If you want to add some bells and whistles to your deck area, these are some entertaining upgrades to consider.

Hot tub: For many, a hot tub is the ultimate in deck entertaining. Retrofitting a deck to hold a hot tub isn’t a small job. If your deck is low enough, you should rest the hot tub on a concrete pad for support with the deck built around it. Plan your placement carefully to avoid peering eyes. For a comfortable entry, try to build the deck at the same elevation as the tub’s seating. Hot tubs are extremely heavy, so if you’re putting one on top of your deck, be sure your contractor adds sufficient support below it.

Sandbox: By far, one of the best additions to my own deck was a sandbox. Not a single kid has visited without spending some time engrossed in building sandcastles.

Fireplace: Built-in fireplaces can be attached to existing gas lines or freestanding propane tanks. Avoid using a wood-burning fire pit on a deck. Even if it has a spark arrestor, there’s a good chance at some point you will melt or even set your deck on fire. If you do want to burn wood, install a large fireproof area around the fire pit. 

One deck addition sure to get used when guests come over? A hammock. (Courtesy of Jeff Layton)

Hammock: If a hammock can be strung across your deck, I promise it will see regular use when you’re entertaining. If you use a model that’s not freestanding, be sure to use carabiners to hang it so you can take it down and set it up quickly.

Speakers: Water-resistant outdoor speakers can connect with your indoor speakers to offer music throughout your house. And the party music will sound a lot better than playing it from your phone.

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Blankets: A small but friendly touch is to have a basket full of cozy wool blankets handy for when a chill sets in.

Outdoor kitchen: Go beyond a simple barbecue and install appliances specifically designed for outdoor kitchens. These are a significant investment in both money and space, so commit only if you’re sure you’ll do a lot of outdoor cooking.

Writer and contractor Jeff Layton has been building decks professionally for 15 years via his company Open Space Design