Stacking the decks

by Karen Long

Outdoor living is becoming ever more popular, and indoor amenities are spilling right out the patio door. The centerpiece of this movement is a fabulous deck, and Splurge! talked to Rich Nighswonger of Guthridge/Nighswonger to collect a few tips, tricks and trends to make your deck even more beautiful and functional  and to ensure your summer comes up aces.

Chill out

The Kansas summer heat is no sweat when your deck is caressed by misting systems which lower the temperature 15-20 degrees. Nighswonger installs tubing, compressors and strategically placed jets around gutters or arbors to extend the deck-lounging season. Add this to shade provided by arbors or pergolas and you've gone a long way toward showing the weather a poker face.

Up the ante on handrails

People are wanting to have a little fancier design any more, instead of just your basic wood handrail, says Nighswonger. He's building more custom, decorative metal handrails out of steel or aluminum, and another popular treatment goes so far as to place architectural glass between the struts.

Another unique material that can also apply to the floor of the deck is engineered wood, which is manufactured from composite plastics and sawdust and is mold and rot resistant. The appearance of these composites is steadily becoming more and more like real wood, with a deep, rich look.

Up-and-coming natural materials include smooth cedar and ip, a South American wood that resembles teak and has the upscale appearance of a hardwood floor you'd expect to see indoors, not under the open sky.

Bluff the bugs

Nighswonger installs screens to help with insect management. Close your deck off with the touch of a button, he says of motorized, retractable screens. We can do those screens up to 20 feet long. Those are slick. He also recommends a ceiling fan to move the air and discourage tiny biting critters  and his company installs outlets and wiring to provide electricity for such accessories, as well as lighting.

Hide the fasteners

Modern hidden fastening systems allow for a smooth deck surface with no visible nails, which preserves the beauty of the wood and minimizes splitting and splintering. You're not seeing a bunch of screw holes everywhere, explains Nighswonger. They all fasten to the side or underneath.

Indoor-quality cabinetry outdoors

Guthridge/Nighswonger provides custom cabinet and design services and also employs finish carpenters and cabinetmakers  traditional skills that transfer well to a distinctly non-traditional open-air bar, storage cabinets for stylish stowage of pool equipment, garden supplies and tiki torches or counters for food preparation and serving. Other built-ins that plus out a deck include benches, planters and grill islands.

While our fair state might provide some challenges to partaking in the ever-growing trend of outdoor living, with a little planning and ingenuity you'll be savoring the breeze in your hair, the sun on your face and the seasoning that only grilling and dining outdoors can provide  all with the comforts and convenience of home.

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