So, you have decided that you want a new deck? That’s great! Choosing to design and build a new deck can be an exciting and rewarding decision. There are however a few questions you should ask yourself before you put pencil to paper and begin designing your new deck.
I ask this question first because the function of the deck should be the foundation all the form decisions are built on. Beauty and style are important parts of good deck design so long they don’t interfere with the purpose for the deck. Most often people decide to design and build a new deck for one or more of the following reasons.
Remodeling Magazine’s Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report for 2007 found that more than 85 percent of the cost of building a wooden deck could be recouped during resale—compared with 78 percent for a bathroom remodel and 69 percent for a family room addition. “When most people build a deck, it adds pretty much dollar-for-dollar [value],” says Michael H. Evans, president of Evans Appraisal Service in Chico, Calif.
An obvious advantage to building your outdoor deck will be the increase in space you have for storage, relaxation or entertainment. If increasing your usable living space is your primary goal your new deck design should center on the usability and traffic patterns the space provides. You may consider enclosing part or all of your deck depending on your climate.
Even a simple deck that is needed for access, either to a second story or due to a change in grade at the first level, can take advantage of creative design features to bring you the most value for your deck design dollars.
When you think about why you are designing your new deck, you will naturally want to think about who will be using your deck. Thinking about the people who use the deck will help you design for functionality and flow. Try to imagine your deck in full use. Where are people gathered? What are they doing? What is the seating situation? Are people able to move freely from one are to another? Keeping these thoughts in mind will help you come up with the best deck design for you.
If you have a chef in the family they will likely be pushing for an outdoor cooking area or even a full blow kitchen as the focus of your deck design. Share your home with an avid reader? An outdoor reading nook can be a great design feature. Don’t forget the pets! A thoughtful deck design can offer great benefits for your fury friends too. A built in storage bench located in a sunny spot is a great place for them to nap and a great place for you to store their outdoor toys.
Your outdoor deck can be a great place to entertain guests. A small deck can be designed to include built in seating for small intimate gatherings. On the other hand if you are looking to host larger events, your deck design might include elements such as an outdoor bar, dancefloor, dining or game area. Thinking about who will use your deck will help you decide which design elements are most important to you.
If you are one of the growing number of avid online shoppers you’ve doubtlessly experienced the anxiety of knowing your new ‘whatever’ has been left at the front door. As part of your overall deck design, you might want to consider adding a built in bench or planter that can double as a secret “mail box” for your larger deliveries. Not only will this help keep your deliveries out of sight of prying eyes, this clever deck design element can protect your goodies from the rain and other elements.
Sometimes where you build your deck will be obvious. This is certainly the case when the deck is being designed to provide access to the home. In other cases you might be designing a deck because you want to create an outdoor recreation area. When you are considering where to locate your deck, think about the changing conditions throughout the day and throughout the year. A good deck design should take advantage of your surroundings and the elements.
Does your deck design take advantage of the sunrise or sunset views? Is there a place to escape the sun on a hot summer day? Does your dining area protect your family and guests from the evening sun shining directly into their eyes while they are trying to enjoy a meal? There are deck design elements such as awnings, pergolas and shades that can help you take advantage of the sun when you need it and give you a break when you don’t.
Rain doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes it’s nice to sit in a protected area of the deck and watch a storm roll in or just enjoy a surprise shower on an otherwise sunny day. Many deck design features can also help you take advantage of the rain. Catchment systems planned into your deck design can serve to water planters or even a raised deck garden.
If your deck is built on a side of the house that is not naturally protected from the wind, you might want to consider a wind screen, privacy fence or other design feature to give your deck some protection.
In some climates you can enjoy your deck year round with no more consideration than whether or not you need sun screen that day. In most climates however you will have to think about how much of the year you will want to have access to your deck. If you only plan to use your deck on occasion, when the weather is nice, a typical open deck will probably be great. If you want to enjoy your deck in all types of weather your deck design plans may call for partially or fully enclosed areas.
An open deck design offers the advantages of being the least expensive to build and the most flexibility when it comes to possible future expansion. On the other hand, an open deck design offers the least amount of protection from the elements and the environment.
A screened in deck design is going to give you much more protection while still maintaining much of that “outdoor feel.” Typically a screened in deck design is going to start with some sort of roof structure above the deck. This will protect you, your guests (and your deck itself) from most of the direct sun and rain. The screen walls will reduce a brutal wind to a gentle breeze and keep out the biting beasties such as mosquitos and no-see-ums.
It took me a while to warm up to the concept of an enclosed deck. My mind always questioned the difference between an enclosed deck and a room addition. It was only after seeing some of the cool design features that I began to see the transformative potential of the enclosed deck. Sliding glass wall panels and well placed high efficiency windows can give you the option of opening yourself up to the elements when the weather is nice while still being able to enjoy your deck when it’s not. Finally I have come to realize it is not up to me to judge. If you want to call it your “deck” I will too. I don’t care how many walls or roofs it has!
Your construction budget is going to depend on the complexity of your deck design as well as the materials you choose. A professionally built deck made of pressure treated lumber will be in the range of $8.00 – $15.00 per square foot. The same deck, built using exotic hardwood lumber or a synthetic decking material might be in the range of $25.00 – $35.00 or more per square foot. Additional design elements such as built in seating, planters or other custom features are going to add to your budget. Of course determining how much you spend is important but you should also consider value as part of your budget.
Natural wood lumber cost will vary based on species and availability. Synthetic decking material prices will vary by manufacturer. Hidden fasteners are certainly more expensive than nailing or screwing the decking down. On the other hand hidden fasteners can add to the aesthetics and longevity of your deck.
If you are working with a limited budget that does not quite cover all of your decking desires consider a deck design that lends itself to easy expandability. If you are planning to add on to your deck in the future, be sure to discuss this with your contractor or plan for it in the structural layout if you are building the deck yourself.
The amount of time you plan to own your deck should have a big impact on your budget. If you are adding a deck to your home because you plan to sell it, keep it simple. The simpler the deck design is, the better your chances of recouping your investment when the home sells. If you are building your dream deck on your forever home it makes more sense to invest in all the niceties your budget will allow.
Thinking through all of these factors upfront will guide your research and save you time in deck design process. Good planning will also help you reduce the chance of making a design mistake that you might later regret.
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