Decks: Raised vs. Grade-Level

Keep these structure options in mind when deciding on a deck design.

Most decks are raised off the ground just by the sheer nature of their design. They usually consist of floorboards supported by joists underneath. But how high they are raised depends on several factors.

Raised Decks

Your home's design will define the height of the deck. A typical split-level or a raised ranch-style house will have the main living area on the second floor. The deck on this style home is attached to the second story and is supported by sturdy posts anchored into the ground on piers. A stairway leading down to the yard below echoes the height of the stairs inside the house.

A house with the main living area on the ground level, or normally raised on a foundation such as a typical Cape Cod or center hall Colonial, could have a deck raised up to meet the threshold of the back door or about two feet high.

Amazing Deck Designs

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Gather, Chat and Play

This deck is ideal for gathering with guests, as it has multiple areas for entertaining. Spaces for enjoying intimate conversation, dining and playing should be incorporated into every functional deck design. Photo courtesy of Trex

Decorative Design

This expansive deck includes decorative design elements. Create interest by using different tones and levels to section the space for multiple functions like seating, planting and grilling. Photo courtesy of Trex

Photo By: Photographer: Matthew Borkoski

Functional and Grand

A fire pit is one of the many focal points in this design. It's a great option for cool nights and marshmallow roasts. This deck creates a seamless extension of the home's living space. Photo courtesy of Trex

Photo By: Trex

A Relaxing Retreat

Designed by Wood Shop Company, this deck takes relaxation to the next level with exquisite craftsmanship. Since the deck is enclosed, the hot tub and city view can be enjoyed rain or shine.

Created for Lounging

This poolside retreat is the headquarters for lounging with family and friends. Privacy pairs perfectly with safety, as parents can keep a close watch on the kids in the pool without hovering. Photo courtesy of Trex

Spacious and Serene

Sometimes you need more space, and this deck incorporates ample seating along the edge without overcrowding the area. The curved design is an attractive, eye-catching feature that enhances the aesthetic. Photo courtesy of Timber Tech

Photo By: Al Lang

Ready for Viewing

Taking advantage of an outside view is one of the most important reasons for building a deck. Everything about this space capitalizes on nature's elements. Container plants and shrubs soften the design of this hardscape. Photo courtesy of Fiberon

An Evening Escape

This classic deck design pulls in the rustic color scheme from the adjacent woods. Railings, built-in planters and a discrete step define the outdoor space, making it feel like you're in a room. Photo courtesy of Timber Tech

Photo By: Bob Winner

Unattached Decks

A ground-level deck is simply a box frame topped by floorboards supported by joists. This type of deck can basically be placed on any level surface anywhere in the yard. Think of it as an island retreat floating in the middle or back of the lawn, or shaded under the canopy of the trees.

If the deck is placed next to the house but not attached, it's considered a platform. If it's built under 18 inches high, most municipalities don't require you to install a railing or get a permit to build one. Check with the local building department first. If you do need a railing, most building codes require a railing of at least 36 inches high.

"I think attaching a deck to the house makes the house seem larger," says Eddie Maestri, architect and principal of Maestri, LLC-Architecture & Design. "Having it detached can make a space feel more secluded and intimate, but there's also a greater chance it will never get used."

Whatever you decide, think about the overall esthetic of the deck and its relationship to your yard. "It should take advantage of incorporating or enhancing existing landscape elements such as views, angles, trees or fountains," says Eddie.


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From pergolas to awnings, decide how much sun you want to enjoy when lounging on your deck before you shop shading options.

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