Backyard decks have become a staple of American home architecture, offering a soothing and accessible space for relaxation and socializing. But how did these outdoor features — essentially outdoor additions — become so popular?
Since the days of the early American colonies, and over the next 200 years or so, porches were most prevalent, serving a variety of needs for outdoor living space. Backyards were strictly utilitarian spaces where homeowners were cultivating vegetable gardens and perhaps raising some livestock. Between that and the outhouse, backyards weren’t exactly the go-to spot for relaxation and leisure.
The vintage backyard deck as a concept didn’t truly take off until the 20th century, notably during the post-World War II housing boom.
The spread of indoor plumbing, suburbia and supermarkets allowed for more outdoor recreational space — and with that, backyard decks (and patios) emerged, symbolizing a comfortable and inviting way of life.
The 1960s marked significant advancements in decking, with pressure-treated wood helping to make decks both durable and affordable. The DIY movement of the 1970s further facilitated the growth of backyard decks, as homeowners began to construct and personalize their outdoor spaces.
In the 1980s and 1990s, a new player entered the scene: composite materials. These innovative mixtures of wood fibers, plastics, and synthetic elements provided an alternative to traditional wood. Composites resist warping and splintering, offering greater durability with less maintenance.
With a variety of colors and textures, they enable a higher level of personalization. Even though they might cost more upfront, their long-lasting nature and ease of care often make composites a sensible choice, adding an exciting dimension to modern backyard decking.
While the earliest decks were simply laid out, as the decades rolled on, decks continued to evolve — reflecting various architectural styles and incorporating luxurious amenities and more complexity to the structures, from multilevel decking to built-in seating.
In the 21st century, with an emphasis on sustainability, many homeowners opt for environmentally friendly materials and are integrating their decks with outdoor kitchens, fire pits, lighting and other conveniences.
Today, backyard decks are a natural extension of American homes, bridging indoor and outdoor living and offering a festive gathering place. The history of backyard decks in the US paints a picture of innovation, creativity, and the ever-evolving desire for comfortable outdoor spaces.