Have you thought about using the space under the deck, or is it an idea that never sparked your interest? Some people prefer to keep the area open, whereas others prefer it closed off.
Our owner, John, loves to design decks and get the most out of the space. He has eight ideas to fill in the wasted space below the main attraction and turn it into a space the whole family can use.
1) Add Lattice as a Deck Option
Lattice or latticework is created by crisscrossing material strips. This creates a functional grid- or weave-like ornamental pattern that creates privacy, allows air to flow beneath the deck to prevent moisture from building up, and adds an aesthetic appeal. Latticework is often referred to as a “shapeshifter.” This means it can create a sense of cohesiveness and separation at the same time.
In fact, these geometric patterns are famous worldwide. The Taj Mahal and Eiffel Tower are two of the most prominent buildings with this feature. Lattice is so popular in India that many nobilities have balconies shielded by lattice screens for airflow, as trusses to grow climbing plants, and simply as a decorative element.
Much like these iconic architectural designs, lattice also works well in deck construction, adding character, dimension, and functionality. The best way to do that is to wrap it around the sides of the deck and add an access door. This creates a space that is ideal for storing outdoor-safe gardening tools, toys, or pool accessories. The grid gives the appearance of a closed-off look so the items inside aren’t the focal point, but also offers full ventilation beneath the deck.
Lattice comes in solid wood like pressure treated Southern Pine, Ipe, or Cumuru, as well as composite or vinyl. The best latticework is purposeful and striking, making the entire deck ensemble more beautiful, cohesive and functional.
Remember, the lattice isn’t a structural element, it’s an enhancement. As such, if you have active children who like to play ball outside, the lattice may take a beating. Plus, wood versions need to be treated every few years to withstand the beating from the elements. Vinyl options are much lower maintenance as they won’t crack, discolor, rot, or split.
All in all, lattice is a fast, easy way to imyour property’s appearance.
The deck’s height will determine how skirting will look. When a deck is 1 foot to 4 feet off the ground, skirting provides a low-level enhancement. On the other hand, if a deck stands 8 feet from the ground, the skirting gives the appearance of a solid wall.
Upgrading to solid skirting and adding an access door easily creates an enclosed storage area. Aesthetically speaking, the biggest difference is that skirting has smaller openings than latticework, making the storage area more discreet. Plus, skirting is stronger than lattice, so children who are active in baseball or soccer face enhanced durability.
When working with skirting, make sure to pick materials that complement the deck, and look for fascia that matches the deck boards. This will bring continuity between vertical and horizontal surfaces. Additionally, a porch skirt acts as a visual anchor from the ground to the house. Since a home is big and heavy, it will often sit on heavy stones, concrete, and brick. Since a deck is visually lighter, it looks best with a light structure like skirting.
Skirting is both visually appealing and functional. It hides structural elements like beams, support posts, or rocks on the ground. Skirting also has much smaller openings for ventilation, which prevents moisture from getting trapped beneath the floorboards and would otherwise cause rot or mold.
Skirting also has the added benefit of diminishing how many critters you’ll find under the deck. Most likely, you’d find snakes, rats, raccoons, chipmunks, woodchucks, skunks, stray cats, and even otters lurking beneath the floorboards without a barrier to prevent access. It’s natural for these animals to seek out confined, dark spaces to rear young and scavenge for food. Many animals can still burrow or find small, inconspicuous entry holes to enter, but homeowners can easily see the tunnels and entry points and have the animals removed.
Ultimately, deck skirting reinforces the deck space, provides a clean line where the deck ends and the landscape begins, and gives a polished yet functional look.
3) Build a Shed Under the Deck
The space between deck boards serves a purpose—drainage. It prevents puddles from forming on the deck floor by allowing the water to drain down through the slats.
In order to build a waterproof shed area under the deck, install a waterproofing membrane within the joist spaces and near downspouts. This diverts water to the downspouts and leads it away from the deck and the area beneath it. This makes an under-deck ceiling and drainage system all in one and creates a dry, proper storage environment.
The shed floor can be dirt, stone, or upgraded to concrete or a raised platform. Then, you're able to store durable items outside without fear of them being ruined by water.
Next, add lights, outlets, hooks, and shelves and for an even more organized space. Add a door and ramp and you’ll easily store lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and wheelbarrows. Finish off the project by painting it to match your home.
