8 Ways Your Family Can Make the Most of Your Deck this SummerBy Dave Kile
Summer is coming, and your deck is calling. Your little ones are ready for fun in the sun, but is your deck ready for them?
Your deck can be the perfect family spot, with just a little planning and intention. Take time now to set up for fun to take you through the warmer months and make some special memories. Use these 8 tips to make the most of your deck this summer:
- Make it safe.
First and foremost, you need to ensure your deck doesn’t cause these frequent accidents: children becoming stuck or falling because of railings too far apart, horizontal railings that invite climbing, and stairs without gates. If your deck is older, you may need to make some modifications. Make your deck safer with this checklist:
- Handrails must be in place for any deck higher than 30 inches above the ground, according to the International Residential Code (IRC). Railings should measure at least 36 inches in height, and the space between individual posts in a railing should be less than 4 inches. The distance between the bottom of the railing and the top of the deck surface also should be no more than 4 inches to prevent children from slipping through.
- If your railing does not meet these standards, consider a replacement or modification. Add plexiglass or mesh netting that is installed with hardware, not staples.
- Add gates at the top and bottom of stairs and install treads on slippery step surfaces.
- 1 Move furniture away from the railings to prevent climbing. Be mindful of any lightweight furniture that a child might pull toward the railing.
- Keep railings and stairs in good condition.
- Secure exterior doors with child safety locks so you know when a child is on deck.
- Always watch small children on decks — they are quick and like to climb.
- Create a kid-friendly space
While decks require some caution, they also can be the perfect space for family fun! Add in some elements to your deck design to make it more enjoyable for all. Create storage for bubbles, outdoor toys, and watercolors. Be sure to include a child-sized table and chairs or a water table for your toddlers.
- Take family night onto the deck
When you’re thinking about family nights, plan some outdoor activities. For example, show a movie and eat popcorn under the stars. Build anticipation by helping your kids make these super-cute drive-in movie cars out of cardboard boxes. Play a game together on the patio table. Tie-dye matching shirts or try other crafts that
feel too messy for indoors.
- Eat together
Kids love a picnic! Put out an old blanket and eat on the deck — no ants here! Or fire up the grill and enjoy a meal together—place grills in a spot where kids can’t touch and is a safe distance from your house. Be sure to watch children around the grill even when finished cooking because they can stay hot for quite a while.
- Use the space under your deck
If you have a two-story deck — meaning you have room underneath tall enough to walk under safely— consider turning this into a useable space for the family. By adding an under-deck drainage system, you can make this space waterproof and treat it like a playroom or craft room. Fully enclose it with screening and add a fan and porch swing, and you can enjoy it even in the heat of summer.
- Remember the shade
Speaking of heat, be sure to plan for shade on top of the deck, too. A shaded deck will save little ones from sunburn and make your time outdoors a bit cooler. Additionally, shade prevents your deck boards and materials from getting so hot that it burns little toes! Add shade with colorful umbrellas, a pergola with vegetation, an extended roof, or a retractable awning.
- Pitch a tent
Little ones love the idea of sleeping outdoors, but the realities of camping can create a lot of extra work! Pitching a tent on your deck can be easy and fun. Roast marshmallows on a nearby firepit and talk about the night sky. Show your little ones some of your favorite constellations and make it a learning moment. Where’s the Big Dipper? How about Orion? What else do they see?
- Grow a garden
Another great science lesson is gardening on deck. Container gardens can produce beautiful flowers and delicious fruits and vegetables. It’s a great first gardening project for kids. You’ll love watching your children try a tomato or pepper grown right by your back door! Remember to water often and put your plants on risers so the moisture doesn’t damage your deck boards.
Decks offer so many family-friendly options. Get your outdoor living space ready for summer memories and enjoy!