Deck Design Considerations

A deck is a popular home improvement that not only adds to the value of your home, but provides a focal point for enjoying the outdoors. You'll want to carefully consider the design elements that go into your deck. it should include the features that match your lifestyle and complement the design of your house. Planning is the most important part of building a deck, because, chances are, you'll be living with your design for a long time.

There are three main considerations when planning a deck. Several questions must be answered in each topic. This document explains each topic and provides the background information you'll need to make informed choices.

How You Plan to Use Your Deck:

The most important consideration in deck design is how you will use it.

  1. Do you entertain frequently, and if so, how large a group will you need space for?
  2. What kind of seating will you need–would you or your guests be more comfortable on built-in benches or patio furniture?
  3. Do you want the space arranged to accommodate conversations between small groups, or in one large common area?
  4. Will you need adequate lighting to entertain at night?

Try to imagine all the ways you'd like to use your deck, because most design elements will be based on those kinds of preferences.

Location and Size:

Chances are, the size and orientation of your property and house limit you to one or two deck locations, but within those limits, you may have more choices than you think. You may be able to add a door, build a walkway, or incorporate a privacy screen that will allow you to locate your deck so it is most convenient for your intended uses.

The climate in your area and the views you'll see are the major factors to consider when deciding where to place your deck. A northside deck will probably be the coolest location. Southern or western orientations may be too warm in the middle of the summer, unless you include an overhead screen or roof, or build the deck around an existing shade tree.

You may be able to avoid prevailing winds by locating your deck where the house will provide some protection. Likewise, careful placement can minimize traffic noise, eliminate unwanted views, or provide additional privacy. If you plan to include a hot tub or swimming pool in your plans, privacy considerations for you and your guests may be very important.

You can build any size deck you want within legal limits. But even within those limits, a deck can be either too big or too small. The most important consideration (aside from cost) is use, but a huge deck can look out of place next to a small house, just as a tiny deck looks wrong with a big house. If you think your dream deck is too large for your house, break up the expanse by building smaller sections on multiple levels.

To test your ideas, measure the size you want on your lawn. Drive 4-foot stakes at the approximate corners, then tie string between them at about the height of the railings. Set your lawn furniture in the area to get an idea of how the space will work. The most common mistake people make is building a deck too small. The difference in cost between a deck that is a little too small and one that is the right size usually isn't that much

Legal Considerations:

Before you decide on a location, first check local zoning and building ordinances. They will limit the overall size of your deck, height of any privacy screens, and the minimum distance from your deck to your lot lines. Neighborhood or subdivision covenants may restrict the appearance of the structure, and you may have to get approval for your design.

You also have to be sure to check with your local utility companies to make sure you won't run afoul of utility rights-of-way, and to locate buried pipes and utility lines.