Photos Courtesy of MoistureShield
Photos Courtesy of MoistureShield

When it comes to your homeowner customers’ backyards, the possibilities are endless. The popularity of simple, boxy deck and landscape designs is transitioning to a desire to create something unique and modern. From multi-level decks to decks shaped like leaves, builders are imagining amazing designs and figuring out how to make them come to life. The rise of deck accessories like railing and lighting have opened the door even wider to creative outdoor spaces. These accessories, paired with inspired designs, are empowering builders to blend the decks they build to feel like a part of the landscape, not just an afterthought or free-standing platform.

One-of-a-kind Decks

A strong trend in deck design is the segmentation of separate smaller deck platforms. These “mini decks” can be built in places where a traditional deck might not fit, allowing for use of every part of a backyard, even those with a strange shape or intruding landscaping elements. Because of materials like composite decking, it is also becoming easier to build around these existing elements. With better workability than wood, composite decking can be curved to almost seamlessly encircle a tree or frame a garden (see “Workability of Composites” sidebar). Brands like MoistureShield® can even be installed with ground and water contact, allowing you to put deck elements where you might have thought you couldn’t, and opening up the design possibilities even more.

Deck elements of different shapes and sizes also can be incorporated into all areas of your customer’s yard by using decking materials and accessories that match your central element to create a boardwalk, small patio or even a pool surround. Adding lights and railing to these elements creates attractive lines for the eye to follow and further ties together the entire backyard.

Uncommon Color and Style

At one time, alternatives to wood decking were primarily artificial-looking materials like shiny vinyl. Now, wood alternatives such as modern composites offer a rich, warm look with realistic wood-grain details. With recent technology advances, composite manufacturers have established ways to vary the color tones of deck boards to resemble traditional wood. Purposefully designed with patterns that are more variable, today’s composite boards achieve the natural coloring and grain characteristics of wood deck boards.

Additionally, composite manufacturers offer decking, railing and trim in numerous colors, which enables builders to mix and match colors for visual interest – either complementing or contrasting the deck surface and railing with a home’s or building’s siding, trim and outdoor furnishings.

For a deck that requires railing, you don’t have to sacrifice the style of the rest of your space. Options like aluminum railing with glass or cable infills provide safety with an understated design, emphasizing the views around a deck and bringing a raised deck and its surrounding yard together well. Even a space that may not require railing, like a low-to-the-ground deck or a dock, can be customized with a non-traditional railing design. For example, using rope strung between posts can give your dock extra visual appeal.

New Possibilities

In addition to residential applications, high-performance, moisture-resistant composite decking works well in commercial deck projects. Look no further than Georgia’s Lake Lanier, an hour north of Atlanta. There, the 500-slip Port Royale Marina is installing composite decking throughout the facility, including in the main deck, docks, access bridges, and children’s spray park. “We chose composite decking because we didn’t want to have the maintenance issues associated with regular wood decking,” said Brent Pearson, Operations Manager for marina owner/operator TEI Industries. “Prior to MoistureShield, we always used 2x8 pressure treated lumber. Long-term durability is the key of course, that’s why we chose MoistureShield. Plus, our customers love it.”

When working with customers on their outdoor projects, consider the possibilities you have to create a living space that is as beautiful as it is functional. With these designs that channel upscale parks and luxurious resorts, anything from barbecues, pool parties, or just enjoying nature can be done in the comfort of the backyard – earning you rave reviews and customer referrals.

Brent Gwatney is senior vice president for sales at MoistureShield composite decking, a proud member of the North American Deck and Railing Association (NADRA). He has specialized in the building industry for more than 30 years, working with manufacturers, dealers, design professionals, contractors, and building officials. Gwatney can be reached at