7 Steps for Planning Your Deck Design (2024)

Of course, enjoying the outdoor space is the reason you've been dreaming about adding a deck to your house, but thinking about how you plan to use it and what you really want to get out of the space can greatly impact every decision from where you place the deck, down to the materials you choose. Start by picturing your ideal day on a deck: at UltraDeck, we refer to this as how you plan to LIVE THE DECK LIFETM . Are you relaxing in the sun? Grilling with family and friends? Lounging around the pool? Hosting a party? Knowing your end goal will help you plan for what you need.


7 Steps for Planning Your Deck Design (1)

Knowing how you want to use your new deck goes hand-in-hand with where it will be. After all, you probably don't want your party guests walking through the Master Bedroom or to carry a full tray of food through the entire house just to grill. If you plan to cook and dine outside, having easy access from the kitchen is a must. When the goal is to relax outside with a good book, having areas of the deck in the sun or shade can make it easier to enjoy even on the hottest days. But considering sun exposure and ease of access aren't the only things to consider when choosing your locations. You may need to consider other restrictions as well, such as property setbacks, Homeowner association rules, or local building code regulations. You will want to check in to any restrictions with your city, county or state before going too far in the designing and purchasing process.


7 Steps for Planning Your Deck Design (2)

Choosing the size and shape of deck to build is sometimes determined by elements around the property; the walls of the house, property setbacks and fencing, or the location of the perfect shade tree. Yet, other times, the budget for the project may be the largest factor when planning the size and shape. No matter what size deck you choose to build, it is good to be conscious of how your intended use of the deck aligns with the overall shape and size of the deck project.

  • Inviting Staircase: If your goal is to have a welcoming front porch, an extra-wide staircase leading to the front door can help make the deck feel inviting, while enhancing curb appeal.
  • Limited on Space: When property setbacks or space limitations require you to build a bit smaller than you originally hoped, being aware of how the placement of stairs can affect the useable space and selecting smaller profile furniture and decor can help the whole deck look larger.
  • Deck with a View: When you really want to focus on enjoying the view, you may want to consider the perfect seating area and the overall depth of the deck in order to maximize the view. If you build the deck too deep, you may cut off some of the view from inside the house; too narrow and your space for seating will be limited.


When considering the design of your deck, you'll want to think about how people will move through the space, how preferred seating choices effect the flow,and how access points and stairs to the deck can impact traffic and seating.

Single Entry:

With only one access point, traffic flow probably won't be a major concern, as you won't have to worry about paths to other entrances or staircases. This can open up the possibilities for furniture layout and really focus on the view or intent for the deck. A single access point can also make the deck feel moreprivate, like a balcony off of a master bedroom, as there aren't people coming and going from multiple directions or concerns about integrating other spaces with the deck.

Multiple Access:

Having multiple access points is the most common. Whether it's a front porch connecting a sidewalk and the entry door, a backyard deck with a dining table leading from the kitchen to the backyard, or a multi-level deck with different area for entertaining, having multiple ways to enter the deck means you'll need to think about how the position of those entry points effect the overall space and feel of the deck.

  • A staircase to the yard centered opposite of a door may mean two smaller seating areas rather than a larger table and chairs centered on the deck to create the best traffic flow.
  • A deck used as a main walkway from the house to a driveway, may need to be wider if you want to also include a place to sit or gather.
  • Multiple staircases may be great to add drama or easily access to different areas, while one wide staircase may integrate a low standing deck with the patio more smoothly.
  • Free Standing:

    When a deck is freestanding or floating it is often used as a destination rather than a passage from one point to another, making traffic flow through the space much less of a concern. With easy access from all, or most sides, and a low-to-the-ground structure, free standing decks are typically an easy build that can quickly transform any outdoor space.

    Enhance with Unique Details

    A deck can be customized in so many ways to reflect your style and work best for your house. Whether you decided to go big or small, unique features can enhance the look of your space, as well as how you will use it when it is complete. When getting down to the details in the planning stage, consider everything from privacy needs to beautiful patterns and designs in the deck boards. Adding a fence to shield from the neighbor's view can enhance privacy, having a unique alcove for seating or a grill can add appeal, and adding a bold pattern or boarder to the deck boards can highlight the whole space or emphasize a smaller seating area.


    7 Steps for Planning Your Deck Design (3)

    Check out more about the wide variety of products, colors, and low-maintenance options UltraDeck® offers for any budget and lifestyle with our Product Comparison Guide.

    The right materials can make the deck! Budget can certainly be a big factor, but it isn't the only thing to consider when selecting materials. Color, function, and style are certainly important as well, but remember to think long term.

    Consider Maintenance and Time:

    Ease of maintenance can greatly impact the way your deck looks and performs for years to come, as well as the amount of time you need to spend keeping it looking its best. Keep in mind the reason you want a deck to begin with, if your whole goal is to spend time relaxing and enjoying the outdoors, then choosing a product that needs to be stained or sealed every year or two may not be your best option. Composite decking may cost a bit more upfront, but the time money, and energy saved with its minimal maintenance can really pay off in the long run.


    7 Steps for Planning Your Deck Design (4)

    Railing and lighting can really make a deck feel complete. With multiple color, profile, and material options, it can be overwhelming to choose. Keeping your intent for the deck in mind can really help narrow down the right option for your home. To optimize a view, a horizontal, low profile, or clear railing option may be a good choice as it won't detract from the view. Add additional style and flair with a contrasting color of railing to complement the features of the deck. If you are planning for multiple late-night parties outside, built in lighting can be a beautiful and practical addition.


