With access to nature on our doorsteps, it’s no surprise that Australian’s love spending time outside. An increasing demand to enjoy outdoor living at home has turned the humble backyard into an al fresco lifestyle dream. Homeowners investing in this multi-functional space are finding it offers a variety of benefits that provide a long-term contribution to their property investment and, more importantly, their lifestyle.
Creative outdoor rooms provide an additional entertainment space as well as a fun environment for children to play safely. Marrying the indoors and out with clever decking, whether it be a smaller side deck, pool decking or a big, classic back verandah, provides a seamless transition between these two spaces. If you plan it right, this new space will become the favourite area for family and friends to reconnect.
Australia’s leading timber experts, Big River Group, provide some helpful tips on choosing a deck and making the most of your outdoor space.
1. Firstly, check if you need approval
As with most home improvements, before you set about installing a new deck it’s a good idea to investigate whether or not you’ll need council approval.
2. Create your own private oasis
Think of your outdoor space as a blank canvas. Installing a timber deck will allow the area to be used in most weather conditions. Considering your deck’s purpose will help you decide its size. How many people will it need to accommodate, and will you be adding a barbecue, furniture, and some pots?
“Look for timbers that are designed for exterior use, remembering, the better quality the materials, the greater the longevity of your deck. There are two choices when selecting the best timber for a deck: softwood or hardwood. The decision is dependent on budget, required lifespan and quality of finish,” says John Lorente, General Manager, Big River Group. “Spotted Gum and Merbau are the most common hardwood decking options in Australia and, with regular maintenance, should last 20 plus years. Treated pine is the preferred softwood option and is a good value option.”
When deciding on the timber, colour, texture and the environment can play an important role. Durable hardwoods are easy to stain or oil to complement an outdoor colour scheme or can be left raw to create a natural, weathered look. Merbau timber requires much less maintenance than some other hardwoods and is known for its beautiful rich reddish colour and wavy grain design, as well as its high usability, resistance to termites and resilience. Australian native Spotted Gum gradually turns a golden light brown through to chocolate brown as it matures, depending upon the type of Spotted Gum chosen. Spotted Gum also has an attractive grain structure with knots and growth lines, as well as minimal shrinkage which all add to its popularity.
If your home is located in a bushfire-prone area, consider Merbau and Spotted Gum timber which are both bushfire resistant and suitable for use in many bushfire prone areas up to BAL 29, as set out under Australian Standard AS3959.
Treated pine is a sustainable and prolific outdoor decking option that can be painted or stained to match any colour scheme, unlike other woods that only showcase certain colours well.
Additional considerations when choosing your timber type include the location of the deck at your home. Darker coloured decks will absorb heat from the sun, so if your deck is on the south side of your house, a dark coloured floor can make it very difficult to use the deck during the afternoon and early evening in summer, so it may be wise to opt for a lighter deck colour instead of a darker one. A covered deck is a way to create some shade and prevent your deck’s surface from overheating during the summer.
Muddy footprints and stains from kids and pets are another thing to think about when choosing your deck. Mud, dirt, and stains are easier to see on lighter coloured decks. So, if you have pets, young children, or both, a darker coloured deck may be a better option.
3. Maximise space and add value
From a relaxing sanctuary to a pool area, decking is a great opportunity to transform forgotten or underutilised areas into useful spaces. When located at the front of the property, a deck can make a grand entrance as well as wrap-around additional living space. If you don’t have a lot of space in your backyard, you can always build up or out, and create a raised entertaining area.
“Utilising outdoor rooms as an extension of your interior spaces, increases the amount of enjoyment you’ll likely get from your place, however, not all backyards are created equal in terms of available space. The key to unlocking the potential of your yard is creative thinking,” says Lorente. “If your yard is sloped and you aren’t using every available square metre, you’re sitting on valuable wasted space. Use decking to create terrace areas or install timber garden beds to bring a lively element into what would be otherwise dead space.”
“Outdoor renovations such as decks, don’t just make sense from a daily living standpoint, they’re also a great way to add value to your home. An outdoor living area that leads off the indoor entertaining area can make a big difference to value, with the Cost Vs. Value Report estimating 75% return on investment.”
4. Accessorise to get the look
A top tip for maximising the enjoyment factor of the outdoor environment is to create comfort by selecting the right outdoor furniture and accessories. The key criteria are; using products that are made for the outdoors, creating connection between the pieces that stimulate conversation and togetherness, and lastly, selecting settings that are the right size for your space. A great option for entertaining is blending formal tables and chairs with informal seating like garden walls with benches on top. It creates extra spaces and allows you to adjust your entertaining for the occasion. Add finishing touches such as outdoor rugs and cushions that can easily be changed each year to keep the space looking fresh.
Source: Big River Group