How to create the perfect outdoor deck for entertaining

With spring well underway and summer just around the corner, it’s time to start thinking about doing some outdoor entertaining with friends and family. A well-designed backyard deck is fantastic for barbecues, outdoor dinner parties or just relaxing with the family. Whether you’re adding a new deck or renovating an existing outdoor area, creating the perfect outdoor entertaining space requires some careful planning.

So, let’s have a look at some of the important factors to consider. 

What kind of entertaining will you be doing? 

Before you get started planning and designing, you need to have a think about what kind of entertaining you’ll be doing on your deck. Are you looking to use the area for dinner parties, barbecues with family and friends, lazy afternoons in the sun or playing with the kids? How you’re planning on using the deck will affect a range of factors (which we’ll discuss below) from deck size and layout to the location and decking materials you choose. 

The size of the deck

When it comes to planning the size of your decking area, there are a number of factors you need to consider. Obviously, it needs to be large enough to accommodate all the people, furniture and accessories you need to entertain. You need to have a think about the general number of people you may be entertaining and how much space you need to fit them comfortably. If you have a big family or you like playing host to big groups of friends then you may want to increase the size of the deck to ensure you can fit everyone. 

You will also need to think about seating arrangements. Will guests be seated around a dining table or a more informal cocktail party style arrangement? Ensure the deck size can comfortably accommodate the appropriate seating arrangements, with ample leftover space to easily move around and fit any other necessities like a barbecue, wood oven or fireplace. 

It’s worth bearing in mind that the larger your deck is, the more backyard space it will take up (and the more it will cost), so be careful not to make the deck larger than you need at the expense of your garden space. If necessary, you can create a flow from your deck down into your garden area to set up extra entertaining space on the lawn. 

When considering the size of the deck, you should also take into account the size of your house. A deck that’s too big can be conspicuous and make the house look small. A good rule of thumb is that the deck shouldn’t be larger than the biggest room in your house. However, it’s important that decking size should also be driven by purpose and use.

Where to locate the deck

The location of your deck will have a significant effect on the convenience of your entertaining. Decks are generally built close to or attached to the living area of a house. This creates a flow from the indoor to outdoor areas and places the deck close to other essential indoor areas like kitchens, bathrooms and living areas. 

However, depending on the entertainment purposes of your deck, you may want to reconsider the location. Decks can also be placed around other outdoor focal points like swimming pools or spas. When considering the location of the deck, you may also want to think about where will have the best view or the best shade from the elements. 

You should also think about the purpose of your deck and how location will impact how you plan to entertain. If your primary use will be dinner parties or barbecues, then you may want it positioned as close to the kitchen as possible. If it’s an outdoor area for the family to relax, then you may want a seamless transition from the living area to the deck. If the deck is for general relaxation, then you may want to position it according to view and shade.  

Don’t forget shade

During the Aussie summer, direct sunlight can mean that a deck becomes too hot to use. That makes shade an essential consideration for your outdoor entertaining. When designing or planning the deck, you should think about orientation and where the sun will pass over during summer and what your best options are for shading the deck. 

You can go down the natural shading route and make use of trees to shade your deck during the heat of the day. However, trees will also block out the sun on those cooler days when you want the sun to warm the area. 

A lot of people simply use umbrellas to provide shade when they need it. However, these can be cumbersome to handle and set up. They also take up valuable space, create trip hazards and can pose safety risks when it’s windy. 

If shade is going to be a primary concern you may want to factor in a pergola or canopy to your decking design. A flexible shading solution with a retractable roof or adjustable louvres is a great way to control the amount of shade your decking receives while letting in the sun on cooler days. 

Decking privacy

Whether you’re hosting friends or playing outside with the kids, you want to keep out the prying eyes of neighbours and passers-by. There are a number of ways you can enhance the privacy of your outdoor entertaining area. 

If you want to go for the natural look, then you could consider strategic planting. Using evergreen trees, shrubs, vines or hedges with dense foliage can help to enhance privacy while adding greenery to your entertaining area. Of course, when newly planted, it will take some time for the plants to grow, so make sure you pick fast-growing plants otherwise you could be waiting years before they provide any privacy.   

If you don’t have the time to wait for something to grow, you can enhance your backyard privacy using a range of materials including fencing and composite screening products, a canopy or pergola, trellising, and outdoor curtains or roller blinds. 

Make it multi-seasonal

To get the most out of your entertaining area all year round you will need to keep the area toasty warm in winter. And there are a few ways to do this. You can use outdoor gas heaters or a wood fire pizza oven. During winter a thick outdoor rug can help to insulate the area while blocking draughts from beneath the deck. 

To keep out the cold winter winds, use outdoor curtains or, alternatively, clear roll-down cafe-style blinds will keep out the cold air without obstructing the view. 

Carefully choose your decking material

Finally, when building the perfect outdoor entertaining area, you need to consider which decking material will be best suited to your purposes. Common materials include native and imported hardwoods, softwoods like pine, and composite decking boards. Depending on your priorities for your entertainment area, different decking materials may be more or less suited. 

For example, if you want to minimise maintenance then go for premium composite decking. All timber decking requires regular oiling and staining to protect the wood and keep it looking great. Composite decking, on the other hand, doesn’t require any refinishing to keep it in top condition, which means the maintenance requirements are much less than timber decks.    

If decking longevity and safety are your primary concerns, you may want to go for premium hardwoods or composite decking. Cheaper softwoods have a tendency to split, warp and splinter more easily than other materials. This can be a safety risk, especially for little children. Your high-end hardwoods and composite products will be much more durable, which means less money spent on repairs and less risk to little hands and feet.  

Whatever your outdoor entertaining plans, designing the perfect deck will help you to get the most out of your property while enjoying the great outdoors. 

Julian Thumm
Julian Thumm
Julian is an editor and content creator with a background in industry journalism and technical writing. He's an enthusiastic home handyman and gardener and collector of vintage books.
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