Deck Design Ideas and Options

Here’s how to fuel your deck design fantasies — and stay on budget.

Photo by: California Redwood Association

California Redwood Association

By: John Riha

Where would we be without the internet? Probably about 1980, says Wikipedia. For those with deck-building aspirations, though, be thankful you have access to thousands of amazing deck design ideas and pictures online.

Sites like Pinterest, Houzz, and HGTV.com are troves of images that’ll get your deck-building blood going. In addition, manufacturers of decking boards, railings, arbors, and stairways often have online portfolios that showcase their products.

Of course, over-saturation of deck ideas is a real possibility. How do you separate the eye-candy decks you see online from the reality of your own backyard deck ideas?

Keep it Real

Give an honest assessment of your DIY abilities. If you want to stretch a bit — say try your hand at a curved deck — that’s cool. But focus on the one or two really tasty design features you’d like to add, and don’t take on too much. Some features, such as a pergola or deck storage, can be added later.

Scale it Right

A three-story deck is impressive, but keep your deck design in scale with your house and yard. Stake out possible configurations, and decide what makes sense in the available space. Refine your rough measurements in the next step — the design phase.

Play With Design

Check out some of the free deck design tools available online. The websites of deck part manufacturers and home improvement centers are good places to find deck design tools that’ll jumpstart your design mojo with templates, downloadable plans, and cost calculators.

Size Up Your Budget

A DIY deck project costs $10 to $25 per square foot, depending on the complexity of the deck design and your choice of materials. Once you finalize a budget range, add 10% on the principle that it rarely costs less, often more.

Make it Copacetic

Your deck should blend with the architectural style of your house. Look for motifs and design patterns that make your deck look like an extension of your home, not a tacked-on platform.

Play With Color

Besides the decking, components such as posts, balusters, rim joists, stair treads, and skirting are candidates for colors that make your deck attractive and homey. Wood — even pressure-treated wood — takes stain and paint readily. Some composite materials can also be stained, and think about mixing and match vinyl deck parts to liven up your outdoor living space.

Building a Deck 02:48

In this series, Chip Wade shows you how to build a deck from the ground up.

Trade Built-Ins for Movables

Built-in benches, planters, and storage are great, but if you feel like your skill level is challenged (or you don’t have the time), you can add plenty of design features that make your deck come alive. Plants in pots, freestanding furniture with weatherproof cushions, and bright deck umbrellas help bring even a simple deck into the eye-candy class.

Note the Code

Building codes say a deck with a walking surface that’s 30 inches or more above grade needs a railing that’s at least 36 inches high, with balusters spaced not more than 4 inches apart. Also, free standing decks — not attached to a structure — do not need frost-proof footings.

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