Designing for outdoor living herov2

Designing for outdoor living

Making best use of the flow from the indoor to the outdoor area can add a sense of space and ambience to your home. We look at what you need to consider for decks, balconies and swimming pools.

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Indoor/outdoor living and long summer evenings on the deck and around the barbeque are a favourite part of family life for many New Zealanders. Plan for good indoor/outdoor flow in your design and consider your decking needs. The position of the house in relation to sun and boundaries will dictate the size and shape of the deck to a certain extent. Be aware that there may be local council restrictions on how much ground a deck can cover.

Other matters to consider are shading and shelter from the prevailing wind. To make the deck more interesting, consider in-built seating, steps, planters and unusual floor shapes.

If you are building a deck as part of a renovation, you will need building consent if the deck is more than one metre above the ground. Contact your local council for advice. Decks more than one metre above the ground must have a barrier (of at least one metre high – Clause F4.3.1 Building Code). Your council will be able to advise you about fencing requirements, any boundary restrictions and any resource consents required.

If you are doing the work yourself, make sure you use the correct grade of timber treatment, have the right gaps between decking boards (approximately 6mm between decking boards and 12mm between the deck and building walls). This is important to allow drainage and resist rotting.

Use bolts and flashing suitable for decks and make sure barriers comply with the Building Code.


There are important design and construction requirements for balconies to make sure they don’t leak and rot, such as:

  • A step-down from the doorsill
  • A slope on the balcony floor
  • A gap between the balcony and the wall claddings
  • Taking care around junctions to ensure weathertightness.
  • Using correctly treated timber.

Rotting balconies, decks and balustrades have been identified as a significant safety hazard.

Swimming pools

There are a number of different ways to build a swimming pool, from buying a ready-made pool which sits on top of the ground and requires minimal work to install, to having a custom made in-ground pool built on site.

Placement of the pool will depend on your section and position of the house, but you should also consider the impact of sunlight, access, trees and privacy. You will probably need to engage a chartered professional engineer to test the ground for stability. (Look in the Yellow Pages for an engineer.)

You can have fun with the shape when you custom design your pool. If you want to swim laps, a basic rectangle would be best. Or consider a large area for kids play and smaller areas off to one side for a quiet soaking. Some pools integrate a spa pool. Consider in-pool lighting for night swimming, as well as lighting around the edge of the pool. Custom-made pools can also come in a range of colours.

The other thing to consider is landscaping – for example, tiling the edges or using gardens, rocks and waterfalls. Take care with the types of plants and trees that will drop a lot of leaves or seeds into the pool.

You must fence the pool area. There are very specific fencing requirements set down by the Fencing of Swimming Pools Act and the Building Code.

Finally, don’t forget about filtration systems and whether you want to heat the pool or not. Shop around, as there are many different systems available and a big variation in the costs of purchase and running. You will need somewhere to store chemicals and pool equipment and possibly even somewhere for people to change if you don’t want water dripped through the house.

There are companies that offer a complete package of design, build and pool care. Check out the Yellow Pages.

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