Where will the deck be located on the house?
We suggest you design your space like a room on your home. You wouldn’t end a room in the middle of a window. Keep the parameter of your deck away from your windows by two feet or you will be looking out the window at a rail. Most decks have an entrance to the home at the kitchen. Walking out flush onto the deck is the most desirable elevation. There are obstacles that extrude from the house that often get overlooked. You most likely will need to deal with or avoid water spigots, dryer vents, windows below the deck, down spouts, etc. Building your deck lower than these problem areas will save you some money.
When you purchased your home, your realtor should have included a copy of your site/plot plan in your contract. Your local zoning department will have a copy on file if you don’t have one. This plan will show you the setbacks and easement lines that require you to not build past certain parameters. Your local building department can help you with this when you apply for your permit. Not every township or county requires a permit.
Start out by laying out a hose on the ground to get a feel for what size deck you will need. Use two foot increments when deciding the size. Lumber is cut to 8′, 10′, 12′, and 16′ lengths. This will save on scrap materials and save you money. Most decks are not symmetrical to the back of the house. Your deck will likely be to one side or the other. This will be an important consideration in the layout of your deck.
What are the main uses of the deck, and how much room will you need?
The average outdoor area is about 12% – 18% of the square footage of the home. Most people use their deck for dining or entertaining outside. Built-in hot tubs or spas, screen rooms, gazebos and outdoor kitchen areas are becoming more popular in today’s designs. Since the “West Nile” virus hit North America, screened enclosures have become more and more popular.
Where will you be dining on the deck?
One trend is to build an octagon or “bump-out” to push the table and chairs off the main deck floor and give the dining area a designated space.
Will you need privacy from your neighbors or your street?
We offer a privacy wall that doesn’t feel like a fence. Try to limit this to just the sides of the deck to keep it from feeling like a fish bowl.
How will you get off and on the deck?
The side of the house you walk around to get to the back yard is most likely the best spot to enter the deck. The area on the deck closest to the house tends to be useless. You may want to keep your entrances near the house to utilize this space. This will also minimize traffic on the main deck area. Staircases are heavily regulated by your local building department. A width of 36″ is as narrow as you can build. The rise (height between steps) should be between 7″- 8″. The run or “tread” of the step should be between 10″ -12″ deep. Large, grand staircases are nice to look at and are very inviting to the yard, but most staircases are 48″ wide. If you have a second story deck then you should consider a landing midway in your staircase. This will minimize a fall and reduce injuries. Each township or county will have specifications of how the staircase is attached to the deck frame and whether or not it will need a railing.
Where will your grill go?
Keep your grill close to the kitchen door but not next to the house. This also goes for outdoor “smokers” and fire pits. You can have a permanent gas line run under your deck to your grill to save you trips to refill a propane tank. Your builder may offer a counter or food preparation area or an entire outdoor kitchen cabana. Outdoor food preparation is becoming a large part of deck design to enhance the outdoor living area.
Will you need shade?
One solution is to install a custom awning over your deck or build a pergola or arbor into the design of the deck. The team at Golden Gate Enterprises can install one of these in a number of different styles, shapes and materials. Pergolas and arbors provide some shade to the area they cover. If you need total shade, you may want to consider a roof covered deck or screen room.