Building a deck comes with many challenges. The biggest challenge is often where design meets budget. Ask any builder, architect, or home owner that has designed a deck and they will tell you the design is easy…meeting the budget is where it gets tricky. Hopefully we can fill you in on some key factors that will help your deck design be a success.
Set your budget. This might be overwhelming at fist if you don’t know market value. However, you need to know whether or not you’re comfortable with spending $5,000.00 vs. $50,000.00+ or somewhere in between. Be realistic with your budget. The last thing you want to do is invest hours of time and energy only to realize you really don’t want to spend as much as you initially thought. Set your budget at a price you’re comfortable with. 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 under average circumstances in the Kansas City area. However, material selection plays a major role in the cost of a new deck. Just like a 2,000 sq ft modular home cost 76.80 per square foot and a 2,000 sq ft custom home with the finest finishes can cost up to $400.00 per square foot. That’s a $646,400.00 price swing for the same 2,000 sq ft.
Collect ideas. This is the fun part. Look through google images, houzz.com, or take a drive around the city and just look around. This will help you figure out what you like and what you don’t like. When collecting deck ideas don’t be modest. Collect as many ideas as you can and then start narrowing your deck design down from there. Spend some time in your back yard and get to know the symmetry of the back of your house. Pay close attention to corners, bump outs, elevation, landscape, and roof lines. Ask yourself where your deck would look best. This might sound remedial but even after designing 300-400 decks per year I still ask myself these same questions on every deck I design. The more time you devote to looking at different deck designs the better your odds of loving your deck design.
Draw the deck to scale. You don’t need to be an architect or have a degree in drafting to do this. A tape measure, pencil, ruler, and some graph paper will do just fine. Select where you want the left and right side of your deck to end. 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. Now is when you want to decide how far you want the deck to project from the house. 12′ deck projection would would be enough for a table and 4 chairs, 14′ deck projection is enough for a table and chairs for 4 with a grill, 16′-20′ of deck projection would be enough for a table and chairs for 6 plus a grill.
Add stairs and landings. I like to treat stairs like doors in a home. Very seldom do you see a door placed in the middle of a wall or room. Usually they are in a corner, and the same goes for stairs on a deck, with the exception to 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 attaching 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 strait run. Each stair should be one box wide on your graph paper.
Decide on other structures. Now that your deck profile is determined you will need to decide if you would like a pergola, trellis, sunshade, benches, planters, privacy screen wall, or any other structure on your deck. If so, draw that in with a different color. It is also a good idea to draw in scale your table, chairs, furniture, and grill. This will give you a good understanding of how much room you have and what the flow of traffic will be like.
Decking selection. This is going to be a very 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, cedar, composite, capped composite, PVC, Bamboo, Ipe, tile, redwood, aluminum, & teak. 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.
Handrail selection. Handrail and stairs will often times be the most expensive material items on the deck. Here is the order of handrail material pricing in our area from least expensive to most expensive: Treated, cedar, steel, aluminum, glass, & cable. Handrail requires the most time to maintain. Now is the time you ask yourself if the cost savings are worth the time and added maintenance cost over the course of xx amount of years.
Deck lighting. Deck lighting is an option I always encourage. Nothing can transform an ordinary deck into a well designed space with ambiance like deck lighting can. Deck lighting can be installed in handrail post, under the handrail, on the steps, and even inlaid into the deck floorboards to create a very attractive atmosphere.
Subroof. Often times the underside of the deck never gets utilized. If the 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 its DRY SPACE!!!
Add appeal. If your deck doesn’t have the head room to provide more entertainment space or storage underneath, consider adding a deck skirt or adding decorative rock to make the area more appealing.