How to Design a Deck that Fits Your Lifestyle

By: Alia Hoyt
When designing your deck, think about how you'll mostly use it: whether for relaxing, eating with friends or entertaining large groups. See more patio and deck decor pictures.
When designing your deck, think about how you'll mostly use it: whether for relaxing, eating with friends or entertaining large groups. See more patio and deck decor pictures.

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.


Tips for Designing a Deck

Unless you have more cash than you know what to do with, you should probably begin your deck creation or renovation project by establishing a budget.

Next, schedule a few meetings with professional contractors to find out what they can do for you. In the long run, it might be cheaper to hire someone because they can get materials at cost and have contacts with other professionals who might be necessary down the line, like electricians and gas technicians. Plus, they can handle all that pesky permit business themselves. Of course, check references and make sure to pick a reputable contractor before handing over your deposit. It's also prudent to insist on a warrantee of some kind to ensure the quality of the work. Most contractors offer a one- year guarantee, but make sure to get it in writing.


Then, create a "wish list" for items and features you want to include, based on your personal needs. Here are a few general ideas to get you going:

  • For the general deck user: built-in grill with storage, fireplace or fire pit, and extra seating for family get-togethers.
  • For the big-time entertainer: surround sound, outdoor bar, fire pit or fireplace and mood lighting.
  • For the casual deck user: screened enclosure, Jacuzzi or hot tub, ceiling fan and Zen-like indoor/outdoor furniture to enhance a restful mood.

Be sure to consider your area's general weather before proceeding. Decks in warmer climates aren't likely to require extra heating, for example, but might benefit from a screened enclosure to keep mosquitoes from ruining the fun.

Once your deck is established, decorate the area to suit your taste. Outdoor furniture and potted plants are especially good for adding color and influencing the atmosphere to fit your general needs.


Lots More Information

Related Articles


  • Better Homes and Gardens "5 Popular Deck Designs Explained." 2012. (July 25, 2012).
  • Bilotti, Larry. "Get Inspired! 12 Sensational Deck Designs." Bob Vila. 2012. (July 25, 2012).
  • Ostendorf, Laura. "Innovative Design Ideas for Stunning Decks." HGTV. 2012. (July 25, 2012).
  • Truini, Joseph. "Your Ultimate Guide to the 5 Materials that Make a Modern Deck." Popular Mechanics. Oct. 1, 2009. (July 25, 2012).