Design & DIY

Chill-proof your deck with these fall reno projects

Chill proof your deck

As cottagers, we’d love nothing more than to spend every waking moment on our decks. They’re the perfect place for sipping the morning’s first cup of coffee, firing up the barbecue and feasting with family, and cracking open a craft beer while the sun recedes behind the tree tops. Which is why we’re always eager to extend deck season as deep into autumn as our wool socks will allow.

But though the leaves may be falling, there’s no need to pack up your deck furniture just yet. We’ve come up with a list of projects that will let you push back winter and enjoy your outdoor space.


During the darkest winter months, the sun can set before dinner, making most decks a dead zone. But the right lighting can make even a chilly deck seem warmer and more inviting, and new LED and solar options make lighting up the night more efficient than ever.

Deck lighting offers an array of options for DIYers, from accent lights on the tops of posts and rails to recessed step lighting. The key to getting it right is deciding what works for how you use your deck.

Pro Tips

Start with practicality: Think about where light is most needed—for instance, adding safety around your stairs or visibility around your grill. Then add ambiance with subtle landscape lighting.

Match when possible: If you’re building a deck using a composite, most manufacturers will have a specific lighting line that fits perfectly with their product. Those matching options will almost always be the best fit.

Take it up a notch: For decadent deck lighting, consider recessed lighting that mounts flush with your deck’s surface, or add hidden lighting beneath the handrails to cast a downward glow between the rails.

Soak up the sun: Many outdoor lighting options allow you to combine a photocell with a timer so that your lights automatically switch on when the sun sets, but then also shut off once everyone’s asleep. Just be aware that solar lighting will typically be less powerful than lights you’ve wired in.


Summer is synonymous with barbecuing, but true grill masters know that putting away the tongs for winter isn’t an option. While we’re no strangers to brushing snow off the barbecue cover before firing up the grill, we can appreciate the convenience of a deck that stays dry and snow-free year round. As a bonus, you’ll be able to enjoy your deck on rainy summer nights.

Pro Tips

Start with structure: Ensure that your deck’s structure and your home’s building code will allow you to add a roof. If your deck’s footings aren’t large enough to support the additional weight of a roof, you’ll need to tweak your design so that the roof’s support posts are independent of your existing deck.

Design the details: From there, the complexity of your design may vary depending on your handiness and budget. You can affix a simple slanted roof frame to your home’s outer wall, or you can build a freestanding structure or pergola situated over a particular entertaining area.

Let the sunshine in: For a simple, slanted design, consider topping it with some tough corrugated polycarbonate so you can still soak up the sun.


Of all the season-extending upgrades you can make to your deck, outdoor heating ranks the highest in owner satisfaction. Restaurants use them to lengthen their profitable patio seasons and keep customers cozy, and you can use them to enjoy your outdoor space well into the fall.

Deck heaters are available in everything from stylish freestanding pedestal heaters to wall-mounted and tabletop heaters, and they use energy sources ranging from natural gas to propane and electricity. Natural gas is the typical source for permanent heaters, whereas propane lets you move the heat to where you need it most. Be sure to talk to a pro to choose the right source for your space.

Pro Tips

Come full circle: Some models will cast heat in a specific direction, while others will radiate heat outwards for 360-degree coverage. A unit that emits heat in various directions will usually be the best bang for your buck.

Free up floor space: For diminutive decks, wall-mounted heat sources will save floor space for foot traffic and seating. Many wall-mounted units, including infrared heat sources, will be powered by electricity.

Put heat on a pedestal: To score style points and emit 360-degree warmth, go with a pedestal patio heater, which will look more modern and less like a radiator.


Refinishing your deck might not keep your outdoor space toasty and usable during the dreary winter months. But it will help you sleep soundly, knowing that winter’s onslaught of crummy, wet, freezing weather won’t be seeping into your wood, causing warping, cracking, and splitting, not to mention discolouration.

Refinishing your deck might not sound like a stellar way to spend a Saturday, but once the leaves have been raked, the onset of fall usually means a shorter outdoor to-do list than the summer months, making it the perfect time to protect your deck. You also won’t miss your deck as much during the fall as you would in the summer, so it’s a great time for a little TLC.

Pro Tips

Clean it up: To protect your deck and provide peace of mind, start by cleaning it thoroughly. Use a bleach-free cleaner that’s been formulated for wood to lift dirt, remove mould and mildew, and return your wood to its natural state.

Find the right finish: Once you’ve stripped your deck clean, it’s time to apply a protective finish. Opt for a water-repellant finish to protect your deck against winter’s wet conditions, as moisture and fluctuating temperatures can lead to serious deck damage. With the right finish, you’ll not only rest assured that your deck will be pristine come spring; you’ll also be able to give the wood whatever look you desire.


For entertaining on cozy autumn nights, nothing beats an outdoor fireplace. Because it’s a permanent fixture and a focal point of your outdoor space, it will also increase the value of your property while adding years of low-maintenance outdoor enjoyment. An outdoor fireplace can be constructed with a range of non-combustible materials, including flagstone, river rock, limestone, brick, and concrete.

Pro Tips

Location, location, location: Wherever you choose to build the fireplace, you can trust that it will become a focal point for your family and guests whenever you spend time outdoors. Be sure that it’s central to your outdoor entertaining space to keep everyone happy and cozy.

Build it bench height: Because it will be a central gathering spot, be sure there’s ample seating around your fireplace. Even better, build a large hearth at bench height so that people can sit on the structure itself. An extended hearth can seat up to six people comfortably.

Size matters: For smaller spaces, a large fireplace can be overbearing. Build a smaller fireplace for more intimate entertaining on a smaller deck. But if you have a large deck with a pool or hot tub, go big or go home.

Pick your fuel: Wood and propane are common options for outdoor fireplaces, and both will allow you to build one almost anywhere on your deck or in your yard. But wood fireplaces, though less convenient, are usually cheaper to operate while emitting more heat. Wood fireplaces will also require an adequate chimney for a proper draft to keep the flames burning.