Small Deck Design Ideas

Just because you have a small yard doesn’t mean you can’t have a stylish deck. Learn the building requirements and get design ideas for small but functional decks.
By: John Riha

Elevated Deck 01:30

A high-rise deck overlooking South Beach: small in space, huge in view.

If you’re living on a small lot but have big ideas about outdoor living, meet the challenge with careful planning and a reality check.

First, decide where your deck is going to be located. The most sensible locations extend traffic patterns that are already inside your house, for example wherever you already have access to the outside. If you want to add a new doorway to your deck, make sure you create a walkway that doesn’t cut across seating or dining areas.

The next step is to let reality settle in. After all, you aren’t going to have the space for a dance band and an eight-person hot tub. But you probably have the room for a small, round, four-person table and a modest grill. Or, you may prefer a couple of comfy chaises and a privacy screen so you can read and sunbathe.

Once you’ve prioritized, get out a tape measure and start deciding the size and shape of your deck. Many decking manufacturers and home improvement centers have free online deck design tools that you can use to sketch out your small deck ideas. They’ll include icons for various pieces of furniture and deck accessories so you can dial in the right configuration.

Keeping the design simple is a good idea for a small deck. Squares and rectangles provide lots of usable square footage and an easy-to-build shape. Be sure to include a sensible traffic pattern that lets you access your yard from your deck.

deck with bench

deck with bench

From: Designed to Sell

Here are other small deck ideas to keep in mind:

• If the walking surface of your deck will be more than 30 inches from the ground, then you’ll need to add guard railings that are at least 36 inches high with balusters no more than 4 inches apart.

• Where your deck is not more than 30 inches from the ground, you can add bench seating that helps define the edges of your deck and provides built-in places to sit.

• For sloped yards, consider a stepped-down deck that has several smaller levels rather than creating one large hovercraft looming over your property.

• Keep the design of your deck in scale with your house. Creating visually harmony is especially important with a small deck — you don’t want to overwhelm the outdoor space you have. Use colors and finishes that complement your property.

• Take advantage of existing trees and shrubbery for shade, privacy, and ambience. For example, if you have the option, locate a shade tree on the west side of your deck where it will protect you from harsh afternoon sun.

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