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Deck design rules of thumb

At Creative Concepts and Design, we build hundreds of decks every year in the Kansas City area, so we have a good handle on what it takes. We’re sharing some of our favorite deck design rules of thumb. Hopefully, these tips from the pros will make your deck designing go more smoothly and help you avoid any mistakes along the way.


The biggest challenge in deck design is often where design meets budget. So, first things first, determine your budget. You need to know if you’re comfortable spending $15,000 vs. $100,000.00+ or somewhere in between. Knowing the budget is easy. Meeting the budget can be a bit trickier, so be realistic. You don’t want to put a lot of time into your design just to find out that you can’t afford a deck that big. A cost of $75.00 per square foot (depending on finishes, selections, and design) and $350.00 per step will get you in the ballpark of an average deck in the Kansas City area. Remember that materials play a major role in the cost of a new deck. You will have to choose wisely there too to stay within your budget.


Draw the deck to scale. This is pretty basic. You don’t need to be an architect. Simply select where you want the left and right side of your deck to be. Keep in mind the size of your family and the amount of people you wish to entertain on the deck. Start by drawing the profile of the house. Make your scale 1’=1 square on the graph paper. For large decks you might want to use 2’=1 square.


Once you have the profile of your house, mark where the sides of the deck will be, decide how far you want the deck to project from the house. 10′ deck projection would be enough for a table and 4 chairs, 14′ deck projection is enough for a table and chairs for 6 with a grill, 16′-20′ of deck projection would be enough for a table and chairs for 6 plus a grill and or small area for casual entertaining.

Stairs & Landings

Treat stairs like doors in a home – usually stairs are in a corner. Very seldom do you see a door placed in the middle of a wall or room, and the same goes for stairs on a deck, with the exception of a ground-level deck. Choose a corner on the deck that best suits the landing and stairs. Typically deck landings and stairs are 4′ wide. Draw in a 4′ x 4′ landing. Then draw in the stairs. A typical deck attached to the second elevation of the house above the ground is about 10′. If your deck is 10’+/- off the ground you will have approximately 16 steps +/-. If you want to add a deck landing in the middle of the stairs to break up the long run they are usually 8′ x 4′ for a switchback stair or 4′ x 4′ for a straight run. Each stair should be one box wide on your graph paper.

Pro Tip – If you have limited space, oversize the landing to 8’x4’ at the deck level and now it is large enough to accommodate a typical-sized grill and still allow for egress. This helps take the grill out of the entertainment space and gives you more square footage for staging.

Additional Structures

Decide if you would like a pergola, trellis, sunshade, benches, planters, privacy wall, or any other structure on your deck. If so, draw additional structures in with a different color. It is also a good idea to draw in your table, chairs, furniture, and grill to scale too. This will give you a good understanding of how much room you have and what the flow of traffic will be like.

Pro Tip – allow 3’ to 4’ egress throughout your staging and you will never feel cramped. This is critical when selecting furniture sizes.


The decking you choose is the most critical factor in the cost of your deck.

Here is the order of decking material pricing in our area from least expensive to most expensive:

Treated lumber
Capped Composite

Now is the time you ask yourself how long you plan on living in your house. The length of time you plan on living in the home plays a vital role in ROI and what product will suit your needs best.


Handrails and stairs will be the next most expensive materials on the deck.

Here is the order of handrail material pricing in our area from least expensive to most expensive:


Handrails require the most maintenance. The more affordable rails like treated wood and cedar require the most maintenance. This is where you should ask yourself if the cost savings are worth the time and added maintenance cost (and hassle) over however many years you plan to live in the house.


Deck lighting is an option, but I always encourage it. Nothing can transform an ordinary deck into a beautiful space like deck lighting. There are plenty of options – deck lighting can be installed on handrail posts, under the handrail, on the steps, and even inlaid into the deck floorboards to create a very attractive atmosphere. It also adds an element of safety if you don’t have a lot of other outdoor lighting.

Finishing Touches

Oftentimes the underside of the deck never gets utilized. If your deck is elevated off the ground, it can nearly double your entertainment space or provide plenty of storage just by adding a subroof. The nice thing about this is it’s dry space! If your deck doesn’t have the headroom to provide more entertainment space or storage underneath, consider adding a deck skirt or adding decorative rock to make the area more appealing.

We hope you’ve gathered some good tips from these deck design rules of thumb. At Creative Concepts and Design, if you can imagine it, we can help you design it and build it. We’d love to hear your deck ideas – the more creative, the better! We’ve been building custom decks in Kansas City and we have plenty of satisfied customers you can talk to. We’ll give you seven reasons to hire us for the job.

Call us at (816) 301-0275 or contact us online. You can even schedule a deck design meeting and get a free quote. We’d love to bring your backyard dreams to life!

Caleb Hunt in Kansas City, MO on Houzz  
5559 NW Barry Road #442
Kansas City MO 64154

Creative Concepts & Design LLC – Kansas City's Highest Rated Deck & Pergola Builder