What To Consider When Building a Wrap-Around Deck
A wrap-around deck adds usable floor space and can increase the value of your house. It's a great project if you've got the space!
Decks are kind of a California thing. One of my first jobs after arriving in the Golden State in 1985 was helping a friend, a professional builder, construct a wrap-around deck behind his newly renovated home tucked away in the redwoods.
Lumber was cheaper back then, and the deck featured top-grade redwood boards and pressure-treated fir. It was a beautiful structure, the site of many memorable social gatherings. It even supported a large hot tub for more than 20 years.
Today, a necessary overhaul to that deck cost more than the original. Nothing lasts forever, apparently, not even pressure-treated lumber.
The takeaway from this story: If you address maintenance issues when they crop up rather than waiting for small problems to turn into major ones, you’ll enjoy your wrap-around deck and the extra real estate it provides for many years to come.
What Is a Wrap-Around Deck?
Unlike a conventional front or back deck, a wrap-around deck extends from more than one side of the house. It’s usually supported on ledger boards attached to the house, becoming an integral part of the structure.
It’s often accessible through more than one entry door. Depending on the terrain and the height of the deck, it may feature stairways and railings, or merge with the landscape.
Wrap-around porches were common features of stately pre-war homes, and a wrap-around deck is a similar structure, minus a roof. A roof provides shade and protection in bad weather, but it adds complexity and cost to the build.
A wrap-around deck makes most sense on a property with lots of space in a climate that invites outdoor activity. A well-constructed one can house an outdoor kitchen complete with a fire pit. It can be a play area for kids, or it can be a place for sitting quietly and enjoying the view.
Pros and Cons of Wrap-Around Decks
Besides the extra space, a wrap-around deck offers these perks:
- Room to move: You can always find a sunny or shady spot for relaxing or entertaining.
- Flexibility: A wrap-around deck is big enough for family members to use in different ways. Kids can play on one side while you enjoy the view from the other.
- Aesthetics: A wrap-around deck adds curb appeal.
- A good investment: By increasing usable floor space, a wrap-around deck typically increases a home’s resale value, often by more than the cost of installing it.
One of the drawbacks of a wrap-around deck — or any deck, for that matter — is maintenance. Here are some others:
- Can impact interior lighting: Depending on where you build it, a wrap-around deck can affect the distribution of light through the windows of your home, particularly if it has a roof.
- Reduces garden and landscape space: Nothing will grow underneath a deck, though you can use the space for storage.
- Needs a large property: You might not have enough privacy if neighboring houses are too close to a wrap-around deck
Considerations When Planning and Building a Wrap-Around Deck
Because a wrap-around deck is attached to the house and affects egress through one or more doors, you’ll need to draw up a plan and apply for a permit to build one, even if it’s less than 30 inches high. Here are some of the main points to consider:
Most wrap-around decks extend from two or three sides of the home. Some sides receive more sun than others, and some are windier. Building on the sides with the best conditions guarantees you’ll get more use out of it.
Terrain and drainage
It’s easier to build a deck on level ground than on a slope. Ground that slopes steeply away from the building may necessitate modifications to the siding, and expensive footings to support the deck.
Pay attention to how the deck will affect drainage around the foundation and runoff from the roof. You don’t want the deck to contribute to an erosion problem or allow rainwater to pool around the foundation. And you definitely don’t want parts of the deck rendered unusable by water dripping from the roof.
A large structure like a wrap-around deck can become a landscape feature in its own right, so consider how it will fit with your trees, gardens and bushes. Choice of materials, contours and size are all factors.
If you have desirable landscape features, like a favorite shade tree or a prize rose bush, you may want to build the deck around or up against them.
Wrap-around decks may have straight or curved edges. They may be tiered or have stairs. The design should fit the aesthetics of the house while serving the purpose you intend, whether for outdoor dining or relaxation. If the deck is higher than 30 inches from the ground, it will need a railing.
There isn’t a huge difference in price among wood, composites and PVC, the most common decking materials. PVC and composites tend to outlast wood, but they don’t look like wood and can become uncomfortably hot in full sun. For the framework and underpinnings, the only realistic choices are pressure-treated fir or pine.
Get inspired by these multi level decks with sweeping views and multiple seating areas.