upgrade your deck mark rason

DIY expert Mark Rason on how to upgrade your deck this summer

Four backyard projects that are both stylish and functional

Mark Rason is an expert DIY’er and self-taught woodworker and carpenter who frequently shares his tips and tricks on building high-quality, hand-crafted products on social media. He is also the project manager for Scott McGillivray’s Youtube series called Scott’s House CallFollow him at @remarkableworks to discover new ideas and inspiration.

This is the year of the backyard stay-cation. Whatever outdoor space you have at home is going to be the number one spot to build memories this summer now that we can host physically-distanced backyard hangouts. For those with enough space to build a deck, why not take it one step further and add some creative elements to really wow your visitors.

During these past few months under lockdown, I finally had the chance to redo my entire deck and think of innovative, but useful features that are stylish and practical. There are a plethora of great decking materials on the market from composite to vinyl, but for my project I used MicroPro Sienna pressure-treated lumber. Here are some of the ideas I implemented that you can use to upgrade your deck while keeping it very functional.

Curved pergola

We’re all familiar with the typical pergola, but I like to think outside the box. I wanted to add some modern design flair by making it curved. The curved pergola I just completed for my backyard is not only a huge wow factor, it serves functional purposes too. It provides plenty of shade during hot summer afternoons and it was easy to build. I also added interesting design accents with built-in niches and hanging lights. The result is a beautiful, durable build that will stand the test of time (and be the envy of all of the neighbours).

Built-in cooler

Hands-down, my favourite part about the summer is cocktails and beers in the backyard (and apple juice for my daughter, of course). But an essential factor is that you want to keep those beverages cold while having them easily accessible in the backyard. So I thought to myself, what if I use the unused space under the joists of the deck as a built-in cooler? I added some strapping to the bottom of the joists and I slid a small plastic planter box with ice between them. It instantly became a mini cooler. If you don’t love the idea of having a cooler at your feet, you can do the same thing with a picnic table by carving out a small centrepiece trough.  


barbecue nook mark rason
The barbecue nook

Barbecue nook

For the grill master in your family, create a walled nook to tuck away your barbecue. It’s been one of the most sought-after features recently from my clients. Not only will it make your backyard tidier, but you can tuck away extra propane tanks, bringing functionality and style together. To minimize trips in and out of your house, you can also build shelves or side tables in your nook that can hold utensils or a barbecue cover — allowing you to focus on what’s most important: grilling the perfect steak for your friends and family.

AC unit cover

With the summer heat comes the summer sound, and nothing sounds more like summer than the constant hum of your air conditioner. My solution is to create a custom cover that hides the unsightliness and sound of the AC unit. If, like mine, your air conditioner sits against a wall of your house, you will only need to build out three walls. Remember to leave a minimum 18-inch clearance between the wall and the unit, and build it just above the height of the unit — any closer and you risk burning out the motor. You may also consider installing a swinging door with hinges so that it can be accessed easily should it need to be serviced.

Whether you’re a first time DIYer or a seasoned expert, these practical but innovative additions to your backyard will surely impress your neighbours and allow you to get the most out of your outdoor space.

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