How to Get Your Deck Right

Let’s get started looking at some of the things you can do to ensure that your deck ends up exactly like you envision it.

Few home furnishings provide as much joy and get as much use as a deck. It is the perfect place to kick back on a chaise lounge and soak up some rays, grill up a delicious meal for the family, or gather with friends for cocktails. But while the process of building your deck may sound simple, there are a handful of steps you can take to make the whole affair go more smoothly and avoid costly and time-consuming mistakes.


Backyard house exterior with patio area and hot tub on the walkout deck



The requirements for building permits for decks vary from city to city, so you’ll want to find your locality’s exact regulations. Some smaller structures won’t require much paperwork, but you want to avoid the headache of fines and possible disassembly by planning in advance.


In general, you’ll need the size, a drawing of the planned structure, and your property details in order to file for a permit. If you want to build a more comprehensive structure – say, an elevated deck that spans two stories – the city may require a professional design plan. Check with your local Department of Planning and Development.


Architect with a plan


Space and Usage

The activities you’re planning your deck for will dictate not just the size, but the shape and features as well. Are you going to use it primarily for grilling and eating with the family? Make sure you’ve got an area for a table, a nook for the grill that’s a safe distance from the seating area, and adequate space around the table for people to move around comfortably.


If you do a lot of entertaining, you’ll want to consider some built-in perimeter seating with a wide railing so guests have room to set their drinks down. A table with stools will take up less room than an entire patio table, but you’ll still want room for the grill. Consider allocating some space for outdoor plants and other décor as well.


Wooden walkout deck in the backyard garden of blue siding house



Wood is the obvious choice, and treated lumber is typically durable and beautiful. But composites have come a long way and they’re available in a wide range of colors and styles. Composites are more expensive than wood, but they can be more affordable over time due to the fact that they won’t need cleaning or refinishing. On the other hand, you can choose a bright, colorful outdoor paint to give wood a custom finish. Just make sure you apply sealant if you don’t opt for paint. You usually need to wait for a period of months to apply this coat to treated wood, so be sure to check the instructions for your specific lumber.


Wooden board


The Details

Consider alternative railings – you don’t have to go with the typical wooden posts if you don’t like the look. There are cables, metal, and more to choose from to add a distinctive touch to your outdoor ambiance. Or, go with no railings at all for an open-air feel – just make sure your deck is a height that doesn’t require railings according to local building codes.

Don’t forget lighting. See if there’s any way to work a pergola or other shade-providing element into your design. If local laws allow, an integrated fire pit can turn your deck into a three-season outdoor living space. If you think about these features before you begin construction, you can build them right in instead of trying to add them later on.

Covered walkout deck with metal railings and table set.

DISCLAIMER: Readers should keep in mind that any accounts of renovation presented in this blog are written accounts of events taking place at individual homes, and are not necessarily endorsements of do-it-yourself home improvement. You proceed at your own risk if you attempt to replicate any activities described here. 


Images used with permission, courtesy of and

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