Patios and porches

Posted 04/15/2016 by admin
Family on a Swing

In a world before the internet there was a time -  some might say it was mythical perhaps, but there was a time when neighbors met to catch up on the latest local news or maybe to discuss an upcoming local election over a white picket fence. In the evening whole families would sit out on the front porch and greet their neighbors walking past. The porch was a retreat, a place to cool off long before air conditioning was ubiquitous. It provided shelter from the elements and screened in, served as an additional room for the family to gather. The iconic porch swing was that place you had a serious talk with dad, where couples would sit to enjoy the evening, and it was more than likely the scene of many a first kiss.

Prevalent in the Victorian and Queen Anne styles popular in the Northeast and Midwestern United States, but also a fixture of the Mission, Craftsman and Bungalow style homes found on the Pacific coast, the porch ran along the front of the house welcoming guests. But after WWII new home styles - the ranch, the split level, homes that were more mass produced eliminated the front porch. In its place the breezeway, less a porch and more a mud room. Enclosed and confined, it provided a transition from the garage to the main house. These newer, more modern homes often featured a patio, the precursor to the deck, made of slate or concrete and located off the back of the house. Stepping through sliders off the dining room at ground level, the patio was a roofless open space where you could catch the morning sun on a chaise lounge or an ideal spot for a Sunday barbecue. Bordered by flowers and shrubs, the patio was a place to socialize, but unlike the porch not a place to be social. 

The Deck
While more recent trends in building have attempted to bring the porch back into fashion, the deck has become both the symbol and center for entertaining over the last twenty years. Generally an elevated space, surrounded by a safety railing and with steps leading to ground level, the backyard deck is the equivalent of the outdoor living room and kitchen. Fully furnished and appointed, the deck is designed for maximum comfort and enjoyment. 

Materials for deck construction have improved over the years. Exposure to the elements took a toll on early pine construction. Pressure treated wood products were developed and improved. Early pressure treated wood used arsenic in the manufacturing process. Today most decks are built using arsenic free pressure treated lumber which is both cost effective and easier to maintain than hardwood. Vinyl, a more recent alternative, comes in a range of colors and is also easy to maintain. Though pricier, redwood, mahogany, and cedar all make for a beautiful and long-lasting backyard deck.

Deck Finishing and Maintenance Basics

  • Hardwood Deck - You can tell if your brand new deck is ready to be sealed by simply testing the wood using a few drops of water. If the water is absorbed immediately into the wood you’re ready to stain and seal. 
  • Before staining be sure to clean your deck thoroughly. Consult your local hardware store for the chemical cleaner that’s right for your deck based on the material. To avoid streaking or staining don’t apply cleaner in direct sunlight. Avoid bleach. Pressure washing is an excellent option as well. Be sure to allow at least two days for the deck to dry before applying stain.
  • How often your deck will need to be resealed depends on the amount of exposure to the elements as well as the type of products you choose. Watch for signs of graying with water based products. Oil based sealants will need your attention when water no longer sheets. 
  • When refinishing - Take time to sand weathered areas, raised woodgrain, splintered wood or any other marks that could show through your finish. Apply finish in the cooler part of the day. You can choose from oil or water based finishes. A water based finish will allow the wood to breathe enabling water to pass through more easily, and so be less likely to mildew. Oil based finishes seal the wood by penetrating deeper and can bring out the natural beauty of the wood grain. Of course this depends on whether you’re choosing a clear, semi-transparent or color stain. There are also oil water hybrids coming into the market that you may want to consider.

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