Planning Your Deck

A deck allows you to enjoy the outdoors within the comforts of your home. To make a deck construction project successful, having a good plan is a wise move. When planning for a deck, keep these things in mind – size, location, function, height, material, shape, pattern, privacy, and access.
Planning Your Deck

Decks are one of the most valuable home additions on the market. The reasons are obvious: they let you enjoy the outdoors while sitting close to your home, and they greatly improve your home’s curb appeal. If you like to host outdoor parties or simply want to enjoy the view, a deck may be the perfect addition to your home.

But like any home design project, building a deck has its challenges. For one thing, you want it to look seamless and natural, not an annex hastily added to the side of your house. It has to provide a smooth transition from indoors to outdoors, and most importantly, it has to survive the wear and tear of frequent use.

It all starts, of course, with proper planning. Planning your deck makes sure you know what you’re getting into and that you’re staying within your budget. Here are some things to keep in mind to help you build the perfect home deck.

Size. Technically, your deck can be any size you want as long as the law allows it. But for general use, most designers recommend making it the same size as your living room or the largest room in the house. It should also be in proportion with the rest of your house—about 12% to 18% of your total floor area is ideal. A large deck may look out of place next to a small house, and a small one can be dwarfed next to a large structure.

Location. Usually, one look at your property will turn up one or two possible locations. The most common places are next to your kitchen and living room, since they usually open to the back and front of your house. They also facilitate the traditional uses of the deck, such as dining, relaxing, and holding parties. Try to keep it at least one foot away from the windows—you don’t want to be looking out at a wooden floor and rail.

Function. Perhaps the most important question to ask yourself is how you plan on using the deck. If you’re going to be hosting parties, you’ll need something bigger, sturdier, and preferably attached to your kitchen. You may also need room for your grill, seating, serving area, and other entertaining facilities. For personal relaxation, you may want it outside your living room or bedroom, with room for a lounge or hot tub.

Height. Tall decks are becoming popular because they offer better views and have an edgier, more modern feel. But there may be zoning laws in your area that prevent you from building up to a certain height. You may be obstructing your neighbors’ view or violating building codes for structural integrity. If you have kids, a tall deck may also be a hazard. Most states require that you install a guard railing if the deck is more than 18 inches above the ground.

Material. Deck materials are usually limited to wood and synthetics. But within wood, you can choose from those with natural rot resistance or those chemically treated to resist rot. Cypress, redwood, and cedar are naturally rot-resistant, but they tend to be soft and more prone to warping than engineered wood. Pressure treated wood may be stronger and cheaper, but you’ll need to reseal it every year. If you’re working on a budget, use plastic lumber—it’s made from recycled plastic jugs and bags and made to look like wood.

Shape and pattern. There are all sorts of desk shapes to choose from, but not all of them will work for every home. A good rule of thumb is to contrast the shape and texture of your home’s exterior. If you have plain, solid-colored walls, give it some texture by building a hexagonal deck or wrapping it around a corner. If it’s a large deck, break up the bare floor space with a 45-degree flooring pattern.

Privacy. Your deck will be one of the most visible parts of your home. If you want a little privacy, consider getting an awning or building it near a shade. Depending on your design, you may be able to add a door, a privacy screen, or full-length vertical blinds. Your builder may offer to put up a privacy fence—it works like a wall, but keeps the open orientation of the deck. Try not to make it go around the entire deck to keep it from feeling like a fishbowl.

Access. Keep your deck entrance as close to the house as possible. After all, it’s supposed to work like an extension, not a separate structure. This will also reduce traffic on the deck itself. You can add a staircase leading up from the far side of the deck, but make sure it follows your state’s building codes. The general rule is that it should be at least 36 inches wide, and the height of each step should be 7 to 8 inches. Staircases are a must for second floor decks, as they reduce the risk of falls and injuries.