A good, functional deck is an extension of your home.  It is a place where families gather and memories are made.  It can also be a place for quiet contemplation and solitude.  Building a deck is easy, right?  Not Necessarily.  There are a number of things you should consider before charging ahead with your deck plans.  Don’t rush out to purchase materials or hire a contractor until you’ve thought this through.  Obvious or not, the more prepared you are, the better the outcome will be.

The best place to start planning a deck that you’ll love is to look for ideas and designs that you like.  Pinterest,

Houzz.com and home design websites can be a good source of inspiration.  Talk with your friends and find out what they like about their deck and what they are unhappy with or would change.  You should also investigate materials – pressure-treated wood, deck tiles, or composite decking – to determine which look you like the best. You should also think about whether or not you want the deck to be covered.  Lighting and electrical outlets are another important and often overlooked part of deck design.

Next, you’ll want to consider how you’re hoping to use your deck.  Will you use it in all seasons or just in the summer?  Will you want space to dine or a seating area, or is it simply a deck to grill on?  What about the weather: Do you want to be able to use the deck in all types of weather, thunderstorms and all?

These thoughts will lead to planning the size deck you’d like.  Does your yard allow for a large deck? Are there height concerns? Do you want multiple levels? The deck should be large enough to accommodate the activities you want to use it for plus a little extra, to ensure ease of movement.  Stairs and steps are part of the overall size of your deck as they will take up yard space, so don’t forget about them when you’re assessing your needs.

Find out some basic information about building codes and permit requirements, especially if you are going to build the deck yourself.  You will almost certainly need a building permit, and a basic understanding of the codes will help prepare you for what can and cannot be included in your deck design.  Requirements for railings, stair-tread size, and even materials are common.  Even if you are hiring this project out, the more information you have, the more intelligently you can speak with your builder and the fewer headaches you’ll have later on.

Now it’s time to determine your budget.  It may seem like the budget should have been your first step.  It shouldn’t.  By understanding what you really want, you’ll be better prepared to make sure that your finished deck will meet all of your needs.  Your deck project may need to be finished in multiple steps over time, but by knowing your ultimate goal, you can ensure a cohesive design.  Decide what you can afford to spend now and what you can afford later if needed, and work your plan from there.

Now the fun can begin!  You’re ready to get started with the actual design.  If you’re doing it yourself, draw it out carefully.  There are DIY books dedicated to deck construction so you might want to purchase one.  If you’re hiring a builder, you’ll be ready to explain exactly what you want.

When it comes to decks, don’t be afraid to dream big.  You have the information necessary to make informed decisions.  If you start now, you just might have your ideal deck by next summer!