One of the most interesting challenges which architects face is creating an apartment block with terraces or adding a terrace to a large home. They are fantastic outside areas and can play many parts, depending on their individual style and size. What makes a terrace great for a homeowner is the ability to entertain guests or be outside cooking a barbeque overlooking your outside area without the chance of damaging anything in your garden.
Terraced houses are quite often cheaper than semi detached or townhouses, mostly because of their previously stigmatized attachment to working class families. The recent reversal of this has lead to a steady incline, but they homes with a terrace are still cheaper than many others. Modern terraces offer a fantastic outdoor area, and depending on the size they can be used for a great many things. Smaller terraces are great for a simple outdoor seated area for two. Larger areas, (especially in more modern apartment blocks with big terraces) can often serve as a second outdoor room, with entertaining space enough for seating people in a similar fashion to a dining room.
There are some small problems for owners of homes with a terrace. If you have large windows or sliding glass doors as your entrance to the outside area, especially in the Northwestern United States, you can expect to have a slightly higher energy bill in winter. This is because the larger entrance will mean your home will not be as warm in winter as needed. If you live in a terraced apartment building, there is somewhat of a lack of privacy as people above will have a full view of the goings on, this also means there is a greater chance of noise travelling further than it usually would. Lastly, because you are outside, if your terrace is on the second level of your house, there is a chance of unwanted individuals being able to see what’s standing up on your property.
There are a number of ways to decorate the outside area, and also a few considerations you should look at before trying to decorating your own terrace. Firstly, look at the area you have available, and consider which items would best suit the space you have. If you aren’t sure what's available, then talk to your local professional about this. In an apartment, many people tend to use their terraces as a garer area. To do this you need to look for plants which are hardy and can handle direct sunlight and also don’t grow too high. Trees in pots are a great addition, but be careful to find out from your plant supplier which ones would be suitable and remain small. You can plant a wall creeper in a pot and train it to climb a trellis if you want more privacy. Plants such as jasmine and climbing roses are fantastic smelling plants for this. If you have a larger terrace, you can place furniture down, enough to seat as many people as you need. Some homeowners prefer to use a dining table which they move in and out, others prefer to have tables and chairs permanently placed, this is up to your own personal tastes. You can keep your barbeque on your terrace if you have enough space, but be aware that you’ll want to keep it in an area where any smoke moves upwards into clear air, and not back inside the house!
Depending on what the style of your house is, you can have many materials which will fit well with just about anything. Most commonly, terrace flooring is made from wood. This requires some care especially if you live in an area which receives a high average yearly rainfall. Large pine or oak beams will be the most popular types of wood. Pine because it is easily available and cheap, as well as being easy to take care of, oak because it’s extremely strong and is one of the woods which lasts a long time. You can also choose to have a tiled floor, especially if your home is styled to be more modern. Be sure to pick tiles which are non-slip for wet conditions, especially if you have a roof terrace.
For the “wall” of the terrace there are also many options to choose from. There are older colonial styles houses which display wooden walls, usually with horizontal slats, painted in a neutral colour. These walls can also be metal railings, which can double as a growing area for a creeper vine or scented plant similar to those mentioned earlier. If you have a ground level terrace there are a few styles of walling which can apply. For older homes on larger properties, larger stone or concrete rails are very common with much older homes, and can give the garden to which they lead a very nice feel. Pot plants can be a nice added touch here.
Depending on the state you live in, you may want to add a roof to your terrace. This is a usually a good idea for many reasons. If you live in the North, the colder and snowier winters can do significant damage to outside furniture, so unless you plan to move it in beforehand it’s better to have a roof to keep harsh weather from doing damage. In the South there is the exact opposite with very hot summers. Roof shutters are the best option for you here, since they will control both the amount of direct light from the midday sun. They will also be louvered and be able to control the airflow. You can have a simple awning if you are on a smaller property as well, which will serve the purpose of keeping unwanted light out.
If you have a roof terrace, then it’s best to have a full roof under which guests can sit and relax regardless of the time of day or position of the sun. These are especially good looking when coupled with a traditional mediterranean style with large pillars holding the roof in place instead of full walls.
As with any area outside, a terrace will get dirty, as will the furniture that is outside on it. Prepare to do quite a significant amount of sweeping, since wind will bring in dust daily. For your furniture, keep any pillows or fabric based items inside until you intend to use it. This will ensure the longevity of items which would otherwise get damaged by the sun and other weather damage.
Clean your furniture regularly with a soapy sponge and mild soap. If you have wood furniture be sure to check for any water damage and keep it in good condition by polishing it with a furniture polish like Pledge on a lint free cloth. If you see dull areas on your wood furniture, it’s time to re-varnish the affected area. If this is the case you may also want to sand down the wood first to clear any existing varnish away and apply a fresh coat. The same method applies to louvered roof shutters as well, so be prepared for some chores if you want to install these. If you have a barbeque on your terrace, remember to keep it clean, and clean any dirty grill plates off away from the floor of the terrace to avoid oil stains (or ash marks if you have a wood fire barbeque) on the surface.
Talk to a professional if you’ve considered building a terrace on to your home. They will be able to advise you on any restrictions which exist and also what kinds of furniture and other items you may want to add to your terrace.