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Before you start digging, hanging and fastening, really think about that ho-hum 12-foot by 12-foot treated wood deck you’re thinking of raising. You’re living in some of the most scenic country that exists. People come from all over the world to visit Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge area and our summers are truly unparalleled – make sure your outdoor space can take full advantage of it all.

Did you know that the average 48-inch round patio table actually takes up a minimum 10½ feet with a little seating? That doesn’t leave much room for a barbecue, planters, more relaxed seating or social circulation space. It also doesn’t consider the fact that you have lots of other deck building materials to choose from as well as deck railings, lighting options and built-in features that could actually make your deck your favorite place to be—an outdoor living space that’s simply perfect for just being you.

Are you smitten with the warm glow of natural cedar? Have you been anxious to explore the merits of the new high-tech maintenance-free decking materials like Trex and TimberTech’s engineered wood composite or AZEK’s 100-percent PVC line? Even if you just want to renovate the deck that you have, the pros here at Tum-A-Lum Lumber are here to show you exactly how to take your deck to a whole new level of ahh.

1. Abandon the boxy square. Take your deck multilevel, or throw it a curve.

multi-level deckDecks and the accesses to them typically align with a home’s common living areas—kitchens, living rooms, great rooms or dining rooms, for example. Especially for homes built into a hillside or with multilevel living, a rigid, rectangular platform deck raised high into the air can appear awkward and isolated. To reach the ground, staircases might be dangerously steep and long.

Stretching a deck area across two or three levels can soften that look, making the layout a more natural extension of a home’s style and design. Levels can also lend a sense of multiple outdoor rooms—one for dining and one for relaxing, cocktails or games. Adding a level is a perfect solution if you’d like more privacy for a feature like a hot tub or plunge pool. It can also give you more space for the associated mechanical and electrical systems needed for a special deck feature.

You don’t even need multiple stories to incorporate different levels into your deck design – even just a few feet of elevation change is enough to create a visually intriguing and a distinct look and feel for your deck.

For an even smoother, more fluid and relaxed look, consider incorporating a few curves or more relaxed angles to soften corners or add interest to a long linear expanse. Think about cascading deck steps wide enough for seating echoing the curves of the Columbia River Gorge. Picture a graceful sweep of view framed by curving railings with no hard ending point or corners. Just one curve can change the vibe of an entire deck.

2. Lay claim to the night. Light your deck from dusk to dawn with multilevel deck lighting options.

timbertech deck lighting solutionsEnjoy your deck all through the night from near or afar, and make it safer too. Low-voltage lighting is gentle on your budget and easy to install anywhere that could use a little illumination. Manufacturers like TimberTech and AZEK have every detail and location covered.

  • Accent Lights. Use soft ambiance to light a passageway without it being harsh, or backlight plantings or other deck features for added depth of field.
  • In-Deck Lights. Flush-mounted in-deck lights can light a horizontal perimeter or slip into vertical spaces to add a touch of warm, white light.
  • Lighted Post Caps. Let your posts double as lighting with lighted post caps. Opt for a gentle halo of light, a brighter ring or something in between.
  • Under-Rail Lights. Tucked neatly beneath railings and handrails, under-rail lights highlight your deck’s contours and design while subtly lighting what can otherwise be dark dead spaces between other lighting.
  • Step Riser Lights. A must-have for steps and staircases, riser lights illuminate each stair tread to help prevent missteps and falls. Stairs are just as safe at night as they are during the day.

3. Make safety beautiful. Style your deck with safe, strong railings and balusters designed for decking.

timbertech premier railingRailings are an essential deck safety feature, but they don’t have to look like one. You have nothing but choices in selecting posts, handrails and guardrails, and balusters that will be as strong and durable as they are stylish and beautiful.

Design by the panel or by the piece. At Tum-A-Lum, you have your choice of brands and manufacturers and their premium railing materials, each offering custom selections like posts, post skirts, rails and balusters in combinations to perform to safety standards yet please any aesthetic.

