Decked out

From con­cep­tion to con­struc­tion, build a fan­tas­tic deck that’s func­tional, too.

Timber Home Living - - Contents -

Ev­ery­one loves the idea of a sprawl­ing deck (or two) to ex­pand their home’s us­able liv­ing space. But be­fore putting shovel to soil, you’ll need to do some thor­ough plan­ning to en­sure you’ll build a deck that you and your fam­ily will love and use fre­quently. So whether you have the lux­ury of de­sign­ing your deck to per­fectly suit your new cus­tom home or you’re build­ing an out­door space as an add-on to your ex­ist­ing house, check out these ex­pert tips for de­sign­ing your dream deck.


First things first, you’ll need to think about where you’ll want the deck lo­cated on the house. Ac­cord­ing to Mike Rudh from, the av­er­age out­door area is about 12 to 18 per­cent of the square footage of the en­tire house, so try to imag­ine your deck as you would any other room in your tim­ber home. For ex­am­ple, you wouldn’t end a room in the mid­dle of a win­dow, so don’t do the same thing with your deck. “Keep the pa­ram­e­ter of your deck away from your win­dows by at least 2 feet, or you’ll be look­ing out the win­dow at a rail,” he sug­gests.

Func­tion. Most peo­ple use their deck for din­ing out­side, so think about po­si­tion­ing your deck in a way that al­lows for an en­trance into your home’s kitchen — an easy de­sign de­ci­sion that will make a big dif­fer­ence when grilling or en­ter­tain­ing guests at meal time. To ac­com­mo­date eat­ing out­doors, many home­own­ers are in­cor­po­rat­ing an oc­tagon or bump-out space on their deck to sep­a­rate the ta­ble and chairs

into their own des­ig­nated din­ing area. A screened-in area, such as a gazebo or screened-in porch, would also work for this type of set­ting.

Lay­out. Once you’ve cov­ered the ba­sic de­sign con­sid­er­a­tions, it’s time to start think­ing about the size and style deck you want to build. Take a walk around your yard — or con­struc­tion site — and map out your po­ten­tial deck us­ing rope or a gar­den hose. Rudh rec­om­mends us­ing 2-foot in­cre­ments when de­cid­ing on the size of your deck. “Lum­ber is typ­i­cally cut to 8-foot, 10-foot, 12-foot and 16-foot lengths,” he ex­plains, “so pick­ing a stan­dard size deck that ad­heres to these measurements will save on scrap ma­te­ri­als and, in turn, money.”

En­trance. Although de­sign­ing a door­way that walks straight out onto the deck is the most de­sir­able op­tion, if you live in snow coun­try, think about in­cor­po­rat­ing a small stair­case down from the door­way to keep stand­ing snow from sit­ting on the thresh­old and lean­ing against your door.

Ex­its. If you de­cide to build steps from your deck down to your back yard, you’ll need to read up on stair­case reg­u­la­tions in your area. A width of 36 inches is typ­i­cally as nar­row as you can build your deck’s stair­way, and the run of each step should be be­tween 10 and 12 inches deep for proper safety. If you have a se­cond-story deck, con­sider a land­ing mid­way down your stair­case to min­i­mize po­ten­tial falls.

Square footage. When think­ing about the depth of your deck, con­sider how far your deck’s joists can span be­fore you’ll need to add an­other beam. (This can be costly if you have to add an­other com­plete set of piers to hold up your deck.) Just short of 12 feet is the max­i­mum span com­mon for 2-by8-inch joists un­der most con­di­tions, but

with an added can­tilever, a 14-foot deck can be built from one set of piers and beams. From there, you can create a deck that’s as wide as you like, but take depth into con­sid­er­a­tion to avoid higher costs and a deck that ex­tends too far into your yard.

Rail­ing spac­ing. Typ­i­cally, deck rail­ings are re­quired for any deck more than 30 inches above the ground, and for stairs with five or more steps. The height of a deck rail­ing of­ten needs to be be­tween 36 and 42 inches, but again, this can be sub­ject to var­i­ous build­ing re­stric­tions. The reg­u­la­tions for spac­ing be­tween balus­ters usu­ally calls for 4 to 6 inches, and the space be­tween your deck floor and the bot­tom of the rail­ing should be 2 to 4 inches.

A great place to take in the sur­round­ing views, your deck also can work as an ex­tra con­ver­sa­tion area or eat­ing space. What­ever the func­tion, be sure to think about lay­out and square footage when de­sign­ing your deck.

If you’re in­ter­ested in an all-sea­son deck, con­sider cov­er­ing at least a por­tion of it. Deep roof over­hangs will create a shel­tered space and also pro­tect your deck from sun and weather dam­age.

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