A Guide to Adding Decks, Pergolas and Pavilions to Your Outdoor Space

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    You and your family deserve a space that reflects the idea that function and style can co-mingle. There are times when an outdoor living area wouldn’t make sense without consider the shade options of a pergola or the additional space available with a deck.

    When does it make sense to choose a deck instead of a patio?

    That depends on your priorities. Decks make the most sense for elevated structures on second floors. They can also be a great option if you have substantial sloping and want to add usable outdoor living space. Beyond that, decks provide a different look and texture than stone or pavers.

    When a space is level or slightly sloped, it becomes much more difficult to decide if a deck or paver patio is a better option. This is where your priorities make the decision a little easier. Although high-grade composite decks can cost more than some paver patios, a simple cedar decks can be less of an investment. However, the maintenance is high compared to stone and the longevity is almost always less. Cedar does last more than many other types of lumber, but doesn’t tend to last longer than a stone or paver patio. At this point, you must decide what your budget priorities are and what style you’re hoping for.

    If a deck is right for you, consider the three main causes of deck failure and ensure deck builders in Kansas City addresses these in their bid.

    1. Adequate footers for your posts. The footers must extend below the frost line for your area and also be solid enough to support the weight of the deck and intended users. Settling and shifting footers are one of the major causes of deck failure. Don’t skimp on small, or weak footers. You’ll waste your money.
    2. Solid beams with proper non-rust fasteners. Cheap contractors will sneak low quality beams or fasteners that rust to save money. This will cause problems in the future. Beams must be engineered for the size of deck specified and footers must be spaced utilizing local codes.
      • Speaking of codes: Be sure to ask your professional if a permit is needed and who is responsible.
    3. Utilize flashing and don’t bury posts under soil: Decay is expedited when flashing is not installed and posts are buried without proper considerations. Yes, cedar is durable. Yes, it can still decay over time. Replacing posts is the number one phone call we get on aging decks. Protect yourself by asking that posts either be attached to the piers via a bracket that sits above ground, or that the posts be wrapped in galvanized flashing. (We utilize brackets so none of the posts are buried.) Flashing should also be considered anywhere the deck meets the house above your house flooring sill. It depends upon the type of siding and house construction, but it’s better to ask for verification from your professional.


    Lumber: Pine and Cedar- Cedar lasts way longer than pine and is better suited for outdoor use. The natural oils in cedar prevent decay for several years. The cedar ages to a grey color unless a sealer or stain is applied. Cedar can be stained one the curing process has occurred. Stains do not absorb into cedar well until all of the oils have been secreted.

    Composite: There are varying grades of composite. Although must less maintenance, we do not suggest using a composite unless it is a higher-grade composite. The low-grade materials fade, peel, and warp. The high-grade composites age much more gracefully and provide the low maintenance benefits. Be forewarned, the good composites are not cheap.

    Exotic Hardwoods: Ipe, Teak wood, and several other exotic hardwood have become a staple in high-end deck construction. Though the investment is high, they’re long lasting and have a unique color range. Very little maintenance is needed with these, but the investment is substantial.


    Shade is a huge factor in the functionality of a space. A space that has no reprieve from the heat will not be a usable space during the afternoon. If the outdoor living area is protected by the house or there is existing shade, a pergola or pavilion may not be needed. However, if the space is exposed, the addition of a shade structure could be a wise investment.


    Pergolas range from kits to custom and can be wood or vinyl. Pergolas are an open-top structure. With berms running across the support system. Spacing of these beams will determine how much shade or protection is available. If a client likes the look of a pergola, but wants to use the space if it’s raining, there are water-proofing systems available.

    Water proofing systems for pergolas tend to fall into two categories:

    1. Vinyl underlayment canopies that can be retracted when the weather is nice.
    2. Louvre style beams that open when nice and close when raining. These are often aluminum to make them light weight for the louvres.


    Pavilions are a closed roof structure similar to a home with no walls. They have posts to hold the roof, but are open to the outdoor living space. They can be created to complement the style of existing architecture and can be free-standing or attached. The roof style and type of shingles are customizable. The posts can also be rustic or formal depending upon client tastes. Since pavilions have a solid roof, they’re incredibly easy to add lighting, televisions, and other electronics that can be a little more difficult with open shade systems. These are the largest investment of the shade options available.

    Contact High Prairie Outdoors today for your Kansas City pergola or deck project.

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    About The Author

    Robyn is a 2009 Graduate of the Kansas State University Department of Horticulture. She grew up in South East Kansas where she graduated from Humboldt High School. She was a Kansas State University Leadership Scholar and President of the Horticulture Club. She married Bret in 2009 and they have a daughter Ellie, born in 2021. Their family is completed by three adopted dogs.

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