Style Inspiration, Deck Tours

Under-Deck Drainage System Creates Stunning and Functional Outdoor Oasis for Chicagoland Waterfront Home

Trex® RainEscape® Transforms Deck from Poolside Perch to Multi-purpose Entertainment Area

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Amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, TrexPro Platinum contractor Mike Mitchell of Chicagoland-based Mitchell Construction, Inc. set out to create the ultimate outdoor living space for a modern, waterfront home in northern Indiana. Working with the client from the initial design phase, Mitchell and his team sought to match the home’s modern design aesthetic while maximizing views both indoors and out as they constructed a two-story deck and lower-level living space. Using Trex Transcend® decking for the entire 1,100 square-foot project, the build also utilized the Trex RainEscape deck drainage system, Trex® Protect™ joist and beam tape and Trex® Outdoor Lighting™ on the upper and lower levels to give the space a modern, finished look.

“I use Trex RainEscape on most of the decks I build where there is a walkout basement to optimize the space below the deck and make it functional,” said Mitchell. “In this case, the homeowner wanted to use this space as a media room. Considering all of the electronics involved, Trex RainEscape was essential for keeping the space dry and safely housing and waterproofing the wiring within the framing.

Using a network of troughs and downspouts, the Trex RainEscape system captures and diverts water away from a deck, not only preserving the studwork, but also making the area under the deck useable for storage or as additional living space. Once protected, the dry space beneath a deck can be used like any room inside a house. Homeowners can add electricity, water and gas lines, as well as furniture, lighting, ceiling fans and entertainment components, depending on how they plan to use the space.

The main advantage of the Trex system is that it protects the entire foundation and the area beneath the deck. Unlike other drainage systems that install below the joists, Trex RainEscape features membrane material that drapes over the joists to ensure that the entire substructure is shielded from moisture penetration. Furthermore, the durable, yet flexible, membrane allows for the use of any type of decorative ceiling or soffit, making it a good option for homeowners seeking a finished aesthetic.

Lower Level

By using Trex RainEscape, Mitchell was able to deliver a completely finished and waterproofed lower-level living space designed for the ultimate in al fresco entertaining. Three garage-like openings built into the base of the deck are outfitted with retractable phantom screens that can be opened for outdoor access or closed to create a comfortable, multi-season room. The largest of the openings features a double track which houses a movie projection screen that instantly turns the space into a luxurious, outdoor home theater.

“The trend used to be toward bringing the outdoors in, but many people today are doing the opposite – bringing traditionally ‘indoor’ comforts and activities outside,” Mitchell commented. “Thanks to advances in all-weather materials, furnishings and accessories, homeowners can decorate and use outdoor living spaces in much the same way that they would the interior rooms of a home.”

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Upper Level

The upper level of Mitchell’s outdoor masterpiece features a partial wraparound deck built with high-performance, low-maintenance Trex Transcend decking in Havana Gold. This industry-leading composite boasts a natural woodgrain pattern and rich color that delivers the realistic look of wood without the hassle of ongoing maintenance.

Unlike wood, Trex composite decking resists fading, staining, scratching and mold – and won’t rot, warp, crack or splinter. No sanding, staining or painting is required, and food and drink spills wash off easily with just soap and water. Additionally, all Trex decking is made from 95% recycled material, making it an environmentally friendly choice for today’s eco-conscious consumers.

Before installing the deck boards, Mitchell applied more than 1,000 feet of Trex Protect joist and beam tape to cap the wooden substructure. Designed specifically for use on decks, Trex Protect is a self-adhesive butyl tape that works on both horizontal and vertical surfaces to protect wood from moisture damage and deterioration. “It’s super sticky, yet pliable, which allows it to create a tight seal around fasteners to prevent moisture penetration,” noted Mitchell. “I also like that it doesn’t dry out or curl up like other construction tapes and performs well in a wide range of temperatures, including harsh Midwest winters like this deck will certainly face.”

Layered Lighting

Lastly, Mitchell incorporated Trex Outdoor Lighting to tie the upper and lower levels together, using sleek, minimalistic fixtures that enhance both the ambiance and safety of the outdoor space. The weatherproof LED fixtures use 75% less energy than incandescent components and are cool to the touch, making them safe for children and pets. 

In all, Mitchell considers the two-story deck project both inspired and inspirational. “This deck represents the perfect marriage of form and function,” he said. “It was exciting for our team to be able to bring our clients’ unique vision to life and deliver a space that they can use and enjoy all year round.”