Second-story decks with a drainage system underneath the deck boards capture water and divert it to a gutter, creating a dry living space below. Nicknamed the California room, Denver room, or Lone Star room, regions from coast-to-coast are happy to claim the amenity as their own.
A protected outdoor living room helps homeowners celebrate the outdoors wherever they are. It also expands a home’s usable square footage while sidestepping the challenges of air sealing a conditioned space. Concealed drainage systems allow gutters and downspouts to be hidden behind decorative beams and column trim, if that’s what the design calls for. Deck builders report that most homeowners don’t know about this option, and that a high percentage will opt for it once it is presented to them. “It’s a great seller,” says Tyler VanKatwijk of Artistic Decks in Bellingham, Wash., who says that all his second-story decks now include concealed drainage. “It rains a lot here, and this gives the homeowners an outside patio they can use even if it’s wet outside.”
Jon Dimich, owner of Deck Creations and Home Remodeling in Minnesota, estimates that a concealed drainage system increases the cost of a deck by roughly 20 percent, for a composite deck. The installation process also will extend by about a day. Dimich says he installed Dek Drain, an above-the-joist drainage system, in about 10 percent of his jobs last year. “Each year we add on a couple more,” he says.
Drainage systems installed above the joist are best for new construction. Jerry Herbert of Colorado Deck Drain Experts, who has been installing drainage systems for 18 years, says the advantage of the above-joist approach is that the framing stays dry. “The average deck around here lasts 16 to 22 years, but with this system a deck can last three to four decades because the framing never gets wet.” He also notes that many customers opt to cover the underside of the joists with a wood ceiling. The fact that the joist bays are watertight means the ceiling can be outfitted with recessed can lights.
A second type of deck-drainage system consists of metal or vinyl panels retrofitted to the bottom of the joists of an existing deck. With this system, the waterproofing and the finished ceiling are one and the same.
At Standard Pacific Homes, national director of architecture and product development Jeff Lake says the company is committed to an integrated outdoor space. “We take our cues from hospitality,” he says, adding that the outdoor living rooms often are merchandised just like the inside of the home. Throw rugs, televisions, fireplaces, and dining sets are just some of the out-of-the-box amenities that complete the staycation feel. “Even in some of the most difficult climates, there’s always beautiful weather. When it comes, homeowners love the idea of being able to be outside. It’s more than an idea, they love to be outside with their kids, with their family, to entertain.”