Deck Design 101: Everything to Know about Creating the Perfect Outdoor Retreat!

About the Author: David Perrotti

Dave has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, is a Bestselling Home Improvement Author on Amazon, and constantly seeks to reinvent the remodeling industry. As a veteran of the Army and Air Force, Dave operates his business, Fine Home Contracting, on the core army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

Decks are versatile outdoor spaces that add charm and functionality to any home. Whether you’re envisioning a peaceful oasis for relaxation or a lively entertainment area for gatherings, understanding the basics of deck materials, terminology, and design is essential. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore different deck materials, explain key deck terminology, and provide insights into deck design considerations. Let’s dive in and discover everything you need to know about decks!

Deck Materials:

When it comes to building a deck, choosing the right materials is crucial for both durability and aesthetics. Here are some popular deck materials along with their prices, pros, and cons:

Trex Composite:

  • Price: Trex composite decking is a premium option with higher upfront costs, averaging between $140 and 160 per square foot including materials and labor.
  • Pros: Trex decking is low maintenance, resistant to fading and stains, and doesn’t require staining or sealing. It’s also environmentally friendly, made from recycled materials.
  • Cons: The initial investment for Trex composite is higher than other materials. It can also be prone to scratching, although newer varieties offer improved durability.


  • Price: Vinyl decking is mid-range in terms of cost, ranging from $130 to 150 per square foot including materials and labor.
  • Pros: Vinyl decks are highly durable, resistant to moisture, and require minimal maintenance. They are also available in a wide array of colors and styles, offering versatility in design.
  • Cons: Vinyl decking can be susceptible to fading over time, and extreme temperatures can cause it to expand or contract. It may also have a plastic-like appearance that some homeowners find less appealing.

Pressure-Treated Wood:

  • Price: Pressure-treated wood is a budget-friendly option, typically costing between $125 and $135 per square foot including materials and labor.
  • Pros: Pressure-treated wood is readily available, easy to work with, and provides a natural aesthetic. It can be stained or painted to match your desired look.
  • Cons: It requires regular maintenance, including staining or sealing to protect against moisture and pests. Over time, pressure-treated wood may warp, splinter, or fade if not properly cared for.

Exotic Hardwoods:

  • Price: Exotic hardwoods are high-end materials, ranging from $180 to upwards of $200 per square foot, including materials and typical labor costs.
  • Pros: Exotic hardwoods like Ipe, Tigerwood, and Cumaru offer exceptional durability and natural beauty. They are resistant to rot, insects, and weathering, making them ideal for long-lasting decks.
  • Cons: Exotic hardwoods require regular maintenance, including periodic sealing and staining. The high price point can also be a limiting factor for some homeowners.

Deck Terminology:

Joists are horizontal beams that provide structural support for the deck’s surface. They are typically made of treated lumber or steel and are placed parallel to each other, supporting the deck boards.

Flashing refers to thin, weatherproof metal strips installed where the deck connects to the house. It prevents water from seeping into the house and causing damage.

The ledger board is a horizontal board attached to the house, providing structural support for the deck. It is securely fastened with lag screws or bolts and is an essential component for deck stability.

Footings are structural supports that anchor the deck to the ground. They are typically made of concrete and serve as a stable foundation, distributing the deck’s weight evenly.

Designing Your Outdoor Space:

When it comes to designing your deck, careful consideration of layout and functionality can transform your outdoor space into a haven of relaxation and entertainment. One key aspect of deck design is creating distinct zones within your deck, each serving a specific purpose and catering to different activities. By defining individual zones, you can maximize the functionality of your deck and create a harmonious flow throughout the space.

To begin, envision how you intend to use your deck. Will it primarily be a dining area for family meals and gatherings? Or perhaps you envision a cozy lounge area for relaxation and conversation? By identifying the primary activities, you can allocate space accordingly and ensure each zone is optimized for its intended purpose.

It’s important to create unity throughout the space to avoid a disjointed or cluttered appearance. Consider elements such as color schemes, materials, and overall style to establish a cohesive design. Harmonizing the visual elements will create an inviting atmosphere and make your deck feel like a seamless extension of your home.

