Inquire with your local zoning department or home owner’s association regarding your property’s required setbacks before you get too far along in your deck design. A setback is how far away a new structure must be built from your legal property line. This could seriously impact the size, shape, or height of your deck so it’s crucial to know any restrictions BEFORE you start building.
Call before you dig! Know where utilities like water, gas or sewer lines are before any digging takes place to avoid injury, as well as added expense. Call 811 to request a utility locator service come out and mark underground lines, free of charge. Knowing the location of these lines will also assist you in the designing process should you want to include an outdoor kitchen or gas fireplace into your design.
Once you know the location of any utilities, consider your existing landscape and how it will play into your deck design. Remove any large obstacles like boulders or tree stumps that will impede the construction process. It’s best to do this BEFORE your construction crew shows up to build the deck.
Mark off areas where you’ll likely need a footer and a deck post. This will help you visualize the deck’s support system once constructed. As a general rule, footers are spaced 4-8 feet apart but this can vary depending on the size of your deck and strength of the footers, so do your homework. Hammer wood stakes into the ground where footers will be dug, measuring as you go. Use string to help visualize where support beams will be placed.
If your deck design includes more than one elevation you may find it helpful to create a computerized rendering of what the deck will look like once completed. There are many online tools that can help you generate this image. Checking out the deck from various angles and making adjustments to the design before building begins will save you time, money and frustration down the line.