Some of my earliest building experiences occurred while helping my friends’ families keep up their farms. It goes without saying that there was always work to be done: painting, replacing boards, mending fences, and, last but not least, building decks. I spent hours and hours helping build and maintain wooden decks.
Now, as a designer and builder, my favorite farmhouses are the ones that put clever outdoor living space ideas into practice, successfully merging the inside of the house with the outside, and allowing the activities of life to seamlessly spill out onto decks and patios. Eating, dancing, music, bbq’s, grange meetings, board game nights, hot tub parties, summer weddings, and events celebrating other rites of passage can all take place on a well-made and stylish deck, whether under the midsummer sun or a starlit sky.
With all the work that happens on a farm, it’s crucial to save time, energy, and money wherever possible. As I’ve seen over the years, this very often translates to cheap fixes which can be less than aesthetically pleasing. At least in the deck department, it doesn’t have to be this way. The newest generation of bamboo-based composite decking provides a farmhouse with a durable, attractive, and low-maintenance deck that can last a lifetime. We’re going to talk about what’s so special about this particular composite decking, and some farmhouse deck ideas to make your outdoor area feel like just another room in your house.
Requirements of Wooden Deck Maintenance
Anyone who has ever lived or worked on a farm will agree that anything that can eliminate some of a farm’s maintenance work and expense is a good thing. A traditional wooden deck involves regular upkeep, especially in a challenging climate. The two biggest weathering factors are moisture and UV rays—the more sun, humidity, rain, ice and snow a deck is exposed to, the shorter its lifespan will be, and the more weatherproofing will be required. Keeping a wooden deck weatherproof involves making sure that the decking boards are cleaned, sealed, and stained, a process that takes place every year or every other year depending on the severity of the weather.
Even careful and conscientious maintenance is not enough to keep the boards of a wooden deck in good shape forever. This is because moisture collects on the cooler, shady underside of the deck, and is absorbed into this relatively unprotected side of the decking boards—the side you haven’t been dutifully cleaning, sanding, staining, and sealing. In colder climates, snow also becomes an issue, as the melting and refreezing of water creates cracks and helps water penetrate more deeply into the wood.
Turning to Low-Maintenance Composite Decking
Composite decking, on the other hand, can solve many of the issues wood has. Specifically, you want composite decking in which each board is encased on all sides by a durable enhanced resin cap—typically referred to as fully-capped composite decking. While the first generation of composite decking did not play well with moisture (it had issues with crumbling, swelling, and cracking), fully-capped decking is a completely different animal. The cap gives protection to all sides of the decking board, solving the problem of moisture seeping in, including from condensation on the underside of the deck.
Some fully-capped decking also incorporates bamboo as a filling material. Bamboo flour works much better at resisting moisture than the more typical sawdust. When mixed with recycled plastic to create a composite board, bamboo flour distributes itself evenly throughout each board, rather than clumping up like sawdust tends to. This does away with potential pockets of absorbent material that might cause problems should any moisture make it inside the board. These advances—a full cap made from engineered resin and the use of bamboo flour—make it possible to have a deck with the appearance of wood, but with very little maintenance and a far longer lifespan.
Farmhouse Deck Ideas to Increase Living Space
Whether you’re living in an older farmhouse where space is tight, or you have a more spacious, newer build, it’s never a bad thing to have more functional living space. And cracked, splintery decks aren’t typically what my clients are thinking of when we’re talking about creating an outdoor living room. Fully-capped decking provides a durable, clean, and attractive surface which can serve as a multipurpose floor for any activity to take place comfortably. Here are some themes I’ve used to inspire the creation of fun, functional living spaces made using high-quality composite decking:
- The exotic getaway. Some companies are making high-quality composite that looks almost exactly like Ipe or other popular tropical hardwoods, giving the deck an elegant finish without the maintenance that comes with wood. The vibrant, warm colors evoke balmier, more exotic climes and can change the tone of a house and a yard. For instance, by adding a wisteria-draped lattice screen and a long, cushioned bench, I’ve made a country farmhouse feel like it was plucked out of Tuscany.
- The fountain-side retreat. Since bamboo-based composite is extremely water resistant, I’ve transformed disused corners of decks into much-loved contemplative grottos simply by adding built-in seating and an inexpensive fountain amidst climbing plants. For those with a bigger budget, full-capped composite decking is also an excellent option for poolside areas, making for a beautiful and seamless transition between the house and the pool.
- The raised dining area. For a large deck, it can make a big difference to not have the whole deck on the same level. Building in a couple steps up to a gazebo or hot tub area, or down into a ‘den’ with comfy loveseats and chairs can add a lot of personality and hominess to a deck. One of my favorite tricks is to add a raised section of the deck with a pergola above it, where a long farm table can be decked out with flowers and candles and used to stage dinners for family and friends.
When I am installing a deck for my farmhouse-owning friends, sometimes the biggest problem for them is that it looks and feels so nice that they’re tempted to redo the inside of their home to match the beauty and comfort of the deck! Creating a comfortable and functional outdoor living space is a wonderful way to expand a home without spending a lot of money. Using fully-capped bamboo composite decking leaves you with a beautiful deck that lasts for years with very little maintenance. My favorite product of this kind is Infinity Decking, produced by Fortress Deck. If you have a larger project in the works, I also highly recommend Fortress’ wider range of building products. They sell a number of unique, unusually high-quality products like railings, fencing, and decorative hardware that I’ve used successfully for years. If you haven’t tried any yet, do, because they’re designed to make your life easier, which is exactly what you need on a farm.