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Deck Dreams

When the owners of a small, self-contained office near Atlanta contacted Bobby Parks with Alpharetta, Ga.-based Peachtree Decks & Porches for help creating an improved outdoor space, the deck builder visited the site and quickly determined what was needed.

“These folks wanted a multi-functional outdoor activity area that would complement their office, which looks like a small house, and provide them the space and options they needed to interact outside,” says Parks, a member of the Quakertown, Pa.-based North American Deck and Railing Association’s board of directors. “We created a beautiful deck space perfect for their outdoor needs while integrating existing building specs into the overall look.”

The Islander

The finished deck is 48 feet end-to-end with the main body of the deck measuring 33 feet. A strategically placed bump-out widens the center section from 13 to 14 1/2 feet and allows for a larger seating area. Dubbed “The Islander,” the deck also integrates two doors at opposite ends of the building, creating direct travel routes from either end without interfering in overall design and usage.

With a goal of including the required handicapped ramp--because it is an office--the deck body extends beyond both doors to offer space without a focus on the ramp, situated at the front of the deck adjacent to the parking lot. The logically placed bump-out provides not only room for more fun and comfortable furniture, but it clears a natural path between doors and the ramp on one end and stairs on the other.

Challenges were few, although the existing footprint was constrained by a driveway on one side and a small parking lot across the back. Without much room to expand in any direction, Parks determined a way to add square footage while meeting and exceeding code requirements for an office building.

“This was a commercial build, and things like rail height, stair treads, risers and the handicapped ramp brought different code requirements to the table than a home might have,” Parks notes. “We were able to pull all elements together and create something warm and friendly and useful. The entire build really was a piece of cake.”

Parks chose vertical-grain 2- by 5-inch kiln-dried-after-treatment pressure-treated wood decking for The Islander for many reasons. “We always choose products we believe in. Using wood made sense for this project because where we are, Atlanta, is the center of a huge southern woodpile. This is a beautiful board option and a very stable product,” he explains.

Parks has used the same vertical-grain wood in other projects and has been pleased with the results, as have his customers. With vertical-grain decking, the product comes from stable timber, resulting in a strong, beautiful board. The kiln-drying-after-treatment process adds another layer of strength to each board.

Building and Installation

Parks and his team began the build by removing the existing aging deck structure. First came the layout, followed by attachment of the ledger board to the structure. The deck then was framed per the plan with footings poured, columns installed and the ledger board bolted.

The wood decking was installed on a diagonal for aesthetics and overall stability. Stairs were calculated and installed. Then it was time to work on the handicap ramp. Per code requirements, the ramp length is built 1 foot for every 1 inch the structure is off the ground. Thus, the 40-inch deck height resulted in a 40-foot-long ramp.

Following completion of the structure, rail installation began. At 42-inches high, the railings provide safety and stability with a nice, clean, crisp look. Final details in place--grab rails on the stairs and ramp, trim pieces around the perimeter for a clean finish and a nice stain--and it was time to move in the furniture and a grill.

Parks isn’t worried about The Islander’s stability at all: With 2- by 8-inch joists installed at 12 inches on center, plus a center support beam at mid-span (6 feet off the structure), the entire system is designed to absorb any bounce and provide a stiff, strong structure.

The Final Touch

“Successful projects are about listening to the customer and meeting their needs with design and materials,” Parks says. “My favorite little-something-extra for this project: We replaced their tabletop with custom-cut pieces of decking to really pull the entire deck together. It looks amazing and everyone loved it.”