At the start

Check local building codes, regulations, and zoning restrictions first. It may be that overhead sunshades need approval, that power lines cannot pass over, or that footings, spans, and deck railings over slopes must conform to specific standards. Property lines and easements will reduce your options, too. So will any deed restrictions and the location of a septic tank.

Where you place your patio or deck is most important. Access to kitchen, living room, or family room will make a big difference to outdoor use and indoor appreciation. Entry from more than one room or a pass-through at the kitchen window will make a patio or deck more useful, too.

Patios and decks on the north and east will have less sun and more cooling breezes in warm climates and warm weather. Those on the south and west will receive much-appreciated extra sun in cooler climates and seasons. Take time to study wind and rain directions in your yard, as well as sun and shadow patterns. See how they vary with the seasons before choosing a site.

Remember that cool air moves downward over land. If you build your deck on the uphill side of your house, you will be more comfortable on chilly evenings.

Depending on your climate, you may want to make provisions for rain protection, either overhead or from the direction summer rains usually blow. Anchor your deck against wind blasts, and make sure it will support the weight of the expected snowfall.

If space or privacy dictate that you build where climate is less favorable, overhead sunshades, screens, or well-placed trees can make your outdoor room much more comfortable. Remember that deciduous trees will cool the scene in summer yet not block the winter sun.

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