Enclosing Underside of Wood Landings

Let’s say that the significant difference between a wood deck and a wood landing  is the vertical clearance under the walking surface.  You can stand up or nearly stand up under a deck, but you have to crawl under a landing.

One concern with the clearance under landings is that they are attractive to small animals.  Cats, skunks and raccoons become curious about spaces not much taller than they are.  And sometimes they look for seclusion when they are injured or terminally ill.

To prevent small animals from exploring under a landing, it’s tempting to close off this space with a wire screening or wood lattice or even wood siding.  My expertise in animal behavior is limited to what I said in the paragraph above, but I’m not sure that enclosing the edge of a landing is a good idea for the animal, the occupants of the house or the landing.  Some animals are strong enough to rip a hole in a screen or mesh if they are determined.  If the mesh is rusty or the lattice is weakened with rot, getting through it is that easier.  Wood siding cuts off the ventilation that the wood framing needs for longevity.  If screened or louvered vents are installed in the siding, you’re back to the same issue as you were with wire mesh.

So my recommendation is to leave the landing edge open.  Small animals who explore under the landing won’t get trapped because they can escape the same way they got in.  The framing gets good ventilation, and, if an animal does die under the landing, the body can be removed from the edge.

Think about landscaping the landing edge with foundation planting at the perimeter to screen the gap between the grade and the landing surface from view.  Or you can place plants in tubs or boxes set on the landing surface and allowed to cascade over the edge.  Just don’t put in a fixed barrier here.  It’s easier to maintain landscaping than a stiff barrier that you may come to regret.

Every House Has a Story

You and I have heard some form of the sentiment expressed in this title many times.

Where buildings are concerned, this sentiment is so very true, and we ought to be glad!  Let’s look at a few examples of how true it is.

Today’s building practices give us buildings of all types that are healthier, less wasteful of resources, more accessible to more people and stronger than their ancestors.  Yes, in some cases, they cost more to design and construct.  But it’s not hard to show that today’s practices and codes result in sustainable buildings whose lifetime operational costs fall well below those ancestors.

It’s been my good fortune over the course of a career now approaching 50 years to watch the “energy crisis” of the early 1970’s evolve into a broad public acceptance of rational design principles based in local climates, conservation and health.  At the same time, we’ve shown more respect for the rights of the millions of our fellow citizens who have physical disabilities by removing dozens of architectural barriers they once faced.   The emergence of the computer as a powerful scientific tool has helped us closely measure the behavior our planet so we can in turn plan buildings better able to resist earthquakes and other natural disasters.

Like all architects, I am fascinated with the appearance of all buildings.  Colors, materials, proportion and good spaces mean a great deal to me.  However, a senior colleague once commented in my hearing that buildings can be “lethal,” and that observation really stuck to me.  Maybe that’s why all of the illustrations I’ve drawn here speak to the fundamental need for human comfort and safe shelter.  These are only a snapshot of what I’ve seen; the process of improving is not over by a long shot!   No doubt someone will re-write this article with illustrations from their own era someday.