How to Plan for Building a Deck

Get ready for your deck project with these helpful tips on how to plan the building process.

Building Deck

Building Deck

A man is planning and installing wood for a deck.

Photo by: EJ-J


By: Sean McEvoy

Building a deck can be a daunting task, especially if it's your first time. However, with the right expert advice on how to plan for building a deck, your project can run smoothly and ultimately provide you with a relaxing and beautiful outdoor space to enjoy.

Your first task when planning to build a deck is to decide whether you're going to take on the project yourself, or hire professionals to help plan and build your deck. The general wisdom on decks is that they provide a "moderate-to-hard" challenge for even the handiest homeowners, so if you're slightly daunted by home improvement projects, you might want to hire a contractor to build your deck.

New Deck Trends

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Something for Everyone

Among the many new trends in deck design are multi-level decks for different activities, finished decks which increase your outdoor entertaining options and decks with added water features like this versatile design from AZEK which includes a spa pool and is available in different colors and grain textures. 

The View Master

A handsome Ipe deck with stained concrete raised planters takes advantage of its spectacular hillside setting in this elegant design from Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture.

Photo By: Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture

The Beauty Down Below

The view from this deck may be spectacular but demanding equal attention is the innovative floor design from Sogno Design Group which arranged Bison Ipe pallets on a leveler system over roofing. 

Photo By: Sogno Design Group, photo by Shawn-Paul Luchin

Considering Another Angle

Another view of the Bison Ipe pallet based deck demonstrates how the outdoor entertainment space flows into other areas of the home through a natural, organic design.

Photo By: Sogno Design Group, photo by Shawn-Paul Luchin

Soaking in the Sun

This picturesque combination of deck and spa pool from Bel Air Construction utilizes Redland Rose AZEK decking which is composed of a low maintenance, stain- and scratch-resistant material.

Photo By: Bel Air Construction & Steven Paul Whitsitt Photography

Step Up to Luxury

An Australian hardwood known as Yellow Stringybark provides the decking and steps in this stunning patio/pool combination from COS Design with landscaping by Signature Landscapes and pool by Serenity Pools. 

Photo By: COS Design, photo by Tim Turner

Different Levels, Different Views

If you want to try something different from the standard one-level deck, why not consider a design like this from the MOSAIC Group which offers multiple vantage points and views and showcases your backyard to its best advantage?

Photo By: MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers],

Pool and Harbor Combo

Taking full advantage of a waterside location is this compact and stylish design from CplusC Architectural Workshop that incorporates a pool with Australian hardwood decking plus lovely views and easy open water access.

Photo By: CplusC Architectural Workshop, photo by Murray Fredericks

Tree Friendly

Integrating nature with your outdoor deck design enhances any entertainment space and here is a novel approach from Urrutia Design that combines trees, potted plants and shade features with Ipe wood, locally made bricks, redwood balusters and a fire pit.

©Urrutia Design & Jason Wells Photography

Hidden Spa

This rustic design combines nature and an intimate area for entertaining and features a deck with a concealed spa from Projects by Giffin & Crane. 

Photo By: Jim Bartsch ©Projects by Giffin & Crane

Pool and Garden Access

Decks with a completely finished underside are becoming more popular and this example from Tufdek presents an ideal entertainment space that enjoys easy access to both pool and garden areas. The striking exterior vinyl waterproof flooring is available in a variety of colors and offers years of durability.

Australian Awesomeness

This imaginative configuration incorporates trees, bamboo, walkways, an outdoor oven and decking made from Yellow Stringybark into a natural open space by COS Design. Landscape by Signature Landscapes.

Photo By: COS Design, photo by Tim Turner

Wet Deck

Multi-decks allow you to diversify your outdoor space based on a variety of activities such as this set up from Kane Landscapes which prominently displays a spa area on one level and a garden patio area above it. 

Photo By: Kane Landscapes, a member of The National Association of Landscape Professionals

Into the Woods

Kona and Redland Rose colors accent this design that uses AZEK decking and custom railings with Decorator Frontier glass balusters to create the sense of an outdoor entertainment space nestled deep in the woods. 

Photo By: Bel Air Construction & Steven Paul Whitsitt Photography

Supreme Pine

A natural wood stain gives this multi-level pressure-treated pine deck a rich color to stand out against the greenery while offering long-lasting protection and years of use.

Photo By: MOSAIC Group [Architects and Remodelers],

Once you've decided the all-important "DIY vs. contractor" question, you'll need to determine what kind of deck suits your needs best. Can you simply build a deck on the ground? With only one step up, this kind of deck won't require stairs or protective railings. Are you looking for something more elaborate like a raised deck with stairs, or even a two-story behemoth with entrances on two different floors? You'll need to decide what type of deck you want to build before you proceed.

Whether you or someone else will be doing the actual building, you can generate a detailed deck building plan by utilizing many widely available digital deck planning tools. For example, many home improvement companies provide free-to-use deck design software, which will allow you to design a virtual deck before the first hammer is raised.

Deck calculators can also be a helpful resource as you begin planning to build a deck. These handy tools allow you to determine how much of any particular material you'll need for your deck based on its size, plus the approximate cost of the individual materials and the full project.

Planning for your deck project can seem overwhelming, but by answering a few key questions up front and making use of helpful digital tools, you can ensure that your deck will be ready in no time and built to your exact specifications.

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