Plan Ahead and Create a Spot for Backyard Family Fun

The secret to creating a great deck is planning. For example, will it be a place for children to play, a spot for sunbathing or a backdrop for elegant, alfresco dining? Is the view from the deck site pleasant, or does it face directly onto the back or side of a neighbor’s rickety garage?

Think About Deck Size

Skimping on size is probably the most common deck planning error. The chief reason — there is no rule of thumb regarding the size of the deck in proportion to the size of the house or lot.

Base the deck size on a combination of variables, including lifestyle and needs, lot size, the topography of the site and the budget. Keep in mind that a long, narrow deck is not as useful as a square or nearly square deck, which provides the greatest number of options for arranging furniture and carrying out a variety of activities.

Outdoor Dining

If plans call for outdoor dining space, allow for a minimum of 64 sq. ft. for a table and chairs and provide for easy accessibility to the kitchen, perhaps via a window designed as a pass-through.Add even more square footage to the deck if including a seating area, a grill, or spa tub. And allow space for traffic flow to pass around, not through, those areas with a minimum of three feet of clearance space between activity areas.

If cooking on the deck, situate the grill far enough away from doors and windows so smoke doesn’t fill the house.

Provide Access

No matter what the size of the deck, make every effort to provide more than one approach to it from the yard so bottlenecks are not created. Also take into consideration when the deck be used. If that’s mostly during the day, observe the site beforehand to see where sun falls. Provide a bit of shade with a trellis, arbor or awning. If it will be used mostly at night, consider lighting most carefully.

Match the House Style

Plan to create a deck that looks as if it’s part of the existing house. Custom order weather-resistant millwork products, such as decorative spindles and railings, lattice panels and turned finials and posts that make it possible to design a compatible deck.

Pay Attention to Local Code Requirements

Local building code requirements may influence the deck design. Codes dictate the setback, or how far from the property line the deck may be located. In many areas, decks that are built more than a few inches above the ground are required by law to include a railing. For safety’s sake, both the height of the railings and the spacing of the verticals components must conform to building code standards, especially if installing a spa tub on the deck. And the structural elements of the deck, including the spacing of the footings and the size of the support beams, must also meet local codes.