10 Things to Consider When Building a Deck

modern house with deck

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There's a lot of planning and decision-making that goes into designing and building an outdoor deck. For starters, you'll need to determine what size deck you'd like, establish a budget, select material, and determine whether you want to build it yourself or hire a professional.

Here are 10 important things to consider so you can avoid mistakes before planning, designing, and building a deck.

The Deck's Purpose and Function

If you live in a climate that's warm several months out of the year, a deck may be the answer to extending the enjoyment you get from outdoor living. Decide how you'd like to use the deck. Once you have a vision for its purpose and function, it'll be easier to design. Here are a few ways your deck could function in your yard:

  • For entertaining
  • For outdoor dining
  • As a pool or spa surround
  • For outdoor privacy
  • As a place for container gardening close to the house

The Deck's Location

Sometimes it's apparent where a deck should go but other times, there may be more than one possible location. If that's the case, how you want your deck to function will determine which spot will be ideal for its location. In addition, think about these considerations when determining a deck's location:

  • Scaling the deck to the size of your property
  • Tracking microclimates that will affect your deck's level of comfort
  • Placing the deck in sun and shade for comfort
  • Determining wind patterns that can affect usage
  • Maximizing scenic views
  • Creating privacy from neighbors
  • Having easy access from deck to house

The Budget for Building a Deck

Your budget will determine the size, design, and materials of your deck. Add in permits and labor if you're going to have it designed and built by a professional. Also consider the extras that you hope to have on your deck, such as flowerboxes, railings, built-in seating, and lighting.

Can You Build It Yourself?

A deck costs less if you build the deck yourself. Simple platform decks have a clean, classic appeal and they're easy to build. But if you want something more detailed than a simple platform, it's a project for an experienced DIYer. Consider whether you want the deck built quickly or whether you can take the time to do it yourself. Be honest about whether you want to spend hours sawing and nailing wood or whether you prefer to hire a contractor or subcontractor.

Know Deck Material Options

Wood is not the only available decking material available. More materials are on the market to help you build a deck that needs less maintenance than wood. Choices for decking include wood, plastic, or metal:

  • Pressure-treated woods which contain wood and preservatives for weather-resistance, such as pine, cedar, and redwood, are known for their traditional look of warmth.
  • Premium hardwoods, such as teakipe, and Brazilian species, are extremely durable.
  • Composite decking materials made of recycled wood fibers and plastics can be easy to maintain but a bit more expensive than wood.
  • PVC or plastic planks resist rot and hold up well to harsh weather, but they are costly, may feel spongy underfoot, and tend to get very hot under the sun.
  • Aluminum decking offers significant slip resistance which is ideal for wet locations, but it's costly.

Consider the Deck's Style

The style of your deck may be dictated by the design of your house. A deck should complement your home rather than compete with its architecture. For example, a round or curved deck with intricately carved railings may look out of place on some homes but may look better on other styles. Follow the lines, proportions and architecture of your house, so it's a natural and seamless extension of your home.

Include Deck Lighting

There are numerous ideas for deck lighting. Lighting gives a deck a certain festive and romantic ambience while adding a level of safety. The amount of lighting and the types of fixtures (for example, wired or solar) will affect the design and budget of your deck. Here are types of deck lights and locations to consider:

  • Recessed step lights
  • Path lights
  • Overhead lights
  • Wall or post-mounted lights
  • Landscape spotlights
  • Outdoor kitchen lighting

Consider Built-Ins

You might decide to add more functionality into your deck. Built-ins give a deck a rich and customized look, as well. Storage on a deck might be designed as benches with hinged tops that lift, shelving, or deck boxes. Here are some items you may choose to store on your deck:

  • Garden tools and supplies
  • Children's outdoor toys
  • Outdoor patio cushions
  • Outdoor furniture and accessories

Think About Privacy

There's not always a perfect spot for a deck. Sometimes, you'll have to settle for a spot that's not as private as you'd like. If your deck is visible to neighbors or you can easily see their yard, consider adding privacy screening to block the views. There are plenty of privacy screen ideas. A screen can be built onto the deck or you can use plantings as a living privacy fence.

Bamboo for Noise and Privacy

Bamboo is considered a natural noise buffer and privacy hedge. It also grows fast.

Know the Building Codes

Before lifting a hammer, call town hall to find out the building codes and legal procedures you need to follow for building a deck. You may need your design approved by your town. City and state laws and permit restrictions vary for residential structure additions or remodeling projects, so do your homework before buying materials for your deck's project. Professional deck designers and builders know the local codes and regulations and will typically take care of the logistics for you.