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The Neighborhood

Outdoor Living  
Plan Your Perfect Deck or Patio
By Jennifer Whipple
6/1/2014 10:00:00 AM

Jeff Wilson, host of DIY Network's "Build-a-Deck"Looking to revitalize your deck or patio? HGTV/DIY Networks host and spokesperson for the Thompson's® Water Seal® brand Jeff Wilson has good news: with a just a little thought and planning, you can turn a tired old deck into the deck of your dreams…and you don’t need a lot of space to do it.

With over 25 years of home building and remodeling experience, Jeff shares the ideas and tips that he and his wife used to redesign and build their own deck and patio.


Know what you want.


When Jeff and his wife, Sherri, bought their Ohio home in 2001, they knew the deck would have to change.


“The deck was built around 1980, back when the deck trend really got started,” Jeff explained. “At that time, people didn’t treat their decks. This one had been painted a glaring white that was peeling at the time we moved in…and with the sun shining on it, it was way too bright.”


Additionally, the existing deck was very narrow.


“There was no room for a table or anything,” Jeff recalled. “You could line people up in chairs side-by-side, facing out into the yard, but they couldn’t sit across from each other and converse.”


Put thought into the project.


Jeff and his wife put a lot of thought into what they wanted from their deck – something he feels should be a part of every renovation.


“Ask yourself, ‘how will we use the space?” Jeff says. “Knowing what you want – a place to entertain or an outdoor sanctuary – is paramount.”


Like many homes built in the 1940s, Jeff and Sherri’s house is quite small. With two children and a fondness for entertaining, they decided their deck should provide the extra space they needed and wanted both for relaxing and entertaining. They carefully planned an outdoor space that combined both functions by separating the outdoor space like they did their indoor spaces, with different areas reserved for specific activities: conversation, dining, cooking, gardening, etc.


“Size it to the function.”

When planning the size of their new deck, Jeff and his wife laid garden hoses along the ground and arranged their outdoor furniture within the lines they made before committing to a plan.


“We knew we wanted to be able to do a lot with our deck, but we also knew we didn’t want it eating up the entire yard, so planning how we’d use the space was essential,” he says.


Jeff observed that some homeowners feel that “bigger is better” when it comes to planning a deck. He disagrees.


“Whatever material you use – be it flagstone or wood – needs to be maintained, so the larger the surface area, the greater the expense. Our new deck wound up being about 400 square feet all told, and only ten feet wide off the back of the house. That’s okay – the size isn’t nearly as important as the functionality.”


And with a smaller deck surface area, Jeff and Sherri were able to spend more on better materials.


“We went with cedar boards instead of treated lumber. Cedar is not only prettier and tougher than pine, it’s better when you have kids because it’s not been treated with chemicals.”


He also points out that, because he saved so much on deck materials, he was able to afford a higher end grill with a side burner. And with the materials left over, he was able to install a potting table with a roof that could double as a buffet.

Jeff's deck before the renovation.Jeff's deck before the renovation.

The finished product.


The end result of Jeff and Sherri’s project is an outdoor space that combines a screened-in porch at one end, a dining area and an outdoor kitchen with a brick oven that doubles as an outdoor fireplace in the middle, and a potting bench/buffet at the far end. The space is also made up of different levels with a flagstone floor that ties it all together.


“Every little part of the deck has a function,” Jeff explains, “and we can change it around if we need to.”


Get creative!


Jeff encourages homeowners to get creative with their decks.


“Over the years, outdoor living has evolved. We now seek to bring our indoors outside, seeing features formerly reserved for the interior of a home – such as televisions and gas fireplaces – as ways to enhance our outdoor spaces. You may want things that are different than what we wanted, but that’s all right – the sky’s the limit. Don’t be afraid to get creative and use your imagination. And you can do it without breaking the bank.”

Jeff's deck after the renovation.

Jeff's deck after the renovation.

Currently rated 4.7 by 3 people

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Categories: Outdoor Living


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The Olla: A Brief History

Olla (Spanish, pronounced “oh-ya”) jars have been around since ancient times. Made of unglazed ceramic, ollas traditionally have short, narrow necks with wider bodies, and are made in a variety of shapes. They have been used for thousands of years for cooking, storage, and plant irrigation.

When used to irrigate plants, an olla is buried neck-deep in the ground near a plant’s roots, with the opening of the olla extended above the soil so that it can be filled with water periodically. The porous walls of the unglazed pottery allow the water to seep through gradually, constantly and consistently hydrating the plants without overwatering them – and without wasting precious water to evaporation or runoff.

The use of ollas for irrigation was introduced to the American Southwest by Spanish conquistadors during Colonial times, becoming very common among Native American tribes and Hispanic settlers. Though the technique gave way to more modern methods of irrigation some time ago, its superior efficiency, coupled with its simplicity, has caused it to make a comeback. Though the technique has changed little since its introduction, today’s ollas are usually capped off, making them even more water-efficient.

Perfect for home gardens, Ollas are a super-easy, eco-friendly, less time-consuming way to water annuals, perennials, herbs, vegetables and plants of all kinds in dry, sandy soil, very hot or drought-prone areas, raised beds, and even pots, planters and hanging baskets. Fill the olla before you leave on a short vacation to enjoy worry-free watering – and a smaller water bill!

How it Works:

Water is pulled directly through the terra-cotta!

Read more about Ollas on our blog.

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