    Now that you know what you want in a deck, it's time to get technical. It's time to select your materials and really narrow in on your budget. Before you can start to build your new deck, you've got to design it up, gather needed materials, get any needed permits, and maybe refresh your skills a bit. But have no fear UltraDeck® , along with Menards® provides you with all the tools, tips and, techniques you need to get your new deck project started off on the right foot. Start by using our free Deck Designer, which you can use to design and buy materials from home; use our fastener calculator, to figure out how many hidden fasteners you need; or chat online with an expert. When you are ready to start building, watch our how-to-videos or check out the detailed installation instructions.

    Ultimately, know yourself and the project you are wanting to tackle. At UltraDeck, we truly believe that a deck project is something you can take on. But if you are feeling unsure, don't let that hold you back from the getting your dream outdoor space. You can still design, select, and price all of your materials online and get in contact with a local contractor to help you tackle the project. Before you know it, you'll be relaxing outside and enjoying your new deck.

    7 Steps for Planning Your Deck Design (2024)


    What are the steps in building a deck? ›

    How to Build a Deck in 8 Steps
    1. Prepare the Area. Start by removing grass from the area that your deck will be built on. ...
    2. Set Concrete Blocks. Create seven rows of three concrete blocks. ...
    3. Lay the Deck Frame. ...
    4. Attach Standard Joists. ...
    5. Place the Deck Frame. ...
    6. Adjust Concrete Block Height. ...
    7. Install Deck Boards. ...
    8. Seal Your Deck.
    Mar 28, 2024

    How much does it cost to build a 20x20 deck? ›

    4 Large decks that measure 14x20 use significantly more materials, leading to a cost range of $8,500 to $17,000,4 while a 20x20 deck will cost between $12,000 to $24,000,4 depending on the type of material and the layout of the deck.

    What is deck layout? ›

    Your deck layout refers primarily to the size and shape of your deck. Planning your deck layout is an important part of designing your deck, as it will determine your substructure needs — and may affect whether you DIY the build or work with a contractor.

    What should a deck estimate look like? ›

    Average Deck Cost Per Square Foot

    The average cost to build a deck is $30 – $60 per square foot. This includes your decking material, extras like hardware, beams, and balusters, and labor costs—with anywhere from half to seventy percent of the expense coming from the latter.

    How do you estimate a deck? ›

    To determine your deck's measurements, you'll want to measure its length and width from the longest point – even if there are shorter angles and niches within its structure. From there, multiply the length and width together to arrive at the total square footage of your deck.

    How many steps do I need for deck? ›

    2) Figure out how many steps you will need.
    • Choose a stair rise somewhere between 7 and 7-1/2 inches. Take your total height divided by that stair rise number.
    • This will almost always give you a long decimal number. Round to the nearest whole number - this will be the number of steps you will have in your staircase.
    Mar 15, 2023

    Does a deck need steps? ›

    Many decks are attached to existing homes and are at least 30″ above the ground, so deck stairs and adequate railings are a must.

    How much should a 12x12 deck cost? ›

    A 12x12 deck is likely to cost between $4,320 and $8,640. A 14x20 deck is likely to cost between $8,400 and $16,800. A 20x20 deck is likely to cost between $12,000 and $24,000.

    How much does a 14x20 deck labor cost? ›

    Labor costs depend on a contractor's specific rates and fees, but a good estimate is $4,200 to $8,400* total on a 14x20 deck.

    How far apart are deck joists? ›

    How wide apart should decking joists be? In North America, joist spacing for residential decks is 12″ to 16″ apart, or according to local building code. Most decks require 16″ spacing for the deck itself, with 12″ spacing used for special applications, such as stairs or commercial structures.

    How far apart should deck posts be? ›

    When using 4×4 posts, place them no more than 6 feet apart, and when using 6×6 posts, no more than 8 feet apart.

    What is the best deck spacing? ›

    The amount of space between deck boards should be anywhere from ¼” to 3/8” inch. You want plenty of space for water to flow between the boards and to allow small debris to fall to the ground.

    What angle should a deck be? ›

    Most contractors suggest sloping the deck 1/4th- 1/8th of an inch for every foot of decking. With this slope, the difference isn't terribly noticeable to those standing on the surface but your chance of ponding is reduced greatly.

    What is the app that draws deck plans? ›

    So use SmartDraw's deck planner to design a deck to be the envy of your neighbors. Start with a deck design template and quickly drag-and-drop deck elements like boards, railings, planters, and even patio furniture.

    Is it cheaper to build your own deck? ›

    Building your own deck will cost roughly half as much as if you hire a contractor. As with any DIY project, you're only paying for materials, not labor. But the cost of materials varies widely based on the deck materials you choose and the shape and size of your deck.

    Do I need an architect to draw plans for a deck? ›

    In most cases a professional architect is not legally required to draw residential deck plans for permit. However, plans for large or complicated projects, such as a rooftop deck, may require the seal of a licensed architect or structural engineer.

    What is proper deck spacing? ›

    When installing new air-dried decking the proper gap ranges from 1/8 inch (3.5 mm) - 1/4 inch (6.5mm) depending on the environment. If you are installing air-dried decking during a rainy or humid season you may want to place the boards with a 1/8 inch (3.5mm) gap.


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