Dear James: We have a large raised sun deck in our backyard and we were hoping to make it not-so-sunny at times. It often is too hot in the sun and we end up back inside with the air-conditioning. How can I get my family into the fresh air without too much suffering from the heat? -- Shannon W.
Dear Shannon: The heat gets to all of us during summertime. There is no real way to eliminate it, except for swimming pools and air conditioners, but you can block the direct sun. Adding an overhead cover to all or just part of the deck seems like the perfect solution. Your deck, as well as your family, gets a break from the sun and you still get the fresh air you are looking for.
There are three basic ways to construct an effective and attractive deck cover. The first type, a balloon structure, is a cover supported by the same posts and beams that support the deck. The second type is a freestanding structure, which is built around an existing deck. The third type, and most common, is a trellis-style platform structure. This is supported by a separate structure, built on top of and attached to your deck.
When planning your trellis-style platform cover, first decide if you want partial sun or a totally shaded deck. After you have decided, begin the project by laying posts out on your deck. Next fasten a post base to the surface of the deck using galvanized steel fasteners to prevent rusting.
Cut a 4x4-wood post to the proper height for the cover and set it in the post base. Brace the post temporarily at two angles for support, nailing the braces only partially for easy removal later. Make sure the braces are securely set in the ground for good support.
After you have installed and braced all of the posts, fasten the front beam to the front post. Since this is the beam that carries most of the structure's weight, codes may require double beams for added strength. Next fasten the back beam to the posts. Lay out and mark the roof joist positions on the beams.
Typically, the roof joists are spaced 16 to 24 inches on center. Depending on what your local codes will allow, you can space them further apart or closer together for the desired amount of shade. Again, use galvanized steel fasteners to connect the joists to the beams. Now you can add a cover fill-in material for even more shade and a decorative touch.
There are many types of fill-in materials including wood, plastic and canvas. Using a canvas cover is best for substantial shading and it is also relatively inexpensive. It is fairly durable and provides the most rain protection too.
Attach the canvas cover to the wood frame using 1/4-inch-diameter rope. Pull it fairly taut so rainwater does not puddle on it. Either have the fabric professionally hemmed or sew it yourself using a sailmaker's needle and Dacron thread.
You can also install the grommets yourself using a grommet die and block kit. A tied-on canvas cover should have grommets every eight inches and at each corner. Double the thickness where the grommets are installed.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com.