A wrap-around deck not only looks great and provides tons of extra usable space for entertaining, relaxing, grilling, and more, but it can also improve the value of your house. It also allows you to provide additional entryways or stairways to the house and/or yard. But constructing a deck or adding on to an existing one is a big project that requires quite a bit of planning.
Let’s look at what a wrap-around deck is and some practical factors to keep in mind when deciding if one is right for your home.
What is a Wrap Around Deck?
Before discussing the considerations, it’s important to understand what a wrap-around deck is. This type of deck attaches to at least two adjacent sides of the house, and people can walk across its entirety without stepping down into the yard. It’s essentially one big, flat surface, and they’re typically L- or U-shaped, depending on the deck and house’s design.
Most commonly, a wrap-around deck encompasses the back of the house and at least one side. In some cases, it may even surround the entire home. However, a wrap-around deck is different than a wrap-around porch in that a wrap-around porch is covered with a roof while a deck is not.
The Pros and Cons of a Wrap Around Deck
Building a wrap-around deck has plenty of advantages and disadvantages, and it’s important to know what they are before taking on a project like this.
There are plenty of great reasons to install a wrap-around deck on a home. In general, a wrap-around deck can:
- Increase the home’s value
- Create more outdoor space for lounging, playing, or entertaining
- Allow homeowners to build over areas of the yard that might not be useful
- Provide multiple access points to the backyard
- Offer homeowners different scenic views surrounding their house
A wrap-around deck has relative downsides as well. The cons of building a wrap-around deck may be that the deck:
- Can be much more expensive to build than a typical deck
- Calls for more knowledge of building and design than the standard deck
- Requires specific conditions from the yard and property lines
- Entails more maintenance due to the large size
Considerations for Building a Wrap Around Deck
If the idea of a wrap-around deck is sounding better and better, one may be a good fit for your home. However, the following includes some other things to ponder before moving forward.
Size and Design
Do you have enough real estate to fit a wrap-around deck? Homeowners should consider how much deck space they would like, how many sides of the home the deck would span, and the shape it would take. There’s the standard L which covers the back and side of the house, a full U shape that encompasses the rear and two sides, or perhaps a custom rounded design with curved corners is more appropriate for the space or home’s style.
Would your house’s construction work with a wrap-around deck? A wrap-around porch can span two entryways if desired, so if the home has multiple doors at the same height, the homeowner should consider spanning the deck to both.
Also, if the home has a non-traditional shape, such as a contemporary-style home with several walls jutting outward and inward, the deck will have to encompass them, and that can be expensive and difficult to build. Conversely, a traditional colonial or cape-style home would be easier, as they generally consist of flat planes on all four sides of the home.
Terrain and Slope
One good thing about a wrap-around deck is that it allows the homeowner to take advantage of yard space that is difficult for to make use of—think: over basement doors, patchy spots of lawn, or slightly sloping areas.
However, steep slopes and hilly terrain can make installing a wrap-around deck a challenge. For example, if the yard slopes sharply away from the home on one side, the deck may require substantially longer posts on that side to reach the footing. Also, that footing may require a special design, including a larger or deeper size. One potential option is to build the wrap-around deck in tiers, changing the height of the deck as it reaches these potential problem areas.
Another element to factor in: Railings. If part of the deck is built on grade (or 30 inches from the ground), it doesn’t require a railing. However, if part of that deck extends over sloping terrain that exceeds the 30-inch mark, that side will require a railing and can throw off the homeowner’s design.
Codes, Property Lines, and Setbacks
Any time a homeowner decides to build a deck, they need to obtain a permit from the local building department. With most decks, these permits are relatively easy to obtain and a simple drawing that explains the project will do. However, the drawings required for wrap-around decks can be more involved, and there may be a slight learning curve to deal with at the building department office.
For folks in neighborhoods with relatively close-set neighbors, you’ll want to consider how the wrap-around deck will impact the property lines and setbacks. A setback is a distance that the local building department requires any new structures to remain away from the property line. In some cases, the setback can be as little as 5 feet or as much as 20 feet or more.
If the deck will end up being too close to the property line, it will require a variance, and the process can be complicated.
Some homes may have multiple entryways on the sides and back of the house. These could include doors from dining rooms and offices as well as those from kitchens or even bedrooms. These entryways should be taken into consideration when planning a wrap-around deck. Many times, it’s more aesthetically pleasing to have all of the doors open to the same wrap-around deck rather than individual decks.
Placement and Sunlight
The placement of the wrap-around deck can affect the amount of light you’ll get too. Here are some general rules for placement in regard to sunlight:
- Decks on the south side of the home will receive all-day sunlight
- Decks on the east side of the home will receive morning sunlight
- Decks on the west side of the home will receive afternoon and evening sunlight
- Decks on the north side of the home will not receive direct sunlight
If the idea is to build the wrap-around deck to take advantage of sunlight, the south and west sides of the home are typically best. However, folks looking to enjoy a cup of coffee while basking in the morning sun might want to build on the east side of the home.
As with any deck project, carefully consider all the available material options. Types of wood include pressure-treated lumber, redwood, and cedar, while low-maintenance man-made materials such as composite decking and vinyl are also available. Metal is also an option, especially when it comes to railings.
Regarding the framing, it typically makes the most sense to build the substructure from pressure-treated lumber as it’s relatively affordable and will hide below the decking. As for decking, common options include pressure-treated, redwood, cedar, and composite decking. Railing options include the above-mentioned wood species, metal, and vinyl.
If the goal is to build a low-maintenance wrap-around deck, opt for composite decking and vinyl railings, as these materials require little more than cleaning once a season. However, for a warm and more natural texture, wood is a good option, but it will require annual pressure washing and restaining every few years. Prices vary between man-made materials and different wood species, however, as cedar can be just as expensive (often more) than man-made decking, while pressure-treated is considerably less.
DIY or Hire It Out
Finally, the most important consideration is whether to DIY the deck yourself or enlist a contractor to take it on. Wrap-around decks can be a lot of work, and the materials they require are heavy.
Also, understanding how to frame the deck, particularly at the corners, can be quite challenging. While a DIYer can handle the job, they should perform plenty of research before deciding if they want to undertake the project themselves.