The average deck is typically little more than wood, nails and a nice view if you're lucky. Fortunately, it's not difficult to spruce it up if you have a little extra time, cash and elbow grease. But before you do so, evaluate the uses and features you really need. For example, using the space for heavy-duty entertaining is going to require different features from just relaxing and decompressing after a long day.
Also, figure out how large you wish the deck to be before you commission the project. Size will affect the overall cost, as well as the look, feel and functionality of the remaining yard. Whether your deck is platform style (low to the ground), raised or multi-level will depend on a number of factors, like your budget and how your property is laid out.
As with any home improvement project, it's crucial to research local regulations and codes before starting constructing. Obtaining the correct permits helps you avoid hefty fines; plus it's also safer in the long run to do things by the book. For the record, patios typically do not require any sort of permit because they're not attached to the existing home.
Now, let's dive into some specific tips for designing the ideal deck for your particular needs.