Universal design should be a major consideration in planning outdoor spaces to ensure full enjoyment of your home for years to come. With a bit of forethought, you can create a beautiful, accessible patio or deck that seamlessly connects with your home’s interior, expanding your daytime and evening living space. Special features like a pool, spa, and gardens personalize and add pleasure to your home.
Access & Traffic Flow
Allow everyone who lives in or visits your home to enjoy the outdoor spaces you have created by making it easy to access your patio, deck, and pathways. As you plan the placement of your deck or patio, consider the best location for doors leading to it. If you want a quiet retreat for relaxing, you may wish to access your deck or patio from the master suite. For frequent entertaining, consider connecting to your family room. And if alfresco dining is your style, access from your kitchen makes it easy to bring food out and clean up after the meal is over.
Doors should be easy to open. Install a smooth-sliding patio door or wide double French doors with lever-style handles. A threshold that is flush (or not higher than ¼ inch) with the deck or patio eliminates the risk of tripping and makes it safer and easier to move in and out. A minimal threshold works for wheelchair users and also enables you to roll a cart of drinks, plates, or food in and out.
To prevent water from entering the home’s interior (which can be a problem with a low threshold), allow for drainage by leaving a gap no less than ⅜ inch where the decking meets the door, installing drains within each threshold to divert water, and grading the patio away from the home with at least a 2 percent slope for run-off. Also take into account traffic patterns on your deck or patio. Arrange furniture, potted plants, and other items out of the way of doors and away from paths to the backyard. Following some of the standard universal design guidelines for interior spaces can help: Include at least 5 feet of unobstructed turnaround space on your deck or patio, and allow for a minimum of 36 inches of clearance to accommodate passage around and through groupings of furniture.