Outdoor Decks and Good Deck Design

Key Considerations when Designing an Outdoor Deck onto your Home

By Mark J. Donovan

An outdoor deck is an extension of your home’s living area. An outdoor deck is where family and friends relax and dine together on warm summer nights. It’s a place to enjoy the afternoon sunshine while having a little privacy in the process. An outdoor deck is a place to commune with mother nature without actually having to touch terra firma.

A properly designed and built deck can also add character and aesthetics to your home, as well as increase its value. As a result, planning a good deck design is as critical as coming up with a detailed kitchen or bathroom design.

How do You Plan to Use Your Outdoor Deck

The first step in coming up with a good deck design is figuring out how you plan to use your outdoor deck. For example, do you anticipate using it on a regular basis for entertaining guests and family? Do you anticipate doing a lot of cooking on it, and thus needing to include a barbeque area on it? Do you expect to use it frequently in the evening? Lastly, have you considered whether or not you want to integrate a hot tub into your outdoor deck? All these questions should be answered as part of the initial process of coming up with a good deck design.

Where to Place your Outdoor Deck

Once you’ve figured out how you plan to use your deck you next need to figure out where you want to locate it on your home. Ideally the deck should be located such that it has easy access from a door on the home, such as a sliding glass door or French doors. In addition, the outdoor deck should be located on the home such that it blends in well with the home and the surrounding area and topology. Also think about positioning it where there’s natural privacy if at all possible, or where you can easily add privacy later with shrubbery.

 A good outdoor deck design should embody the extension of your home's living area.

Outdoor Deck Sizing and Materials

Make sure your deck is large enough for all of its planned uses. In addition, make sure to use decking materials that will hold up for many years. Pressure treated decks are relatively inexpensive to install however they do not last as long as decks made from composite decking materials.

Also when designing your deck I would highly suggest not having it connected directly to the home if at all possible. When a deck attaches directly to a home, your home becomes more susceptible to water damage which can lead to rotten sill plates. In addition, the deck could literally rot and pull away from the home if the water damage becomes significant.

A good deck design should also include a railing system and easy egress on and off the deck. You may also want to consider including two levels to the deck, where for example there is a step down between the grilling area and the lounging area.

Also make sure your outdoor deck includes light fixtures and electrical power, particularly if you plan to use the deck a lot during the evening hours. Deck lighting can include overhead light fixtures as well as lights that are literally integrated into the deck railings or flooring.

Finding a Deck Installation Contractor

Unless you have some serious carpentry experience you should plan on hiring a deck installation contractor.

Deck Installation Bid Sheet

Make sure, however, to get quotes from at least three deck contractors and interview them thoroughly before hiring one of them. Also make sure to check several references before hiring any deck installation contractor. The last thing you want to do is hire the wrong contractor.

For help on building a deck, see HomeAdditionPlus.com’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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