  • Trex combines its engineered wood composite with traditional railings, curved railings, powder-coated aluminum railings and even modern cable railings as well as caps, sleeves, skirts, and rail and baluster kits.
  • TimberTech uses PVC composites and aluminum to create looks that serve traditional, historical homes every bit as well as modern or more contemporary residential applications. Select from generously wide rail profiles that will hold a cocktail glass, to gracefully contoured handrails curved to your palm, to minimalist profile handrails that are amazingly sleek yet equally strong.
  • Fortress Railing Products has all of the bases covered for prefab railings—iron railings, vertical and horizontal cable railings, powder-coated aluminum railings and even glass panels for an infinity view. For balusters, choose from glass balusters—clear views with ventilation—square or round balusters, curved and arched balusters, balusters with baskets or twists, custom inserts for your balusters, top and bottom baluster shoes, or even topline accent strips.
  • CrystaLite specializes in a modern barely-there look with powder-coated aluminum component systems featuring steel cable railings and glass panel railings. Customization comes from the wide variety of colors, finishes and contours available for handrails and posts. Styles work as indoor railings too.
  • OrePac Building Products right here in Oregon is Tum-A-Lum Lumber’s provider of natural cedar decking materials. Combine beautifully contoured handrails, post caps and balusters with natural wood’s timeless beauty.

With all of these choices in materials, styles and applications, every deck can be an exceptional deck.

4. Build in matching, key deck features. Plan for built-in seating, tables, storage and benches.

If features are built-ins, you can forego worry about winter storage and spring reboots. Wind won’t blow them away—important in the Columbia River Gorge area—and they’ll match the rest of your deck. You’ll also know that your deck will be able to support those built-ins and whatever you put in them. They were part of the plan, so they were part of the load-bearing design. So, what can you build in?

  • Bench seating options span the gamut—from small backless two-seaters to perimeter surround seating built as part of the deck railing to spacious double-sided U-shaped seating that lets you alternate between guests and the view.
  • Tables can be at normal height or lowered, placing seating on deck level with a sunken foot area. They can be small or large, round or long, alone or in multiples. It’s all up to you.
  • Storage can be blended with seating, planters or dividers between deck areas. Let those hidden spaces store the pillows, umbrellas, games and gear you’ll want when you’re enjoying deck time, or incorporate some built-in, enclosed storage under your deck.
  • Hammock supports and swings are growing in popularity. Designate a built in spot, string it up, and enjoy the view.
  • Water features and fire pits are millennial favorites for gathering spaces.
  • Planters are crucial elements for blending an outdoor living space with the environment, which brings us to our final—and one of our favorite—deck design ideas.

5. Make your deck a green space, and always celebrate the trees.

A deck is all about being outside and enjoying the richness of nature, so bring the environment on deck. Rather than building a stark, sterile island, create a lush garden spot. Enjoy the birds and bees along with the gorgeous photo ops that on-deck greenery can afford.

  • Build around or incorporate native trees. That gorgeous cedar or spreading oak took decades to mature, so make it your centerpiece or a key component for a treehouse deck. Wrap it with a bench rail that allows growing space, or build a staircase to a strategic perch and a fantastic view.
  • Use attractive, flowering native plants to landscape perimeters. In their native habitat, they’ll be easy to grow. Species like western crabapple, western azaleas, mountain lilacs, blood currants, dogwood, elderberry, huckleberry, Indian plum, manzanita, mock orange, creambush, Oregon grape holly, rhododendron, Nootka roses, serviceberry and spirea are just a few examples of hardy flowering shrubs that will also attract birds and butterflies.
  • Soften areas or create privacy screens with lush planters. While we’re often occupied with a deck’s view, the immediate environment is important too. Flowers and greenery create a relaxing, luxurious feel and give us something to admire—and converse about—up close. Placed strategically, plants can actually give a sense of outdoor rooms, and many of our native species do the job perfectly.
  • Add vertical interest with a trellis, arbor or pergola laced with blooming climbers. Who can resist the charm of climbing roses, a stunning drape of white wisteria or fluffy falls of climbing hydrangea?

Whatever the building materials, shape or style, decks are a way of celebrating the joy of living out of doors. If you’re ready to add joy and beauty to your outdoor living and extend your home’s living spaces, come see us at Tum-A-Lum Lumber. We’re located in Pendleton, Hood River and The Dalles, and we’d love to help you take your deck to the next level and beyond.