When it comes to building a deck, the materials you choose are important.  What’s directly beneath your feet will influence style, maintenance and bottom-line price.

Low Maintenance Deck, St. Louis Mo, by Archadeck

Low Maintenance Deck, St. Louis Mo, by Archadeck

But what’s UNDER your deck, below the surface, is equally significant.  From fasteners to footings, piers to posts, ledger to joists, a deck’s substructure defines its structural integrity.  Period.

Two Story Deck, St. Louis Mo by Archadeck

Two Story Deck, St. Louis Mo by Archadeck

Those critical substructure details — especially for a deck high off-the-ground — aren’t much to look at unless you’re a construction junkie. But to many of us, a well-designed and built substructure is truly a thing of beauty!

If, however, you don’t want to see the underside of your deck, you can camouflage, cloak or completely conceal what lies beneath.  And your underdeck solution doesn’t need to break-the-bank either.

So what exactly IS ‘underneath it all’ when it comes to a deck?

A Deck’s Structural Components

Without a structurally sound foundation, any deck will pose a danger and is of zero-value. So when you think about a deck’s substructure (just like your home’s foundation) think ‘safety’ and ‘durability’.

If you’re planning to build the deck yourself, know your city’s building codes and get the appropriate permits.  With proper design and building, local inspectors will pass your deck with flying colors.  Skipping the permit and inspection process always spells trouble down-the-road.

If, on the other hand, you’re building a new deck with a reputable contractor, no worries.  An experienced builder will ‘know-the-ropes’ when it comes to obtaining permits and building-to-code.  In the end, you’ll have a beautiful deck floor AND a solid substructure to support it.

Solid and Safe Deck Substructure, by Archadeck in St. Louis Mo

Solid and Safe Deck Substructure, by Archadeck in St. Louis Mo

Elevated Deck with Under Deck Ceiling and Post Covers, St. Louis Mo by Archadeck

Elevated Deck with Under Deck Ceiling and Post Covers, St. Louis Mo by Archadeck

It can be a little tricky if you’re new to this process in Greater St. Louis.  Code and permit requirements differ city-by-city and county-by-county.  Contractors who deal with these bureaucratic details on a daily basis, can be a big help.

For more information on a deck’s structural components and a safety checklist, check-out our article, How To Check Your Deck For Safety.  There’s a short (and helpful) video too.

Under Deck Possibilities

OK.  It’s obvious that a deck’s substructure is critically important.  And it’s ‘a given’ that you want your new deck to look good too.  So what can you do about the area below a deck?  Lots of things!

Landscaping

Just like the landscaping around your home’s foundation — trees, bushes, plants, flowers and mulch will polish off the rough edges around a deck too.  Landscaping alone will often suffice!

Elevated Wood Deck with Landscaping by Archadeck

Elevated Wood Deck with Landscaping by Archadeck

Skirting

Deck skirting is available in a variety of styles including traditional lattice, vertical or horizontal planks, solid panels or designer patterns such as Parasoleil or Acurio.

Multilevel Pool Deck with Solid Skirt by Archadeck

Multilevel Pool Deck with Solid Skirt by Archadeck

Skirting is available in a variety of materials such as wood, composite, vinyl or even metal. But no matter the type, deck skirting is most often used in combination with landscaping or hardscaping too — bricks, pavers, concrete, masonry, wood.

Ipe Hardwood Deck and Skirting by Archadeck

Ipe Hardwood Deck and Skirting by Archadeck

Brown Decking, White Trim and Vinyl Lattice by Archadeck

Brown Decking, White Trim and Vinyl Lattice by Archadeck

For more information on this topic, check-out our popular articles “The 4 Best Ways To Use The Space Under A Deck” or “Getting The Look You Want With Skirting”.

Post covers

A deck post cover (or sleeve) is simply an add-on product to spruce-up and polish-off the underside of an elevated deck.  Covers will transform a plain ole’ wooden post with color, texture and style.  Mix, match or contrast the elements to get the visual appearance that best suites your tastes.

Elevated Screened In Deck with Post Covers by Archadeck

Elevated Screened In Deck with Post Covers by Archadeck

Composite Deck, Glass Rails Inserts and White Vinyl Post Covers, Project by Archadeck

Composite Deck, Glass Rails Inserts and White Vinyl Post Covers, Project by Archadeck

For more information about post covers check-out, “How To Choose The Best Post Covers and Caps For Your Deck Design”.

Lower level deck, porch or screen room 

Did you know that a deck, under your deck, can be a sensational selection? Depending on your home’s architecture and your yard’s layout, a two-story or tiered deck might be the very best option for ‘what lies beneath’.  In this case, landscaping, skirting and/or post covers will work too.

Large Two Story Deck by Archadeck

Large Two Story Deck by Archadeck

Deck with Second Tier and Solid Skirt, by Archadeck

Deck with Second Tier and Solid Skirt, by Archadeck

For more in-depth information, take a look at these articles, Two Story Deck Design Ideas and Multilevel Deck Design Ideas.

And finally, consider this.  A contemporary and fresh way to maximize the space under a (tall) deck is with an under-the-deck ceiling. Referred to as ‘underdecking,’ this construction technique permits the build-out of an open porch or enclosed screened porch on the bottom-side.  Stylish.  Useful.

Under Deck Ceiling, Archadeck, St. Louis Mo

Under Deck Ceiling, Archadeck, St. Louis Mo

Under Deck Screen Porch by Archadeck

Under Deck Screen Porch by Archadeck

Additional suggested reading:  The Space Under Your Deck, Disguise It, Hide It, Or Better Yet, Use It

Key takeaways

  • A solid deck substructure is vital, not only for safety, but for your home value.
  • Don’t forget to follow the rules for permits and inspections.
  • If your deck is elevated, think about how you want to finish-off the underside. At a minimum, plan for landscaping to disguise the footings/piers.
  • Beyond plants, shrubbery or a garden bed, consider skirting especially if your deck is low-to-the-ground.
  • Consider post covers if your deck has a high-elevation.
  • Want to really put that under deck space to work?  Double or triple the size of your project with a multi-level deck or under deck open or screened porch.

Next steps

Do you live in St. Louis and are you looking for a deck contractor? If so, please consider Archadeck.  Our offices are in St. Louis West County – just call 636-227-0800, anytime.

If you’re not quite ready to talk, you can find ideas for outdoor living spaces by visiting our website west-county.archadeck.com with photo galleries, an online inquiry form, a free download for Archadeck’s design guide and video(s) too. 

You can find us on social media —  Pinterest, Google+ and Houzz.

Outside of St. Louis, Missouri?  Visit archadeck.com or call 1-888-687-3325.

Sources

Lauren Conrad, NADRA, St. Louis County Public Works, Parasoleil, Arcurio, Green Building Advisor, Deckorators, Archadecks in Central Iowa, Central Arkansas, Piedmont Triad PA, Rhode Island, Knoxville TN, Hennepin County MN, Fort Wayne IN, Georgia