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Selecting a Stylish Deck Covering

Pergolas, like this one, offer partial cover but can add more shade with climbing vines or even outdoor fabric. See more deck and patio decor pictures.

Decks create an extension of living space from the indoors out and they add room for enjoying the outdoors with all of the conveniences of home. Even in the most perfect and temperate climates, however, getting the most out of a deck means keeping it covered at least some of the time to keep the sun and rain at bay and to provide some privacy or even electricity.

Before unrolling the tattered, moldy umbrella from seasons past or spending another season watching for signs of bird and squirrel life on your deck from the climate-controlled indoors, consider some of these stylish deck covering options, both temporary and permanent:

  • Awnings -- Most awnings attach to a home permanently but are ideally versatile because they can be stretched out over a deck and then retracted when not in use. Whether in hand-crank or remote-controlled varieties, awnings also offer protection from sun and rain, provide privacy and they're easy to clean. Colors, designs and prices vary a great deal too, making them an even more versatile option.
  • Pergolas -- Not to be confused with gazebos (more on those, next), pergolas are either permanent or movable and offer partial cover. Most are open structures on poles with a latticework or cross-hatched kind of roof made of wood or metal. While you can still see the open sky with a pergola overhead, it's possible to cover the openings with vining plans or draped fabrics. While a pergola won't keep out the rain, it can keep you stylishly shaded in foliage or color, at least partially.
  • Gazebos -- Unlike pergolas, gazebos have solid tops, or roofs, and can keep out the rain. They are similar in that they can be permanent and attached to a deck, or portable and temporary, and they're made mostly from wood or metal, but they are almost always freestanding structures and not an extension of the deck by vertical poles and no sides, as a pergola is. A gazebo may offer too much coverage for some, but is a great choice for regions where enjoying a deck is limited to warm months. You can close off a gazebo in inclement weather and have a beautiful outdoor structure to boot.
  • Tarps and Shade Sails -- Similar to awnings, tarps and sails stretch out over decks but unlike awnings, they are usually completely temporary and are attached only by poles at the four corners of the deck. Tarps and sails do come in a wide assortment of patterns and materials, so they can be stylish and perfect for occasional events and even frequent use, but they do need to be assembled and removed as needed.
  • Umbrellas -- Having a deck table or several with removable umbrellas is an excellent and often budget-friendly option for covering a deck, but only if they're well maintained from season-to-season or use-to-use. They also come in a myriad of colors, sizes and designs and are easier to clean now than in years past. With a few simple cleaning and storing steps, they can keep you covered and uncovered easily and affordably no matter where you live.

If none of these options offer enough cover or enough style, turning the deck into a screened porch or all-seasons sunroom is only a few thousand dollars away. Though, being that covered can take too much of the outdoors of a deck back inside.