How to Plan Your First Deck

There’s nothing like a great deck in the summertime. It’s a great gathering place for friends and family and you can casually entertain and enjoy the great outdoors. Deck designs can be simple and functional or elaborate structural wonders. Whatever design appeals to you, the basics of deck planning, design and construction are essentially the same. Here are some tips on how to plan your first deck.

Decide on Size & Dimension

The size and dimensions of your deck will be determined by a variety of factors, including:

  • Desired square footage for the deck itself
  • Appropriate fit to compliment the house
  • Whether the deck will be at ground level or elevated
  • Desired building materials
  • Overall budget and time constraints
  • DIY project or use of a contractor

If you’re planning to construct a new deck yourself, take into account your skill level related to construction. If you’re somewhat of a beginner, a simpler design may be the best option.

Deck Plans

On the internet, in bookstores, or via word-of-mouth, there’s no shortage of great deck plans available to builders of every skill level. Most decks are attached to the house, but you can find plans for free-standing decks, gazebos, pavilions, and other backyard entertaining structures.

Decide on Materials

The main options for decking materials are wood (treated or untreated), an all-weather synthetic material, or other recycled materials. Your decision on which material to use will be affected by your budget as well as the maintenance requirements and durability of the materials. One hint: it often pays to spend more on the raw materials which will require less maintenance over the life of the deck.

Estimate Costs

If you’re using a contractor to build your deck, they will provide a quote for the job that includes labor and materials. It’s a little trickier – but not impossible – for the DIY-er. Take your supplies and materials list to the lumber yard or building center and ask for help with determining the cost of materials.

Estimate Time

Contractors who build decks and other structures for a living have become quite efficient and accurate at determining how much time a deck project will take. Depending on your schedule and the time you have available for this project, you may opt to work continuously over several days or spread the work out over several weeks. It will be important to know roughly how much time you will need so that you can plan construction for a time when the weather is favorable and you have sufficient time to complete the project.

Get Help

If you are not confident about your skills or ability to attempt building a deck by yourself, negotiate with a contractor for additional support and help. If you have a good plan for construction and are confident you can do it yourself, solicit help with basic labor from friends. It’s a great reason for a get-together and summertime BBQ; reward a few days of hard work with an enjoyable evening on your deck. Here’s to an amazing summer in the backyard with friends!