An outdoor deck is a fantastic addition to any home. Decks are well-loved, versatile spaces that can be used for entertaining, dining, relaxing, and so much more. Plus, it’s a smart investment in your property that you can enjoy for years to come.
The question is, how do you design a deck that’s perfect for your home and your needs? It’s hard to know where to start, but you should consider your deck’s function, aesthetic, and build. Whether you’re remodeling an old deck or starting fresh, here are a few things to keep in mind to make your dream deck a reality.
Your deck is a functional space. How you use it is up to you! Here are some points of function to keep in mind:
First things first, this is your deck. You get to design it with your lifestyle in mind. What would you like to use your deck for? Big, fancy parties? Quiet evenings with family? Take some time to think about how your deck will fit in with your life.
For those who love to grill, play up the outdoor cooking area. For those who love a quiet night in, create an intimate conversation area. The great thing about decks is that you can design them in a way that meets many different needs. For example, you can have a large entertaining area and quiet conversation spot too.
Areas of Use
Once you have your priorities in order, you can start thinking about your deck in terms of areas of use. Imagine your deck divided up into “rooms” for different activities such as dining, lounging, cooking, and conversing. Sometimes, the only thing signifying these areas will be the furniture, but it’s good to keep them in mind during the designing phase.
For each area, make sure there is ample room for each activity. You’ll need plenty of room for chairs around a dining table, as well as end tables or coffee tables near lounge furniture. Keep in mind you can build different levels of decking for specific areas of use, such as a raised area or a sunken area.
Don’t forget about traffic patterns! Between your areas of use, you’ll want to make sure you leave plenty of space for foot traffic. You don’t want to be squeezing through different areas while people are trying to enjoy themselves. Also, you certainly don’t want to feel cramped. Leave space for the natural flow of traffic between points of entry, exit, and areas of use.
If you’re investing in a deck for your home, you want it to look good! Here are a few aesthetic concerns to consider:
Deck Shape & Size
The general rule of thumb is that a deck should be no larger than 20 percent of the house’s square footage. The idea is not to overwhelm the house visually. However, rules are more like guidelines. If you spend a lot of time on your deck, and you design it strategically, a larger deck can look and function well.
In terms of shape, rectangular decks are the most common but don’t be afraid to add different angles or even curves. It may take some more design work but building something a little different can make your deck special and unique.
It’s often overlooked, but when designing your deck don’t forget to consider the views. First, map out the view from the deck. Make sure there aren’t any railings or other obstructions between your deck and the space it overlooks.
Not only should you consider the view from the deck, but also keep in mind the view from the house. When you gaze out of your window, do you want to see a bulky grill? Or would you rather see a dining area or lounge furniture?
To alter the views, be strategic about platforms, descending sections, railings, and other vertical elements.
Make sure your deck is aesthetically and architecturally compatible with the exterior of your home. You may have a vision for your deck that would not blend well with the style of your home.
A professional designer can help with this. You can work together to create an outdoor space that works seamlessly with your home and landscape.
Time to get down to business! Part of designing an outdoor deck is deciding on construction materials and elements. What’s best for you?
The most common type of building material for decks is wood. There are many different natural, composite, and artificial decking materials to choose from, but the most popular choice remains wood. Here are the most popular options:
Pressure-treated wood, also known as “PT” lumber, is the most economic option for decking material. It’s inexpensive, widely available, and one of the most common decking materials sold on the market. PT lumber is milled from southern yellow pine and chemically treated to resist rot, fungus, and insects. It is susceptible to warping, cracking, and splitting. It requires diligent maintenance, including power washing, weather treatments, and stain or wood preservatives.
Composite decking is becoming more and more popular. Several years ago this wasn't the case, but as more manufacturers have entered the marketplace, quality has increased, and the price has gone down. This largely maintenance free product comes in a variety of colors and stains, and embedded patterns on some products are close to mimicking real wood. These decks just need to be power washed as needed.
Redwood, Cedar, and Mahogany
These decking materials are naturally resistant to warping, cracking, and pests. Unlike pressure-treated wood, they're not chemically treated. They may be more expensive, but redwood, cedar, and mahogany generally have better longevity as well as rich color and natural beauty. They require an annual power washing and a coat of finish and stain every three to four years.
Ipe is a tropical wood, which is comparable in cost to redwood and cedar. It’s similar in appearance to mahogany, but darker and richer. Ipe is known for being extremely dense and pest resistant. Its density makes it difficult to cut and drill and it does not accept stains well. Ipe is widely considered one of the most beautiful decking materials available. For maintenance, it requires a UV-blocking clear wood preservative every three to four years.
At its core, a deck is basically an extended outdoor floor. What really makes a deck great -- besides the overall design -- is vertical elements.
There are all kinds of upright elements you can add to your deck for function, style, or both. Here are some of the most common vertical elements for decks:
- Railings - Available in so many designs, railings are great for safety, separation of space, and style.
- Skirting - For raised decks, consider adding decorative skirting to cover its underside.
- Pergolas - To add some shade to your deck, consider installing a pergola. Depending on the spacing of the rafters, you can add partial shade or heavy shade to your space.
- Awnings - If the sun is just too much and you need complete shade, try adding an awning. Unlike pergolas, which offer partial shade, awnings create a complete shady oasis.
- Planters - Built-in planters are a nice addition to decks.
- Benches - Some decks are perfect for built-in benches, while others are more suited for movable deck furniture. You can always have both!
Design Your Dream Deck
Hopefully, your head is buzzing with all kinds of ideas for your dream deck. Creating an outdoor space for your home is an art and a science. Godfrey Design-Build can help.
Our deck design experts specialize in bringing your vision to life. From choosing the right building materials to making the best use of your outdoor space, we’re your one-stop-shop that does it all.