Choosing a Deck Plan

Factors to consider when selecting a deck design

The first step in deck design is choosing a deck plan. You have two options: you can design your own deck, or you can select from ready-to-go plans available through home improvement retailers. While designing your own deck allows you to customize the space in unique ways, it's also a more labor-intensive approach. Ready-made deck plans are easy to follow, but you need to carefully consider whether the dimensions and orientation of the deck are going to work, given the layout of your home.

Decking: Factors to Consider

The wisest way to approach your choice of deck plans is to consider utility alongside aesthetics. Think through each of these factors separately, beginning with utility. You want the form of your deck to match its function, and starting with aesthetic considerations forces you to discount the importance of its practicality.

The practical considerations you need to make include:

  • Size. The larger your deck, the more expensive and difficult to build it will be. How frequently do you entertain guests outdoors, and how many people do you typically have over? Do you barbecue on your deck, or is there a separate outdoor food preparation area? Don't build a deck that's any larger than you need if you want to keep your costs under control.
  • Orientation. Does the layout of your home or property force you to create a deck of a certain shape? L-shaped decks offer an excellent way to make the most of limited or usually oriented spaces.
  • Exposure to the elements. How much sunlight does your back yard get? If it gets a lot, you may want to consider materials other than wood, as prolonged exposure to direct sunlight will discolor it over time. Also, if your local area typically experiences high volumes of precipitation, you may want to consider building a covered deck.

Once you've determined how large a deck you want to build and where it will be located, move on to consider the various popular styles available:

  • Materials. Most decks are built with treated lumber, but you can also create a composite deck, a metal or wrought iron deck, or a bamboo deck.
  • Deck styles. Platform decks are the most popular style, and they're easy to build and offer excellent access. However, there are other options, including raised decks (which are ideal for sloping yards) and multi-story decks.

While it's true that more elaborate deck designs cost more to build, they can also add more value to your home, particularly if they're well-maintained. Be sure to weatherize your deck and contribute to its regular upkeep, and you're more likely to generate a positive return on investment.