Building a Deck: What You Should Know

nails and putting in new deck

Big Stock Photo

More planning and consideration may go into building an outdoor deck than, say, an indoor bathroom. Besides determining it's a deck you want instead of a patio, you will need to establish a budget, select material and paint, find a space to build it, and determine whether it is a DIY project or you'll need to hire a professional.

There are many things to take into consideration before planning and starting to build a deck.

What's the Difference Between a Patio and a Deck?

What's the difference between a patio or deck?

If you asked the average person on the street that question, would they be able to answer? Most likely, some people would be able to come up with a reasonable explanation for a deck: that it's this "thing" outdoors made of wood that you walk or sit on.

A brick patio with trees
Bryan Smith/Getty Images

All Decked out: Building Wood and Composite Decks

You don't want a cold, hard "slab" of concrete—you'd like your outdoor space to rise up to the level of your back door, creating an almost seamless transition from indoors to outdoors. Sounds like a deck just might be the right choice for you. A hint: decks work well on sloping, uneven, or poorly draining sites. Pool owners take note: a wood deck is cool underfoot and also dries quickly.

Deck Plans and Designs

The toughest part of building a deck may be at the beginning—in the planning and designing stages. Sure, you may have decided that it is, indeed, a deck and not a patio you want to build and that you want to use composite or synthetic decking. But deciding its size, whether it should connect to the house or be free-standing are also things to think about before going forward with the project.

Hopefully, these deck designs and plans will inspire you and help you decide what you want and where you want it.

Plan drawing for a freestanding deck from the California Redwood Association
California Redwood Association

Wood Types for Decks

While composite decking has risen in popularity, not everyone chooses to go in that direction. Many potential deck owners love the look and feel of real wood. Whether it's because of tradition, personal taste or—sometimes—cost, wood is the material of choice. Once you decide to go with natural wood over composite decking, it becomes evident that no two kinds of wood are exactly alike—there are many types that have the potential for being ideal choices for decks.

Wood and Composite Decking: Pros and Cons

Should you go with wood or composite decking? Like any big purchase, decking materials vary in looks, durability, and cost. Start your research here, becoming familiar with types of wood and synthetic decking. Another thing to think about—you might want to use certain types of lumber or decking for structural parts of your deck project, and other decking timber for surfaces and railings—the parts that will be more visible and upon which you will walk.

Sun behind luxury house with swimming pool
Astronaut Images / Getty Images

A Guide to Composite Decking Brands

Composite decking is an alternative to all-wood decking and is made of materials that can include recycled and new plastic, bamboo, and wood fibers. Many composite decking products have evolved as a reflection of the environment in which we live and are green, eco and LEED qualified or certified. Check out this list of top brands in the world of composite decking. 

Types of Deck Cleaners

Your neighbor may swear by his or her pressure washer, but that's not the only way to clean a deck. Check out this list of deck cleaners—some are environmental, others really tackle stubborn mold and mildew—but all purport to clean a wood or composite deck.

How to Clean a Deck

It's not a fun task, but one of those things you simply must do to keep your deck looking good and in working condition. Experts recommend that you clean a deck at least twice a year, preferably in the spring and fall.

Deck cleaning
Banks/Getty Images

Deck Safety Checklist

Your deck should be a source of pride and accomplishment. But part of the package is also responsibility and maintenance. Once a year, make a date with your deck to inspect it for things like wood damage, rot, loose nails and other types of damage. Address these issues before they become a bigger problem. Follow this handy checklist to inspect your deck annually.