Choosing Your Deck Plan

A deck plan overhead view for a large deck.

The decision to build your new deck has been made, and the budget set. Your next step may be the hardest. With literally thousands of deck designs out there, choosing the one that meets all your needs and satisfies your distinctive tastes, won’t be simple.

Deck Design Elements: Needs and Wants

You’ll first want to identify all of your needs and wants. There are many factors that will affect the cost of your deck, with size and construction materials being 2 of the biggest. While the sub-structure of the deck is usually constructed with pressure treated wood, very often composites are used for the deck surface, adding significant cost. Railings can be made of wood, composite, metal, or glass, with significant differences in price.

Some considerations include:

  • Materials (pressure treated, cedar, composite, etc.)
  • Design elements such as curves, and trim
  • Number of levels
  • Railing material (pressure treated, cedar, composite, metal, glass) and length
  • Number of steps or staircases, and landings
  • Deck, railing, and step lighting

Benches, planters, and privacy screens may also be part of your vision. How about a gazebo?

The larger, more complex the deck, the longer the build time and the greater the expertise required to complete the job efficiently and safely. You will find that many of the above items don’t add square footage to your project but will add to the overall price.

How large an area will you be working with? What is the shape of your house and the height of the door leading from the house to your deck? These are just a couple of questions that need to be answered because they will need to be considered when determining a budget for your new deck. Do you have an existing deck that will need to be taken down and hauled away? This too will increase the cost of your project.

You will want to account for existing structures. Elements such as hot tubs and pools will need to be taken into account when choosing your deck design because they can’t necessarily be moved. A spa that was previously dropped into your backyard can now be built in. Your deck design should give your pool the look of being installed at the same time your deck is built. A great custom deck plan will seamlessly bring all your outdoor elements together with a uniform look.

Identify your limitations

Are you building the deck yourself, or hiring a contractor? If you are building the deck yourself, do you have the expertise to complete the project on your own? Be realistic. Some aspects of building a deck can get complicated, and you must know what you’re doing to make sure the deck is safe, and looks great when completed.

Do you have the tools required, or will you need to buy tools to complete the project? If you need to purchase tools just to build your deck, this will add to your cost and should be included in your budget. If you’re buying a deck plan, make sure to get it approved by your local building department before you start construction, and be sure you get a building permit.

Choosing Your Deck Plan

Once these questions have been answered, it’s time to move ahead with selecting the right deck design for you. When purchasing your deck plan, standard and existing designs will cost you far less. A custom design however, may be just what you need to make your project unique and personal.

Your budget will dictate the size of deck you build and ultimately, the design that you choose. It is likely that if you can dream it, there is a design out there for you. The options are almost endless.

Designs can include decks with shade, curved designs, and spiral staircases. Whether you are building a 12 x12 single level platform deck or a multi-level curved deck with a gazebo, you will be considering not only the cost of materials but also the cost to build. Size, construction materials, and the decision to build yourself, or hire a contractor, will determine your overall cost.

After all, choosing your design may be the hardest part of the project but it is also the most affordable part. Keep in mind that all deck plan drawings should be done by qualified professional deck designers. Nothing will sabotage your project like a poor design with measurement errors and miscalculations.

While sometimes a backyard comes together piece by piece, the installation of a new deck is an excellent time to bring harmony to your outdoor space. Every good project starts with a solid beginning and a sound deck design will provide this beginning to ensure your happy ending.