A great way to expand your living space is by adding a deck. Whether you plan to build it yourself or hire a professional, the key is to be prepared before you start building. There are many variables to consider and plan ahead for. So, before you rush out to the nearest big box store to buy supplies, consider these factors so you can avoid making some classic decking mistakes.

working on a deck

Questions to Ask Yourself

These are four basic questions you should ask yourself before you start designing or planning:

Do you want a deck made for entertaining?

This kind of porch would include space for guests to sit and dine. There would be a sitting area with all-weather furniture and a spot where visitors can enjoy drinks and conversation.

Is the deck user-friendly?

As you are designing your deck, consider the best entry to and from your house. You want the deck to be easily accessible with good traffic flow.

How do you want to use the deck?

This will help you determine how big you want your deck. A deck with a small table and two chairs has a different size requirement than a deck made for entertaining.

When do you want to use your deck?

This all depends on your region and climate. You may consider wanting to use your deck for three or four seasons out of the year. A ceiling fan, fireplace, or screen to keep bugs out are a few options to consider.

Test Drive Your Layout

Once you’ve decided the function of your deck it’s time to design the layout. Use stakes and strings to outline its dimensions. This is a great way to visualize your deck’s space. Then place furniture inside the outline to see if there’s enough clearance and if you like the circulation, views, and shape.

deck layout

Select Your Decking Materials

The type of material you use will effect the maintenance and life time of the deck. There are three different materials you can choose from.

Wood Decking

The most traditional deck material is wood. This material is easy to work with and takes to stains and waterproofing easily. A wood deck, however, requires frequent cleaning, resealing and re-staining.

wood deck

Composite Decking

You can use your creativity when it comes to composite material. It comes in a variety of colors and textures that can really add some flavor to your backyard. It is easy to maintain, however, it is a bit more expensive. Do keep in mind that it can scratch easily and spills can leave stains.

composite decking

PVC Material

This is probably the best material for resisting scratching, splintering and cracking. It doesn’t require staining or sealing and isn’t affected by termites or decay, but there is a chance that the boards will squeak when walked on.

pvc decking

Add up the Costs

Now that you have a good idea of the design and materials you need, it’s time to add up the costs. You must also consider whether you will make this a DIY project or keep it to the professionals. You bought all of the lumber for a good price, but there might be some hidden fees you didn’t take into account. Or you might find some of the construction challenges are easier said than done. If you do decide to build the deck yourself, Lowes and Home Depot have a great deck planning tool to help with the layout.

saving-money feature image

Waste Disposal

Have you thought about where you’re going to dispose of the extra materials? Your neighborhood trash bin might not be big enough but a roll off dumpster might do the trick! If you do rent a roll off dumpster, consider the placement and how long the project will last. Remember to factor in the price of the roll off into your budget.


Follow the Rules and Regulations

You may need a permit if your deck is over a particular height and total size. Your local homeowners association might have guidelines on aesthetic choices such as handrail appearance, finishes and materials. We would hate to see you run into a problem if you were to sell your house and the deck you’ve enjoyed is a deal-breaker.