Renovation & Design

Built-in seats take deck to new level

A design worthy of doing more than once

Marc Labossiere

The built-in benches are now a viable seating option.

Marc Labossiere

Roman Gossow jumped at the opportunity to have the same style of bench on his deck as Hoang’s.

Marc Labossiere

Sarah-Jane Hicks’s deck benches also mimic the style of Hoang’s deck.

Marc LaBossiere

The benches were built using brown-treated lumber along the perimeter of a low-level deck for Marie Hoang.

Decks are fun to put together — they are relatively straightforward and don’t often deviate from the standard building elements; a support structure, which involves beams and joists set atop a rigid base of posts and pads or counter-sunk ground anchors, top-decking of some sort and a combination of railings and stairs to suit specific functional and esthetic aspects.

On occasion, however, a client wishes to break from the ordinary and requests something different — which makes the build even more fun.

Although I’d been building decks for a while, my client Marie Hoang had requested something I had never tackled — benches built into the deck along the perimeter of the low-tiered deck design, instead of using railings.

Of course, the design of the benches would need to be esthetically worthy of the deck, as well as functional. So, I set upon sketching a few designs that, in theory, would cater to both requirements.

By using elements already found throughout any deck build, the benches evolved into a viable seating option and double as railings. The main supports for the benches consist of vertical two-by-10s, 46 centimetres high, cut with equal 28-degree angles at the top and bottom edges — with four-by-four posts in the reverse to act as the higher back support. On top of the two-by-10s, parallel two-by-six boards were horizontally attached to serve as the seat of the benches.

Two-by-eight boards were attached along the top side of the four-by-four angled posts as the seat back and a two-by-six was set atop the four-by-four posts as a top cap. The entire bench is built with brown treated lumber and matches the top decking and fascia of the low-level deck. The deck’s footprint includes several perimeter angles, which the bench follows on both sides. This, of course, required the need for several compound miter cuts at every joint. Once secured to the top decking at each leg, the bench was ready for use.

Sometime later that season, the bench design was recycled at another location. Roman Gossow, who initially contacted me for a repair to his existing deck, mentioned that he wanted to discuss the possibility of built-in benches on the high tier of his deck.

Upon reviewing the photos I had taken after completing the benches at the Hoang deck build, he immediately jumped at the opportunity to include two benches of similar design on his deck, built in much the same manner.

Unlike the Hoang deck, Gossow’s deck was topped with cedar. Therefore, cedar was used to build the parallel two-by-six seat top, the two-by-eight seat back and two-by-six cap — brown treated was, of course, used for the two-by-10 and four-by-four support elements. Gossow then sealed the benches, to match the existing top decking.

Another deck, constructed the following spring for Sarah-Jane Hicks and her family, also closely mimics the Hoang bench perimeter design. In this instance, the deck is significantly higher off the ground.

As such, it was necessary that the built-in bench wraps completely around the entire deck, minus a 12-foot gap at the centre of the outer edge, where the staircase is located. The deck’s footprint incorporates esthetic 45-degree angles at both outer corners. In that, the benches follow the perimeter, the complexity of the mitered joints increased drastically for the installation of the bench’s seats, seatbacks, and top caps — the middle sections of the bench required miters at both ends of each board.

Luckily, the deck’s angled corners were all consistent and mitering the joints became systematic after the first few. The wrap-around bench not only provides the safety of a railing, it offers a tremendous amount of additional seating as well. This simple design provides an esthetic alternative to railings, which are required on higher-level decks.

With deck season just around the corner, the deck requests have begun to trickle in. Although some clients have a preconceived notion of what it is they want from a deck build, the ability to provide a potential client with a few visual ideas, using photos from past builds, has proven highly beneficial.

Due to one request for a custom built-in bench, the positive results derived from that build have grown, having been implemented on a few subsequent occasions. And although it is important for a contractor to introduce distinctive characteristics on each and every deck build, it feels good when something previously achieved is born again into something new... ’cause a recycled design is kind of flattering.


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