The decking world is no different than other trades in terms of changes that have taken place. Like with cars that have seen changes from station wagons to SUVs back to economy vehicles, so too has the decking industry gone through changes.
When I first started building decks back in 1987, it was fashionable to have a simple, square deck. Back then, if you had a deck with angles on the outside corners you were considered pretty unique. By the time the early and mid 90’s rolled around, the hot items were arbors, planters and benches. Homeowners had gotten tired of the simple look and were looking for add-ons to accentuate the experience. Of these three, I’d say that arbors are the most used today. I can’t tell you how many times I notice empty planter boxes now. While I think benches were a good idea, people just don’t tend to use them as much as I think they expected…I really only see their use today at big parties, and the big parties have subsided to a large degree (if they were ever held at all). Arbors have continued to do their part in protecting homeowners from the sun, which is why I continue to build them. I don’t see their usefulness fading in this generally hot, sunny Georgia environment. The only time I’ll build a planter or bench today is on a very large project where there needs to be some balancing out.
One new decking development over the last five years has been deck lighting. I generally recommend and install lighting as part of any project today. Deck lighting serves several purposes…most notably ambiance and practicality. When using the deck at night, low voltage lighting puts out a soft light which provides a cascade of warm ambiance. Lighting also serves as a basic safety measure especially when the homeowner has no lights in the back area of the house. While some things come and go, I think deck lighting is here to stay.