How you determine the deck’s layout will depend on how you plan to use your deck, the build site, as well as local building ordinances. Use these steps as a guide to help you get started. 

Step 1

Sketch It Out

Creating a basic sketch of the deck and its relationship to your home is your first step. This is a great place to compile notes and important measurements as you design the outdoor space and plan for the first phase of construction. 

Step 2

Know Your Access Points

Plot and measure all your access points like doors, stairs and landings. When designing you deck, allow plenty of space to move into and around these high traffic areas.

Step 3

Consider Setbacks

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.

Step 4

Mark Utility Lines

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.

Step 5

Start Basic Excavation

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.

Step 6

Plot Posts and Footers

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.

Step 7

Measure Furnishings

Once you’ve settled on your deck’s size and shape, take the time to measure any furnishings or large items (like a grill) you’ll want to place on the deck. This ensures your design allows ample space for outdoor furnishings and activities. 

Step 8

Generate a Scaled Design Plan

Creating an aerial image of your future deck with precise dimensions will help you finalize your design plan. This can also help you determine furniture placement, as well as materials needed. 

Step 9

Create a Computerized Rendering

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.

Estimating Deck Materials 02:06

Learn how to estimate materials for any deck building project.