"The deck is too sunny. The deck is too windy. The deck exposes us to the neighbors." Customers might not blame you for these issues, but do you want to take that chance? Instead, by considering the site conditions before starting the design, you can anticipate and solve these problems — and you may sell some upgrades that end up pleasing your customers in ways they didn't expect. Happy customers and more money in your wallet — that's how to do it.

Too many decks are sterile or bland, and others just seem raw and uninviting. There are, however, a number of ways to make decks more hospitable and functional, not to mention more profitable. You can easily enhance any of the designs in this article, for instance, by building in planters — I think most people are drawn to decks softened by plants.

Even a small arched trellis at the head of the stairs and post lights (perhaps doubling as bird-feeder supports) can provide visual limits to the deck area, thus creating a more intimate feeling in a wide-open space. With these types of details, the simplest deck can become a space where your customer loves to spend the weekend.

Sun and Shade

If the solar orientation of the deck is to the south or west, the summer sun glaring down all day is likely to overpower an awning or table umbrella. A simple pergola or trellis can provide comforting shade without feeling confining.

Keeping Wind at Bay

In some areas, prevailing winds prevent enjoyment outdoors — and are especially uncomfortable if it's cool outside. Wind screens or low walls strategically placed can block the chill wind and keep the pages of your customer's book from flapping.

Well-Placed Fencing

Privacy can be a big concern if a deck is to be located close to the neighbors, or on a corner lot where traffic passes nearby. In these cases, screens or walls and structures for plants to climb on, or perhaps a combination, can afford a sense of privacy.

Face-Lift for a Dull Site

Decks may be planned in areas with plenty of natural shade, shelter from wind, and privacy — but no character. One fix for this problem is an open framework overhead, such as in the design above for a two-story Federal- or Greek Revival-style house. To further define the space and add punch, you can combine features such as planters, ceiling fans, or seating. With thoughtful placement of the open framework, there is also a possibility for future enclosure of the area for use as a screened dining porch — a good sales feature if the customer is likely to be doing future improvements on the home.

Elaine Laney is a designer in Hendersonville, N.C.