Your Dream Deck

Starting out with a deck idea or deck design

Most everyone has something in mind when they are starting a home renovation project. Whether you are crafting a new deck or remodeling an existing one you probably have some vision. How you proceed depends upon your long term goal. Are you adding living space or just repairing a rotten board? Are you an outdoor person that you want to your deck to enhance? Do you have a mountain view or a lake? Is there a yard focal point like a special tree or rock outcrop you want your deck to enhance? There are millions of questions to ask and you can easily fall into “analysis paralysis.” The best way to start is to just get some idea, maybe some photos, and then start drawing sketches. You do not have to have elaborate or expensive software. If you like software, Google Sketch Up is a great free product. If you like papter, just white paper or some grid paper will do. We frequently get faxes that are obviously napkin drawings. Pick a deadline to get something on paper and your deck project will start to move forward. The main goal is to move yoru deck from your minds eye to paper!

New Deck checklist

Before you even start a deck you need to let your imagination run wild. How do you see yourself using the deck? Will you have big parties or is it just for peaceful solitude after work? Knowing what you want from your deck can focus you towards optimum size, access, and price. Ipe decks are great and we strongly support them. Here are a summary of items you need to think through.

  • Who is going to use your deck? What is your lifestyle?
  • Do you plan to entertain large crowds of people on your deck?
  • Will it mainly be used by you and your family, and occasional friends and neighbors dropping by?
  • What would be the optimum size for the deck?
  • Will you need stairs access or just home?
  • Are there any safety considerations due to height?
  • Will you need special access for elderly or disabled?
  • Will you be using it in rain or just dry days?
  • Will you want an outdoor kitchen?
  • Will this be an extension of your home or an outdoor room?

Replacement or new? When it is time to replace a deck do not just assume you have to put it in the same place. You lifestyle has changed. Think of where it might be moved for better access. How about an outdoor kitchen? Will you need more stairs or landings? Replacement is the time to review all areas of your life and use of your outdoor living space.

Material? If you have a lot of rain and / or snow you want decking that can withstand your local weather conditions. You will want to buy something that withstands moisture and resists rot. In termite areas you want a product that will inhibit insect damage.

Consistent Styles? How will the style of the deck fit in with the architectural of your home? Is your home contemporary or traditional? Will you need an open deck or will it be covered? Will it be screened in or partially screened? You will need to decide upon conventional decking vs Tongue and Groove. What width of decking will look good? What about colors?

Budget? The type of material you choose for the deck will largely determine the cost. Using Pine will be the cheapest however it will not last long. Hardwoods (We recommend) are natural, biodegrade, and are long lasting. Composites have pros and cons. Be sure to research any composite as they are not the same and many have experienced problems. Also factor in on-going maintenance. Hardwoods are very low maintenance. Finally, the size, complexity, number of stairs, outdoor kitchens, and such will affect the cost. Be sure to include your time as part of your budget. You may originally plan to do a lot of the work and then find it overwhelming.

House access? Some decks are separate from the house, others are attached. Part of your planning to to understand access. If you just plan to lounge on the deck then access can be minimal. Your deck can be over the water on a lake. If you plan to do a lot of entertaining then you will want easy access from the kitchen. Many decks have French doors that open from the living room providing overflow from the interior of the house.

Privacy? It’s important to think about how visible your deck will be from your neighbor’s property, and also how visible your neighbor’s property will be from the deck.

Weather? Is your deck sheltered from strong winds or direct sunlight? If your local climate is very sunny you may want a covered deck. If you have minimal sunny days or live in a northern area you may want your deck to accent the sun.

Zoning? Find out about local building codes and regulations. It’s absolutely essential that you check with your local authorities to make sure your deck design complies with all the relevant building codes. In urban areas you may need to obtain formal permission, by submitting your designs and plans, and making any changes which are requested.

Future? What else would you want to add to your yard? Are you planing a garden or a walkway? How about a water feature? How will your new deck compliment these future features?


ipe-deckplan-300Napkin Drawings – For the first time deck builder the easiest way to start is just by sketching. Many builder grade decks are just square or rectangles. Do not stop there.

To the left is a deck plan for a nice Tigerwood spa deck on Mt Shasta in California. This was several designs in but you can see the owner created a pattern that has a very upscale look and appeal. The Hot Tub is on the lower left. This deck can easily be made from Ipe or any Brazilian hardwood.

Google Sketch Up – if hand drawings are too old school, there are a lot of free software programs that are simple to use but provide nice detailed drawings. Do not assume however you have to use PCs and software. Many of the designs we review are hand drawn.

California Deck on Mt Shasta

The next Step, Decks Spas and Kitchens Oh My