A 30-year-old locust tree provides shade to the entire Macko backyard, but its trunk is just feet from the back door of their house. When constructing a new deck, their decision was simple. The Mackos knew they would build around it.
“To me it wasn’t even a consideration to take it out,” said Kathy Macko, who along with husband George, raised three boys in the home in Naperville’s Hobson Green subdivision. “It’s just the history of it growing. It has grown up the same as our kids did.”
The Mackos purchased the home 27 years ago. At that time, off the back of the house, was a basic square deck that surrounded a tiny tree. After a few years, the Mackos ripped out that deck and replaced it with something similar, using the same footprint as the previous one. Last year the Mackos decided it was time for some changes.
“A lot of time people (plant trees) and don’t think about 25 to 30 years from now what that’s going to look like,” Macko said.
She had an arborist come to her home so she could better understand the options when building a new deck or patio. Mainly she wanted to know what would be the least destructive to the tree. Originally they had thought they wanted a flagstone patio, but the arborist advised against it because the limestone they would need to put down under the brick would probably kill the locust. The arborist also warned against driving anchor posts into the tree’s roots.
Deciding they would build a new deck instead of a patio, the Mackos then contacted a few different deck builders. And much like Goldilocks, after talking with one builder who had no plan, another who wanted to build what he liked, they then found Archadeck, which specializes in creating outdoor spaces to be “just right.”
The designer asked Macko what they would be using the space for and then Macko looked through albums of ideas.
Together, they came up with a design that incorporated the tree while adding a bar area that overlooks the in-ground pool that also shares the backyard. It also would have room for the 1950s glider swing that belonged to George’s parents.
David Berryhill, president and general manager of Archadeck, said the project was typical in that they developed a custom plan for their client, but constructing around a tree is not quite as typical.
“Building around a tree increases cost for added structure and creates risk of issues in the future, especially if enough space is not left for future growth,” Berryhill said. “The tree may cause damage to the deck as it expands.”
Archadeck built the deck during a two-week period last summer. They thought about how to integrate the tree so it fit the space functionally, and how to structure the deck to work around the tree while causing minimal harm to it.
They expanded the opening in the deck that surrounded the tree. They also worked around the roots, which had grown up underneath the old deck. This meant they had to notch out some of the 2-by-4’s over the roots so that the deck would still be the same height and still level with the back door.
As beautiful as the tree and the shade it provides are, it does have its drawbacks. For the first time this year, with all the spring rain, the Mackos got water in their basement because the large roots forced water to the house. It can also be a bit messy, with its leaves falling into the pool, but Macko is not complaining.
“I don’t have a real problem with that,” Macko said. “The maintenance is maybe a little bit more, but it’s so worth it. It’s like a big umbrella here.”
Columnist Angela Bender lives in Naperville. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.