For those without previous experience with building or purchasing decks, it can be difficult to decide just how large to make your deck. And there’s nothing wrong with that, because a major investment deserves major considerations. What might be too small an outdoor living space for you might be severely overdoing it for someone else. So we’ve put together a little guide on choosing the proper deck size and shape for you. This is by no means comprehensive, but it should serve as a good starting point.
Proportion to your house: There’s a general rule of thumb that the deck shouldn’t be larger than the largest room in your house. While there are exceptions to every rule, a deck larger than the biggest room often dwarfs the house and looks out of place (remember, decks are supposed to add curb appeal). Another rule of thumb for most contractors is that a deck shouldn’t be larger than 20% of the house’s total square footage.
Special features: Are there any specific or unique items that the deck is built around, or is it just a general outdoor living space? If there’s going to be something like a hot tub or pool, you’ll need to make special considerations as to the amount of extra space you’ll need around it.
Functionality/Purpose: If there’s no particularly special item serving as your deck’s centerpiece, try to figure out what exactly you’d like to do with an outdoor living space. Are you looking to have large gatherings of people? Is the space going to be used by only a few people? Will there be a grill or outdoor kitchen? How about furniture? Make a list of what you intend to have and do on your deck to help guide your decision. To gauge an initial feeling for how large the deck should be, try using some string to outline the perimeter of the deck. Then place some deck or furniture or desired accessories in the designated area.
Building codes: Municipalities have unique building codes, so before you start building, make extra sure that the deck you’re building meets all the proper requirements. It would be quite a shame to have to dismantle a new deck due to violating a local building code.
When considering the height of the deck, there is one consideration that is easily the most important. That is: what is the height of the access door? Immediate ascending steps or drops are bad ideas in most cases. The height simply needs to be within 2 inches of the access point.
Budget: While a deck is an investment, you certainly don’t want to spend beyond your means. Come up with a detailed budget plan and get estimates from several contractors (See: Tips on selecting a great contractor), not just including construction, but the cost of any accessories as well. Keep in mind the long term costs of decking versus the short term costs. Wood and composites may be less expensive initially, but they will require replacement sooner, and wood requires regular and potentially costly maintenance and cleaning. Meanwhile, cellular PVC decking that doesn’t have organic material will last much longer due to its superior resistance to the elements, molding, warping, cracking, etc.