Q. I want to add a unique deck and screened gazebo kit to my house. It gets baked by the afternoon sun in the summer and my electric bills show it. Is there a way to build a deck to help shade the house?
A. There are several designs of solar decks that will not only keep your house cooler and cut your air-conditioning bills, but they will lower your winter heating bills too.
These decks have the unique appearance that you seek and provide more privacy than a standard flat deck with a rail.
Anytime you can spend comfortable time outdoors, either on a deck or in an insect-free gazebo, you can set your air-conditioner thermostat higher and cut those electric bills.
The typical family also creates a lot of heat when they are indoors by using TV's, cooking, just moving and breathing.
You can build a single-level solar deck, but a contemporary two-level one is not much more work and it will certainly look better and be more efficient. This is particularly true for an east or west orientation.
What 'solar' means: The designation of & quot;solar & quot; deck comes from the positioning of top and side trim, which varies depending on the orientation to the sun.
The concept is to block the intense summer sun from baking your house walls, yet allow it to shine through in the winter. It also provides a windbreak in the winter.
Building a solar deck on the west side of your house provides the greatest year-round efficiency. The top of the deck should be covered with 1-by-6 louvers that are tilted to block the summer sun that is high in the sky. Tilt them enough so that the lower winter sun will shine through them.
Cover the side of either the upper or lower level with tilted louvers, but not both because you may feel closed in.
Slant the side louvers outward from top to bottom and space them fairly wide apart to allow cool evening breezes through.
Building a screened gazebo kit is a great idea. I built a modular gazebo kit several years ago and I spend many comfortable evenings in it away from the mosquitoes.
It is a cedar model with floor and screen kits. The only tool I used was one screwdriver to attach all of the preassembled panels together.
The range of designs of do-it-yourself gazebo kits is tremendous.
Smaller, about 10-foot-diameter octagonal models, like mine, are typical.
Larger ones, octagonal or oblong, with multiple roof levels, cupolas, ornate copper roofs and glass windows for year-round use are available.
If you plan to use no-maintenance vinyl, or other composites for your deck, consider a vinyl gazebo kit too. These 10-foot-octagonal vinyl kits are white, attractive and easy to build. They use no-maintenance aluminum inner supports for strength.
UWrite for Update Bulletin 456, which gives a buyer's guide of 13 gazebo kit manufacturers listing sizes, materials (wood or vinyl), features and detailed instructions for building east, west and south-facing solar decks. Please send $3 and a business-size SASE to James Dulley, The Vindicator, 6906 Royalgreen Drive, Cincinnati, Ohio 45244. For an instant download, visit James Dulley online at www.dulley.com.