In addition to functionality and unity, here are a few general design tips to enhance your deck:

  1. Incorporate ample seating: From comfortable chairs and sofas to built-in benches or outdoor sectionals, having plenty of seating options will encourage relaxation and socializing.
  2. Add shade and privacy: Consider incorporating elements like pergolas, umbrellas, or privacy screens to provide shade and seclusion when desired.
  3. Utilize lighting: Extend the usability of your deck into the evening by incorporating outdoor lighting. From string lights and lanterns to built-in fixtures, lighting can create ambiance and ensure safety.
  4. Integrate greenery: Enhance the natural appeal of your deck by incorporating potted plants, hanging baskets, or even a vertical garden. Plants can add color, texture, and a refreshing atmosphere.

Remember, your deck design is a reflection of your personal style and preferences. The key is to create a space that aligns with your vision and meets your specific needs. Let’s explore some common deck layouts and gain inspiration for your own deck design.

Common Deck Layouts:

Rectangular: This classic layout suits most homes and offers a versatile space for furniture arrangement.

L-Shaped: Ideal for larger areas, the L-shaped layout provides separate zones for dining and relaxation.

Multi-Level: Multi-level decks add visual interest and create distinct areas for various activities.

Selecting Deck Materials to Match Siding Colors and Styles:

Complementary Colors: Choose deck materials that complement the colors of your siding. For example, if your siding is light gray, consider a darker-toned deck for contrast.
Harmonizing Styles: Match the architectural style of your home’s siding with the deck materials. For traditional siding styles, a natural wood deck can enhance the overall aesthetic.

Understanding deck materials, terminology, and design principles is crucial when planning your dream deck. By considering the pros and cons of different materials, familiarizing yourself with essential deck terminology, and incorporating thoughtful design elements, you can create an outdoor space that perfectly complements your lifestyle and enhances the beauty of your home. Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge, go ahead and start designing your dream deck!


What is the lifespan of a Trex deck compared to a wood deck?2023-12-11T14:54:57+00:00

Trex decks typically have a longer lifespan compared to wood decks. While the exact duration depends on various factors, Trex’s resistance to rot, warping, and insect damage contributes to its longevity.

What are the most environmentally conscious deck materials?2023-12-11T14:54:36+00:00

Several deck materials are known for their environmentally conscious attributes, considering factors such as sustainability, recyclability, and overall environmental impact. Trex, a leading composite decking brand, utilizes a significant amount of recycled materials, including reclaimed wood and recycled plastic. Decking made from recycled plastic, often derived from post-consumer materials like plastic bottles and bags, is a sustainable choice. Some PVC decking manufacturers prioritize eco-friendly practices by using recycled PVC and incorporating technologies to reduce environmental impact during production.

What is Trex made of?2023-12-11T14:53:19+00:00

Trex is made of a combination of recycled wood fibers and high-performance polymers, creating a composite material that mimics the natural look of wood without the associated maintenance challenges.

How much does it cost to build a deck?2023-06-01T16:08:20+00:00

The cost of building a deck varies based on factors such as size, materials, and design. On average, you can expect to spend between $120 and $200 per square foot for a basic deck installation with labor and materials included. However, complex designs or high-end materials can increase the cost. Other costs include fees paid to designers and architects where drawn plans are needed, costs to pull permits based on your locality, and possibly overhead costs such as for a demolition dumpster or porta-potties for workers.

Can I install a deck myself, or do I need to hire a professional?2023-06-01T16:06:45+00:00

While it’s possible to install a deck yourself, hiring a professional is recommended, especially for larger or more complex projects. Professional deck builders have the necessary skills, experience, and tools to ensure a safe and well-constructed deck that complies with building codes. Depending on your location, your deck may require a permit to be pulled, which we would recommend hiring a contractor for.

What are some signs that indicate my deck needs repair?2023-06-01T16:06:01+00:00

There are several signs that indicate your deck may need repair. These include loose or rotting boards, wobbly handrails or stairs, visible cracks, or signs of water damage. If you notice any of these issues, it’s essential to address them promptly to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of your deck.

Can I renovate my existing deck instead of building a new one?2023-06-01T16:05:41+00:00

Yes, you can renovate an existing deck to update its appearance or enhance its functionality. Renovations can include replacing worn-out boards, upgrading the railing system, adding built-in seating or lighting, or expanding the deck’s size. Assess your deck’s condition and consult with a professional to determine the best renovation options for your specific needs.

About the Author: David Perrotti

Dave has over 20 years of experience in the construction industry, is a Bestselling Home Improvement Author on Amazon, and constantly seeks to reinvent the remodeling industry. As a veteran of the Army and Air Force, Dave operates his business, Fine Home Contracting, on the core army values of loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage.

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