STYLE

'Disaster Decks' profiles and fixes outdoor DIY projects gone awry

04/05/2013 01:20 EDT | Updated 06/05/2013 05:12 EDT
TORONTO - Dreams of an outdoor oasis can quickly dissolve for homeowners who tackle backyard builds without the skills and knowledge to do the job properly.

Home renovation show "Disaster Decks" profiles cases of DIY gone awry. But homeowners don't just get to show up for the big reveal — they're put to work.

Designer and carpenter Paul Lafrance takes on hosting duties on the new series, bringing along familiar faces from his HGTV Canada series "Decked Out," including landscaper Jeff Sarty and stylist Heidi Richter.

"It's still fun," Richter said in an interview. "We've still got the whole gang with their jokes and all of the rest of it, but it's a little more tutorial."

"The homeowner is involved and what they are doing is teaching them how to rebuild the deck. It's generally people that built their own deck or they've inherited an old crappy deck from an old purchase. So we go in and help them."

"Disaster Decks" premieres Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET on HGTV Canada. The first of two back-to-back episodes features Leo and Anne, whose lovely home is attached to an outdoor eyesore.

Anne yearns for a lounge area to be able to host guests, but the dilapidated deck constructed by do-it-yourselfer Leo 25 years ago is hardly fit for entertaining with its rotting wood and exposed nails.

Lafrance and his team enlist Leo as they reconstruct the deck, while Richter steps in toward the end of the reno to bring in furniture and other decorative touches. She said a common thread among the decks gone wrong was really noticeable in the finishing.

"They would get things ... to a functional stage, but they were all looking a little rough around the edges. So they just need a little bit more help with that finishing just to tweak them and make it a more professional deck."

Rather than going over-the-top extravagant with the outdoor projects, Richter said the aim of "Disaster Decks" is to focus on more attainable ideas for the average homeowner.

"What we were trying to do is to find decks that already had good strong footings or supports so there wasn't a whole lot of structural work to be done," she said. "We could use the framework and basically re-decking, adding new details — railings, privacy screens and that sort of thing."

For viewers inspired to have a new or revamped deck of their own to enjoy during warmer weather, don't reach for the tools — or your wallet — just yet. Richter said it's important for homeowners to determine how they're going to use their outdoor space and to have help to determine how their build will take shape.

"Do they want the beautiful built-in kitchen? Do they want just a small deck area? Do they want to do a deck or do they want to do a stone patio?" she asked. "If they have children, then they want to ensure that they have some space for them to run as well. So the first step is just deciding how you want to use your backyard."

Richter said it's important that the newly installed or renovated deck will co-ordinate well with the existing home and surrounding environment. She said some of the decks they've constructed have encompassed virtually the entire backyard as many people are steering away from lawns, which are high-maintenance and use a lot of water.

When it comes to incorporating decorative details, Richter suggested additions that are both personal and functional.

"There's now lots of wonderful wall hangings that you can put in. You can put inserts into a privacy screen. There are multitudes of design ideas that you can use for that," she said. "There's Plexiglas that has bamboo embedded in it which allows the light to travel through, but also adds some textural detail. You can soften the deck as well by adding some privacy curtains."

Richter also recommended steering away from a uniform look for outdoors by stitching together different pieces and textiles.

"Don't go in there and buy one full complete matching set. Mix and match the fabrics a little bit, mix and match the furniture. It just makes it feel more custom and a little more personal."

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