Michigan boasts some of the best natural beauty in the entire country and great opportunities to enjoy the outdoors (when the weather’s cooperating). One way many families choose to get outside more is to build a deck, porch, or patio. These outside spaces make for an amazing place to grill, sit in the hot tub, or just look out at the lawn and enjoy the weather. Custom designs allow you to fit your family’s and property’s needs nicely alongside your desired budget. Many families choose to install some sort of block for the sun and elements. This might be a roof over the structure, a retractable awning, some variety of sun shade, or just a plain old umbrella.
Before we get too far into the building of these spaces, it’s useful to know what we’re talking about. Below you’ll find a glossary of terms that come up the most when discussing outdoor spaces. Many of these words get thrown around interchangeably but we have found that leads to a lot of confusion and miscommunication. For example, we’ve had clients adamantly request a gazebo when they were meaning to ask for a pergola instead. Each is provided the definition that we use and have agreed best describe each type of structure or project. Our list is meant to be useful but can’t be comprehensive due to regional differences with definitions and word usage. If you have a different definition or would like to add a word you think fits with our list, then please call us at (517) 487-3713 or fill out the contact form on our website. Thank you!
Deck – flat surface made of lumber or composite material that can be attached or detached from a house. Usually roofless, decks are elevated off the ground and must be enclosed with a handrail if they lie 30 inches or higher from ground level.
Underdecking – lumber or composite material installed along the bottom of a raised deck to provide a finished ceiling and protect from bugs and other pests. Seen especially above walkout basement slabs and patios to make the living space below appear nicer and more finished. It essentially gives the bottom of the deck some fascia, trim, soffit, and a weather-proof ceiling.
Porch – covered structure that protects the entrance to a building or house. A porch is attached to its structure and is built similarly to a deck, but it has a full roof and often a railing wrapping all the way around the perimeter.
Patio – poured or paved, a patio is a flat surface adjoining a house made of masonry instead of lumber or composite. They’re level with the ground and can be made of concrete, brick, stones, pavers, tile, cobblestones, or anything else you’d like that’s durable.
Veranda – verandas and covered porches are extremely similar. The veranda is different in that it may extend along the sides of the house and not necessarily protect only the front entryway, whereas the porch is smaller in size and limited to the front of the house.
Terrace – attached to a house or standalone platform made of brick, stone, or other hard-paving material. These are raised above ground like decks and may have a roof, built-up columns, or a pergola to add functionality. Same code applies for handrails being required above 30” or higher than 2 steps.
Balcony – platform attached to the outside of a building that is above the ground floor. Most commonly seen on apartment complexes, balconies can also be found on residences. They’re smaller than a terrace and attach to the side of the building rather than being a part of the main structure.
Gazebo – rounded or octagonal structure with columns supporting a full roof that often features a capping piece. Mostly enclosed with half-height walls or spindles, it offers reasonable but incomplete protection from the sun and rain.
Pergola – square or rectangular structure with no walls and an open roof, typically with decorative or ornate columns for each of the four corners. Roof features crossing pattern of rafters with little protection from the elements. (Not to be confused with a pagoda which is a commemorative, tiered monument found primarily in Asia.)
Pavilion – usually larger than a gazebo or pergola, pavilions are rectangular buildings with a full roof overhead but no sidewalls. Picture the big buildings you often see in parks or zoos that hold picnic tables and house public grilling areas.
Canopy – temporary shade structure that is made of thin metal or wood supports covered with a canvas top to help protect an area. Would work in a pinch but will probably not hold up to heavy gusts of wind.
Awning – a canvas or UV-resistant material that is attached to the side of a house or other structure to stretch over an area and provide shade. They’re sometimes retractable but can be permanent, too.
Sun Shade – more general term for any type of fabric, aluminum, or canvas sun blocker. Could be as basic as an umbrella or a complex span between multiple buildings to shade a larger area.
Building a deck involves almost exclusively carpentry skills which makes it a little simpler to design and build. There’s no plumbing or electrical work in most cases, and heavy machinery is not mandatory particularly for smaller decks. Even without those added dangers, we deem it very important to always make safety a top priority around every project and job site. Maintenance and cleaning are huge considerations when planning for your new outdoor space. The elements are hard on horizontal surfaces, especially in winter when snow and ice cover the whole area for months. Treated lumber decks usually require a scrub every year or two with treatment to fight mildew, and it seems like even the best stains need a refresh around the same time.
Patios have many of the same traits that decks do – a clean outdoor living space, platform for cooking and hobbies, and gathering space for entertaining. Instead of being framed from lumber, patios can be made from brick, pavers, stones, decorative/stamped concrete, and even some recycled or composite materials. As with decks, each type of material comes with pros and cons regarding maintenance and durability. The future patio site must be cleared, compacted, and otherwise made ready for the finished surface to be placed. Site work would take place during this period as well if, for example, you wanted a gas line for your grill run or irrigation laid for landscaping. One advantage patios have over the standard deck is lying directly at ground level for easier accessibility. Decks are raised up a foot or two, or at the bare minimum lie a couple of inches above the ground’s level.
Your outdoor space is a big investment of time and money – it should be designed to fit your needs. R. L. Rider Remodeling will use our signature 6-step design/build process to help guide your choices and distill those decisions into a buildable set of construction plans. The first set of questions will involve what you’re hoping to achieve by constructing any of the items from the above glossary. What do you plan on doing out there? Will you be entertaining a lot of people or keeping it cozy for just a few family members? Do you need utilities or special connections? Once your preferences survey is done, then we’ll begin to factor in the external variables to best meet those needs. We’ll take factors such as position of the sun into mind in order to deliver the best location for a shade structure. If accessibility is a concern, then we can plan around that and design a functional space for all parties who will use it. Your ideas combined with our expertise and process will result in a project that you can enjoy for decades to come with your family.
R. L. Rider Remodeling is Lansing’s top expert for constructing any type of outdoor entertaining space. Our craftsmen can handle any of the items in the glossary above, and our design team is happy to make your vision a reality. Once the project is complete, we’ll provide you a warranty for 2 years to make sure everything meets your expectations to the fullest. If you’re ready to get started on your porch, patio, or deck, then give us a call at (517) 487-3713 or fill out the contact form on our website. We offer a zero-pressure sales process so you can feel confident we won’t badger you or send you a million emails just for asking a question!