

Bid Assistance:

Help with choosing contractors, and preparing bid letters and contracts. Almost any landscape architecture project will require the services of several different tradecraft professionals.

Construction Administration:

Site visits to observe construction and work with the general contractor to achieve a successful landscape installation; managing contractor payments, and creating and clearing a final punch list. Designing residential retaining walls (a good example of how a licensed professional can help you): in California, a licensed landscape architect can design retaining walls up to 3 feet high. Walls over that height must have calculations by a structural engineer.

So, instead of viewing a professional landscape architect as an unnecessary expense, making him (or her) an integral part of your team will go a long way towards ensuring that your project is done on time, on budget, and will last for years.

If you are located in northern California, David Widelock is a licensed landscape architect in Oakland, Ca. Visit his web site at DWL Design

Vegetable Gardening with Containers

vegetable garden, vegetable container garden, vegetable gardening, container gardeningVegetable gardening is a growing trend among many homeowners instead of creating a purely ornamental landscape. Not only does a vegetable garden look just as beautiful as any other garden but there is also the benefit of being able to eat what you grow.

Vegetable Gardening Will Require Space

Of course vegetable gardening needs space and in many urban environments that space can be hard to come by. But a lack of space doesn’t necessarily mean you will have to forgo your desire to have a producing vegetable garden on your property.

The answer is to create your garden in containers! Even if you only have a balcony to work with, there are many varieties of vegetables that can be successfully grown in containers. Tomatoes, Potatoes, Cucumbers, Green beans, Turnips, and Lettuce are all good choices. Plus, if you have enough container space, herbs like Parsley and Basil will also thrive in containers.

Selecting the Right Containers

If there is any trick at all to a container based vegetable gardening it is in selecting the right container for each of the vegetables you choose to grow. Some varieties will need deeper containers than others so you will need to do some homework before diving in. This site has some good information about container gardening.

How Much Sun Will Your Garden Receive

It is also necessary to first determine how much sun per day your space is going to get. For example, if you live in a condo or apartment with only a small balcony without much direct sun, your choices of vegetables will be much different than someone who has a little bit of space in a yard that gets six to eight hours of sun daily.

Select Quality Plants

A word about plant selection: Genetics do matter. When you are growing from seeds, don’t be looking for online deals. Healthier plants will come from better seeds so be prepared to spend a little bit more to get quality seeds. Far too often, the bargain seeds don’t perform nearly as well.

Lastly, understand the scope of your vegetable gardening project before you start. The real work starts after you have finished planting. Now the new plants will need to be watered and cared for, all of which takes time. Be sure your schedule has enough flexibility to allow the time your new vegetable garden will need.