4) Build a Patio Under Your Deck
Install a paver or concrete patio beneath the deck, and add the same under-deck rubber roofing system for a watertight roof and a shady oasis beneath the deck.
This option works best on higher decks, ones that are at least 7 feet to the beam and 8 feet to the ceiling, so there is ample headroom. If there isn’t enough space to create that distance, a mini excavator can be used to pull out dirt to increase the space.
Posts at least 10 feet away from the house offer plenty of room for furnishing, so the area can double as an outdoor living space. To add privacy, consider lattice privacy screens, skirting, or a screen to make it into a three-season room. Treat this area as an extension of your home because the patio under the deck will remain cool, shady, and dry, even in rainy weather.
To spruce up the space further, install lights and a ceiling fan. This will create a great space for outdoor parties or a relaxing oasis for hot days. Homeowners can also add a custom-built seating area, or furnish the space with wicker. Add outdoor tables for an under-deck dining area. You’ll have a space for casual entertaining or a communal area where you can catch up with family.
5) Add a Patio Swing
Swings are a simple under-deck addition with a massive health impact. Hang a porch swing from the deck frame for children and adults to enjoy. The swing allows the family to get out in the fresh air and sunshine, which helps make vitamin D, keeping the family’s immune systems and bones strong, and helps to enhance a healthy heart. A simple 10- to 20-minute swing is the perfect amount of daily sunlight. When sitting outside, the brain releases serotonin which makes people happy.
Swinging has also been scientifically proven to lower stress and improve circulation. The back and forth rhythmic motion lowers stress, reduces breath, and lowers heart rate just as the body would do in a rocking chair.
Best of all, swings are stylish and may increase the overall value of the property.
6) Cover the Ground in Weed Blocker Fabric and Gravel
Cover the area under the deck with properly overlapped weed blocking fabric. Then spread a layer of landscape stone or add compacted gravel near the posts and footings for adequate drainage and visual appeal. Gravel, river rocks, and crushed rocks often work better than mulch because these materials won’t decompose but it still allows the water to drain away from the building. Organic options like mulch invite termites, carpenter ants, and fungi into the space.
Weed blocking with fabric and stone, however, prevent wildflowers from sprouting and on low decks, it keeps the weeds from popping through the cracks. The stone and fabric keep the weeds in check and the weight from the stone will keep the fabric from blowing away. These materials have the added benefit of keeping animals like ground squirrels, moles, groundhogs, and badgers from burrowing into the ground beneath your home.
Weed blockers and stones also enhance drainage by preventing ponding. Without gravel, water can pool beneath the deck and create a breeding ground for insects and mosquitos.
Once the ground beneath the deck is covered in fabric and stones, consider planting Emerald Green Arborvitae, Clematis, climbing roses, Cherry Laurel, climbing ivy, Boxwoods, Japanese Holly, Buckthorn, Bamboo, topiaries, tall hedges, climbing vines, or Juniper hedges around the perimeter of the deck bottom. This will add privacy and visual appeal. Think of these plants as a living privacy screen.
Privacy not a concern? Full shade plants like Oakleaf Hydrangea, Rhododendrons, Daphne, Mountain Laurel, and Virginia Sweetspire create a perfect shaded garden beneath the deck. Just be sure to use the weed blocker and stone to keep the plants from being choked out by weeds.
7) Create an Under-Deck Play Area for Children
Move your kid’s sandbox and toys underneath the deck in the summertime. The deck will provide shade and help reduce sunburn while creating a fun place to play.
In fact, many children between the ages of 2-10 want to spend their free time outside. The solid beam construction and sturdy hardware will keep them safe, and parents can add playground sets with monkey bars, spiral slides and sky lofts for further enjoyment. Many pieces of playground equipment will delight children as they enjoy belt or bucket swings, crawl tunnels, and tic-tac-toe panels.
Ouch-free features on the top of the deck mean when the children run downstairs, they won’t catch a barefoot on a splinter and spoil the fun.
8) Completely Finish the Space
Finally, finishes off the area with a concrete patio, deck drain, 2’ high walls, and screens. This creates the ultimate three season room right underneath your deck. If you're interested in a deck, check out our deck calculator for pricing!