Here are 3 things you need to know and 5 options to consider

More and more people are using their decks year-round, and with good reason—it’s a great place to spend your time.

How is this possible here in the Centennial State? Luckily, there are several viable options for keeping your
Colorado deck warm and cozy, even during the dead of winter.

A Warm Deck is a Cozy Deck

(jjohnl / pixabay)

Before we get into the specifics of heating your deck, there are some general guidelines that are important to understand.

1. Wood and wood composite materials are flammable. A deck made with wood or wood substitute will burn, particularly if it’s exposed to an open flame. When selecting a heating method, keep this in mind. Even if a device that uses an open flame (like a kerosene heater, for example) is designed to be safe, accidents happen.

2. Radiant heat is more efficient—and effective—than convection heat. Radiant heat directly increases the temperature of objects within its vicinity. Convection heat warms air and then directs the heated air to the space around it. Radiant heat is an exponentially more effective heat source than convection heat. Any heater designated as in ‘infrared’ heater is by definition a radiant heater.

3. Anything placed between the deck and the outside air will make it warmer. Putting a covering over the deck will prevent at least some heat loss. Covering the sides and the top of the deck will make it even warmer. (As you would expect, this does not apply to an open-slat pergola.)

Understanding these principles will help you to decide on how to proceed, based on budget and preference. For example, although an enclosed deck will always be warmer than one that’s completely open, some people might feel like that defeats the purpose of the deck. And while radiant heaters are more effective than convection devices, they’re typically slightly more expensive as well.

With these principles in minds, here are some heating options, in order of most effective to least.

  • Radiant Space Heaters—These devices are typically fueled with propane, a relative safe option. They can also use electricity, although generally the gas fueled options yield a much greater heat output. One very popular style of deck heater—which you’ll often see in use at outdoor restaurants—is the high capacity, floor standing device. Radiant space heaters can also be attached to a wall adjacent to the deck, or even hung from a ceiling fixture. Depending on the size of your deck, the output of any given device, and the typical outside air temperature, it is generally the case that more than one such radiant space heater is required, particularly for larger decks.
  • Heated Floor Covering—Although it is possible to install a comprehensive heated deck floor, it is very expensive and only partially effective at heating the entire deck. However, it is possible to use heated deck mats to augment any other deck heating solutions you decide to employ. Heated deck mats are often more industrial in appearance, with aesthetics giving way to functionality.
  • Electric Fireplace—Some electric fireplace models combine the visual appeal of fake flames (which is only a benefit if you find fake flames visually appealing) with a generally low output radiant heater. It boils down to personal preference, but it would probably be best not to consider an electric fireplace as your primary deck heating source, particularly if you live in a very cold climate.
  • Fire Table—A fire table is a fun way to sit with friends and enjoy a cup of coffee or perhaps a cocktail. As a convection heat source—the fire heats the air around it—it is not an efficient way to heat an entire deck, although the space immediately around the fire table will be warmer for those people sitting there. A fire table will provide a nice aesthetic touch and a modicum of additional warmth but would typically be used in conjunction with a more effective, higher output heat source.
  • Deck Enclosures—Any material that you put between your deck and the great outdoors will have at least some impact on providing warmth. A roof is one example—it will help retain whatever you generate from other sources. Completely enclosing your deck will significantly reduce heat loss, particularly if you use insulated materials for the roof and the side. Of course, if you really relish the feeling of an open deck, enclosing it may not be for you.

Your deck is a wonderful place to spend time with family, friends—even with yourself. With the right heating solution in place, you’ll be able to enjoy your custom residential deck in Colorado all year long.