Six hundred and fifty miles separate Knoxville, Tennessee, and Palmyra, New Jersey, near Philadelphia. They are also different demographically and topographically. But two top decking and remodeling professionals in each of those locations engage in similar pursuits.

Jason Varney, owner of Dock & Deck, and Sean Collinsgru, owner of Premier Outdoor Living, offer design-build services for large-scale, fully programmed outdoor living projects to an upper-income clientele.

Over the last decade, as outdoor living boomed beyond all expectations, their companies have embraced the trend. Outdoor living programs are every bit as important to remodeling clients as any other part of their homes, particularly if they’re the kind of clients who enjoy entertaining friends and family.

A dock in Alcoa, Tennessee, by Dock & Deck utilizes Deckorators Voyage Decking in Costa, UFP-Edge in Lost Trail, and the ceiling is framed in ProWood Lumber.

When it comes to decks, today they are much bigger in size and the programming of them is much more complex. A typical deck today is often multilevel and will include many distinct types of living and entertaining spaces. For Varney, whose clients are frequently upgrading lakeside properties, the trend of larger decks has migrated to larger, multi-use boat docks, which aren’t just for accessing watercraft.

“Docks aren’t just a place to store your boat anymore; they’re gathering areas that need to be made to last,” Varney says.
And whether the space is a deck or a dock, it is now common that a portion is covered to keep occupants out of the sun or dry when the weather changes. The two deck builders were asked to offer their top design considerations for placement and design of those covered areas.

A Dock & Deck project in Tellico Village, Tennessee, utilizes Deckorators Voyage in Sedona with UFP-Edge. Notice the slightly lower, swim-up edge. Low maintenance composite decking has played a role in the growing size of dock projects.

Varney says he starts by noting the position of the sun in relation to the placement of furniture areas. “One of the main considerations to think about is how you shelter the covered deck from the elements,” he notes. “We look at how we’re going to protect and position the furniture areas from the sun, and what side of the deck is going to be affected the most from the elements. If the storms in the area continually hit the west-facing side of the structure, you’ll want to think about how to protect it.”

The next consideration is how a potential structure relates with the design of the main home and other buildings on the property.

This Premier Outdoor Living project in Mullica Hill, New Jersey, involves a complicated roofline and a fireplace structure. Materials: Deckorators Aluminum Contemporary Rail in Textured Black, Deckorators Voyage Decking in Costa and Tundra.

“On a covered structure we try to match the roof line to the home. There are a series of small but impactful aesthetic choices that can help to tie it all together for a unified look,” Varney explains. “We also always want to make sure the underside of the covered deck is finished to fend off birds and bugs. Using thermally modified products gives you the opportunity to quickly clean it each season; this will also fend off and protect against water absorption.”

Premier Outdoor Living’s Catherine Lippincott, Collinsgru’s colleague, emphasizes the importance of privacy and the clients’ desire for a four-season solution that can offer further protection from the elements.

A project in Sweetwater, New Jersey, includes spaces for big and small gatherings. There are multiple levels of entry between indoor and outdoor spaces.

“A covered deck adds a whole dimension of 365 [days a year] living with a layer of privacy that homeowners are looking for now more than ever,” Lippincott explains. “We like to approach our overall deck design as designing for individual rooms rather than one large space. A screened-in deck area gives them that opportunity to treat a room for flexibility in their outdoor living with more intimate spaces for more purposeful usage.”

Collaboration with a professional engineer as an allowance for adequate time for a detailed engineering review is required, Lippincott adds. “Because a screened-in and covered deck calls for collaboration with an engineer, we suggest taking the time to fully go through the rendering and work out the function well in advance.”

The Rise of Composite Decking

Wood remains the No. 1 deck board material used by deck builders and remodelers. This is partly due to habit and partly due to price. While the price-per-board-foot of lumber is presently lower than entry-level composites, composites have come down in price to the point where lumber is roughly at parity, for all intents and purposes.

So, while pressure-treated lumber—Redwood, Southern Yellow Pine, or even Douglas Fir—are still the No. 1 deck material, the market has shifted dramatically toward composites in recent years. These days, the low-maintenance, water-resistant benefits of composites are more widely understood as some early misperceptions about the material have faded. At the same time, the number of composite patterns and colors have grown. Not only are there authentic wood-grain colors and patterns, but there are also many colors not found in nature, which has given rise to new design friendly applications.

Materials: Deckorators Decking in Costa and Tundra with Deckorators Aluminum Contemporary Rail in Textured Black.

A second key trend has been the evolution of the once-lowly boat dock. Today, they also have expanded in size. They are designed with nearly the same level of outdoor living programming as decks. One reason is the water-resistant, long-lasting attributes of composites. Their durability has given rise to extended expectations for years of usage. QR

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