Planning a Deck

What Key Features and Attributes to Consider when Planning Your Deck Addition Project

By Mark J. Donovan

A deck is an extension of your home’s living space. Consequently prior to planning a deck it is important to first figure out how you anticipate using it. For example, will it be used frequently for entertaining and/or will it include a barbeque area for grilling? Or instead, do you envision it more as a sanctuary in the middle of a garden area. Also, do you expect to use it in the evening hours and/or will it include a hot tub? All of these types of questions affect your deck plans and deck construction costs.

Answering these questions ahead of time will help in the deck design and establishing a budget. When planning a deck it is also important to consider the size and shape of it.

It goes without saying that the larger the deck is the more expensive it will be. Another related consideration is whether or not the deck will reside directly off of the home or it will be located somewhere else in your yard. Even if the deck is expected to be situated directly off of the home you will also want to decide if it should be complete freestanding or attached directly to the home. A freestanding deck costs a bit more, however there are less concerns of water damage to the home.

Deck design is another key element in the deck planning stage. There are a plethora of places to get deck design ideas including magazines and online websites. Basic elements of any deck design include the size and shape of it, the deck building materials, railing systems, and stairs. Other elements to consider in more elaborate deck plans include integrated lighting, multi-level decks, built in benches, and built in deck/patio heating systems.  Designing and planning a deck construction project.

When it comes to deck building materials composite decking is the material of choice with today’s high end homes. Composite decking costs quite a bit more however your deck will last much longer and require a lot less maintenance, which are two very important benefits. Pressure treated decking material is still used extensively as it is more affordable, however it will crack and split and will need constant maintenance to mitigate these concerns. Mahogany decking is another excellent alternative, however it too is expensive and requires significant maintenance as well.

In regards to the deck framing members use pressure treated lumber. Depending upon the size of the deck you may need to use 4×4 or 6×6 pressure treated posts. Also, the posts should be placed on concrete footings or pre-manufactured concrete deck piers that penetrate into the ground below the frost line for your local area. Check with your local building inspector to determine the appropriate depth for digging your concrete footings.

Also, when planning a deck it is important to have your plans approved by the local building inspector and pull the necessary construction permits. Otherwise you could be fined and possibly even be told to tear the deck down.

Deck Installation Bid Sheet

The building inspector will evaluate the deck plans for the size and location of the deck, its elevation above the ground, the railing system and egress, the type of framing construction, and the method of construction to the home.

Once your deck plans have been approved you can begin the real work of building the deck. Keep in mind that during the construction you will most likely need to call the building inspect out to review the construction. He will also need to inspect the deck when it is complete.

For help on building a deck, see’s Deck Installation Bid Sheet. The Deck Installation Bid Sheet will teach your how to hire the right deck contractor, and help to ensure that your deck project is completed on time and budget.

Related Information

Additional Deck Building and Design Resources

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