Things To Consider Before Building a Deck

A deck enhances your outdoor space, adding room to relax and entertain. A deck can also bring some pizzazz to a dull backyard and serve as a family gathering spot in summer. Things to consider before building a deck include cost, materials, design, and maintenance.

Zoning and Permits

Before heading off to the big-box store to load your truck with tools and concrete mix, check your town’s zoning rules and permit requirements. There may be rules about how big a deck can be, how far away from the property line it must be, and how deep the supporting posts must be set. In areas with harsh winters, deck posts may be required to be set into holes dug four or five feet deep. Local rules may also govern railing height, gates, and stairs. Find out what’s required before you build, or you may face fines or even be required to tear down and start over.


Experienced do-it-yourselfers can handle building a simple square or rectangular deck with a few steps and simple railings. However, a multilevel deck, a deck with a ramp, or one that will hang over a ravine requires careful planning and the help of professional designers and builders. If your plans exceed your DIY abilities, find a professional contractor to help.

Think about how you’ll use your deck. Do you want a private retreat, or do you plan to host large parties? A deck that will hold a lot of people needs more reinforcement to hold greater than the standard load. Also map out what type of furniture you’ll have on your deck and whether you’ll have enough space for it: a dining table needs several feet of space around it for comfortable use. Oversized sectionals may not work on a smaller deck.

The view from your deck will affect how you enjoy it. You’re in luck if you already have a nicely landscaped yard with flowerbeds and mature trees or if your house is on a hill with a pleasant overlook. If there’s not much of a view, consider creating one by adding trees, shrubs, and flower beds. Also think about sun and shade. For a deck that will get full sun all day, adding a pergola, awning, or other structure that can provide shade while you enjoy the outdoors is an option. Finally, lighting increases safety and makes the deck more welcoming at night.

Cost and Materials

When you’ve settled on a design, you can calculate measurements and begin estimating costs. The cost per square foot can vary widely depending on the materials you select. Choices range from less expensive pressure-treated wood to naturally rot-resistant woods such as cedar or redwood to composite materials and tropical hardwoods. Maintenance is a factor to consider before you begin building a deck, and it should wrap into your cost estimates. Wood decks are beautiful, but they need sanding and resealing every few years. Composite decks require far less maintenance, but many people think they aren’t as visually appealing, and they can get hotter in the sun than natural wood.

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