11 Ways to Refresh Your Deck

Doug Echelberger

11/3/21

New decor, potted plants and string lights are good places to start when refreshing a deck. But there are other ways you can make a big difference without a major renovation. Read on for 11 tips that will give your deck flair, functionality and interest for years to come.
 
Photo by Faith Sheridan

1. Hang Art

Custom-made artwork done on fiberglass panels with aluminum frames brightens the wall behind this outdoor bench. Art pieces made from metal, wood, glass, fiberglass and resin are weather-resistant choices, as is canvas treated to be weather-resistant.
 
Look for art designed for outdoor installation, including pieces made of metal. Even the most weather-resistant works should be placed out of direct sun and rain to prolong their longevity. Bringing them inside during the winter months will also help ensure they’ll last.
 
Alternately, you can always just find something you love and use it temporarily. That will give you a chance to change your look over the years.
 
Photo by Katie Monkhouse Interior Design

2. Up Your Lounging Game

Embrace the dog days of summer with a dedicated spot for lounging. A hanging daybed on this deck is perfect for lazing away long, sunny afternoons.
 
If a daybed isn’t quite your style, or your space is limited, a hanging swing or hammock is another possibility. If you prefer to stay firmly planted on the ground, a glider might be your lounging spot of choice.
 
Photo by Board & Vellum

3. Install a Built-In Bench

Permanent (or seemingly permanent) benches are multipurpose additions to any deck. They provide extra seating while not taking up as much room as freestanding chaises and chairs, which is a plus if your deck is on the smaller side. They can substitute for or augment deck railings, providing a solid edging. They can also add storage space.
 
You can have custom benches built or create the same effect with ready-made pieces that match your deck’s style.
 
Add planter boxes at either end or between two benches to give you more growing space, whether it’s favorite fragrant annuals and perennials or vegetables and herbs that you can pick fresh when it’s time to prepare an outdoor meal.
 
Photo by Harper Elm General Contractor

4. Upgrade Lighting

Give your deck an enchanted nighttime glow with outdoor lighting. The downlighting mounted under this built-in bench creates pools of light that subtly draw your eye throughout the space.
 
You can also do an updated take on string lights by running them vertically along one wall rather than stringing them overhead. Or, scatter a few lanterns throughout the space. If you don’t have them already, add step lights along the edge or near level changes to make your deck an inviting (and safe to navigate) space where you can still enjoy the night sky.
 
Photo by Coppin Designs

5. Provide More Privacy

A landscape screen is a simple way to block an unsightly view, add privacy, define a space or even provide decorative interest.
 
You can turn almost any material into a screen. Wood or lattice may be the first things to come to mind. Take the time to explore something more decorative, from metal to glass or fabric. A row of planters filled with tall grasses or small trees could serve as a living alternative.
 
Photo by TNHometour.com

6. Play Some Games

Who can resist the draw of oversize chess pieces? The board integrated into this deck’s surface entices even casual fans to try their hand at the game. When no one’s playing, it becomes a focal point of the deck.
 
If chess isn’t your game, consider setting up a cornhole game, pingpong table or other outdoor activity. Add some lighting and you can continue into the evening.
 
Consider adding covers or an overhead structure if you want to protect the equipment from rain; you’ll also want to bring them indoors once the weather turns chilly. In the meantime, let the games begin.
 
Photo by Fair Studio

7. Elevate Your Plants

This take on a living wall lets you show off your plants while adding some style to your space. These are staggered along a wall, but you can easily add planters in various sizes to the deck surface and fill them with some combination of flowering plants, small shrubs, trees, fruits, vegetables and herbs.
 
It’s best to keep the planters themselves slightly elevated above the deck surface to allow for runoff from watering and to prevent staining. Place a support with casters under the largest planters to make them easier to move.
 
Photo by Wang Architects

8. Serve Up Things in Style

A counter or bar takes your deck’s functionality up a notch or two. A simple countertop mounted on the wall beneath a kitchen window can become a serving bar or eating area — and it makes shuttling food and drinks outside much easier.
 
If a kitchen window isn’t available or practical, a serving bar set along a wall is another option. It gives you a permanent spot for setting out drinks and food when you’re entertaining and also an opportunity for a bit of decor or lighting. A bar set on a railing provides a conversation spot while you enjoy the view.
 
Photo by Jennifer Wundrow Interior Design, Inc.

9. Update the Color

If the surface itself is looking faded, give your deck a jolt of color. Painting the decking, rather than re-staining, allows you to add some personality to the space.
 
Paint gives you an almost unlimited palette to choose from. Shades of blue, green and brown that reflect nature’s hues have a calming effect. Brighter colors add a burst of energy to the space. Add stripes or patterns, outline the edges to add definition, create a faux finish such as a rug or tile look or add decorative elements throughout.
 
Be sure to choose paint that’s formulated for use on a deck. From cleaning to adding final touches, the process will take time, so be prepared for your deck to be out of commission while this is happening.
 
Photo by Sage Construction Services

10. Add a Shade Structure

Adding a pergola above all or a portion of your deck may not be as time-consuming as you think. Depending on the complexity and the amount of preparation needed, including time for setting footings and staining or finishing the materials, it could take about a week to build a basic pergola (after you’ve got a landscape pro on board).
 
In the end, you’ll have a shaded spot when the sun is blazing. Include some lights, whether wired in or battery operated, and it will also become an evening destination.
 
Photo by Jordan Iverson Signature Homes

11. Do a Deep Clean

If you notice that your deck is starting to show some wear and tear, summer is a good time to give it a good cleaning or even refinish the decking and railings.
 
Cleaning your deck’s flooring is a good weekend project that you can probably finish in a day. In many cases, moving things off the deck and back into place may take the most time. Rent a power washer or use warm water and dish detergent, or opt for a cleaning solution formulated for your deck paired with a stiff broom.
 
Refinishing will take longer. You’ll need to wait 48 hours after cleaning to apply the finish, and that can take some time. It will be worth it, though, when you see how much it improves the overall look of your deck.
 

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