What size deck should I build?

Here are some important points to consider when planning your deck:   

What size decks are consistent with my neighborhood? You don’t necessarily have to have the biggest deck on the block, but you most likely do not want to have the smallest. Most homes in our part of the country are expected to have a deck, and property values can be affected by the size and quality of your deck, When planning your deck  Obviously a large house can house a large deck and the proportions will look correct, whereas a monster deck on a small house may seem overpowering. It’s probably best to build large enough for all you needs but not to go overboard, however, There is  not set size a deck should be, in regards to the size of your house. Think about what will the purpose of the deck be? Primarily Entertaining? Do you need a separate sitting area? Is this just for an entryway? or will you be dining and cooking a great deal on your deck? Really knowing what activities you will be conducting   on your deck will really help to design the proper sized deck for you. Not everyone has 100 guests over for a line dancing competition and needs a ballroom sized clear area. However, even if you really don’t plan on spending much time at all out on the deck it may be important for home value to have a deck in the size and fashion as to be expected in your local. 

composite deck with awningDetermine what size patio table and chairs do you have or plan on buying. It is very important to plan in advance for saving space for table, chairs and walking around the table, generally less than 11’ deep is too tight for even a modest sized table, 12’ to 16’ are good starting points and will allow room around the table and chairs to breathe. Next consider traffic patterns, where are the entries to the deck, doors from house, stair placements, actually the placement of the stairs can be critical to a good design and of course can affect the size necessary of the deck. Also very important to consider traffic patterns around the deck, by making the deck that extra few feet bigger does it make it near impossible to get a mower around the deck?, do you now have to go up and down the deck just to get from one side of the yard to the other?

Stair placement goes along with traffic patterns and is key is designing a useful deck, keeping in mind paths from the door to the stairs, it always best to keep areas for seating clear of pathways from the door to the stairs. Stair placement, Traffic paths, furniture placement  are all key in determining how much space in necessary and how big a deck to build. 

Some common construction consideration: Standard framing lumber dimensions. Standard dimensional lumber sizes are 12’ and 16’ however bigger lumber yards(not Home depot or Lowes) will also carry 14’ and even 18’ and 20’ lengths. So as such it is not practical to construct a 16’8” deep deck as 16’ joists will not make it, and you would have to opt out for paying a premium to longer boards or adding another beam. The width if the deck is not as critical as it usually just mean adding a few more joists, however, figure another pier or footing every 8’ or less. 

Maximum joists spans: Another consideration is how far your joists can span before you need to add another beam, which can be costly as it require another complete set of piers. At just short of 12’ is the maximum span common 2x8’s joists can span under most conditions. so with a 2’cantilever a 14’ deck is the most we can get from one set of piers and beams, to go to even a 16’ deep deck would require another complete set of piers and another beam and cost significantly more money, thus a 14’ deck becomes very cost effective! Also, a 14’ deep deck is a good size for a another reason, at 12’ the deck becomes very usable, less than 12’ deep and you can barely fit a table and chairs. But 14’ is the starting point where there is plenty of room around a table . So a 14’ deck becomes a good buy. Deck proportions, we prefer decks to have good proportions, generally wider then deep looks better, so a 18’x14’ or even 16’x14’ with the bigger size being along the house and the smaller size projecting into the rear yard looks proper and is a good deck size in general. What can look “dock like” is decks which extend far into the back yard and are narrow on the house. Of course we build many decks in the 24’ x 16’ area or larger, in fact our average sized deck would be in the 340 sg ft area.

evergrain compoiste deck with grille corner

Grill Placement: We make several grille nock options including our grille corner, It is a good idea to dedicate a spot for the grille, this can free up space for other purposes and can make for a nice design, keep in mind maintaining a safe distance for the house to prevent melting the siding. Also consider how the smoke from grilling will travel, and traffic paths from the kitchen grille and dining area.  We almost always include a dedicated grille nock in our deck designs 

Raised decks: many houses are built with walk out’s so raised decks are very common, 2 trains of thought, a one level good sized raise deck hopefully with enough room for a table and chairs, grille and some extra space, which is most often the most efficient and cost effective, if the height is great enough it is probably best to break up the stairs with an intimidate stair landing which can be also be used to change direction of the stairs. Another thought is a smaller upper deck leading down to a larger lower deck which can be more intimate or pleasant with your back yard, again being mindful of the stair arrangement. It budget allows, 2,3 or more levels (multi level deck) each with its own purpose cascading down, with thought to function and aesttaller ipe deck with white vinyl rails and landscapinghetics and careful placement of stairs (maybe stadium stairs) depending on the yard you may be able to access different portions of the yard from various levels. It is important with multi level deck designs to make sure each level is the right size to serve it’s purpose even if it is only as an easement. It is best to have one level the “main” level where most of the action is to take place, it is nice to have smaller specialized area for “seating” or holding or access to hot tubs or pools etc. while we are on the subject of hot tubs, hot tubs are extremely heavy and the deck to hold them must be greatly reinforced. It should be large enough to hold the tub and allow the cover to lift up and store as well as some space to enter the tub and move around the tub. Also keep in mind of getting to the tub’s access panel. We like to build a lower deck to house the tub, maybe a couple steps down. Then you can enter the tub from the higher deck, usually a 12’x14’ or so deck for the tub works well, but even larger hot tub deck areas is not uncommon. low pt deck stained gray with benches

Low deck: lower decks can feel much friendlier or in touch with the surroundings, often a larger low deck does not feel so grand as their elevated equal. It is also nice to break up the mediums, maybe a good sized lower deck going down to a stone or paver patio, rather than all deck.  Lower decks however can highlight even subtle natural pitch or slopes in the yard, it may look strange to have a low deck starting a couple feet off the ground in one area then being almost ground level in another, this can be avoided by adding additional cascading levels or with the deck/patio combination as patios are routinely built on slope. 

ipe deck with ipe pool deckPool decks: Above ground and in ground pool decks really should be treated differently. It is not uncommon to have a large encompassing in-ground pool deck or patio, as these are low to the ground it makes to a very comfortable appealing and relaxing area. while the same treatment on an above ground pool can look overbearing! How many times have you driven by a house that has a larger above ground pool deck in the back going out to a now non existing pool. We think that the actual above ground pool entry deck should be more modest sized maybe a 12’ by 10’ or so (enough room to easily enter the pool via a few kids or adults and maybe enough room for a chair or two), usually separated from the main deck, as it is difficult to meet safety requirements (town codes) when the pool  is directly assessable from the house. 

Shape and interest: Obviously just building a large square deck may be an efficient use of space, but you will certainly win no awards for design. It is important  these days to put some thought to shape and create an interesting design. Always build large enough to accommodate  your life style (you will be sorry later if you don’t) but don’t necessarily go overboard, avoid skinny or congested areas and  always be mindful or traffic paths and overall function. We at Deck Specialists will never try to sell you a larger deck then you need, and work with you to design the perfect deck to meet your needs.