Deck rendering (C) Daniel Friedman Make a Deck Plan & Sketch
Deck Design-Build Online Guide

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How to make a deck construction plan.

This article describes planning to build a deck by making a trial layout run..This article series describes construction procedures for decks and porches, including deck design-build suggestions, deck planning, and actual step by step construction of the deck.

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How to Make a Deck Construction Plan

Simple deck drawing In many cases, most of the decisions about deck size and location are largely predetermined by the house and site.

For some homeowners, however, the options are many and the decisions tougher to make. Commonly available deck plans or those for specific projects can be found books, magazines and on the Internet.

One of the great advantages of building your own deck is that you can take extra time fussing about specific details.

The lack of time pressure is particularly evident in the design and planning stages, when you can take as long as you like coming up with a final design that meets all, or at least most, of your expectations.

One of the best ways to reach this goal is to “try on” your deck before you begin construction.

Watch out: we never build anything, not even a wood-box, without first making a drawing.

Skip the drawing at your own risk: you will pretty much always find that in proceeding without a sketch you'll cut something wrong and have to build over again.

How to Make a Trial Run to Picture a Deck Addition

A trial run on-the-ground layout for a deck design is simply using string, hoses, or even objects to get a rough idea of the size, space, and general location for a deck. A trial run can be as simple or as complex as you need it to be.

At DECK LOCATION we described making a plot plan or rough sketch showing where the deck might be located at your building. Before making a final plot plan to review with your building department you may want to make a trial run deck placement just to get a feel for how it might fit and for the sizes and spaces you are involved.

But before getting too excited about a deck addition it makes sense to take note of the location of your home or building with respect to its property lines.

Example plot plan or site plan (C) InspectApediaWith that information at hand, or a survey or plot plan if you already have one, check with your building department about required setback-distances for the deck from property lines.

In making your final deck plan you'll also want to be sure the deck is not being built in a location where it will restrict access to or damage plumbing or septic components, buried electrical components, well or water lines and similar site features.

If you are most concerned with the “footprint” issues of size and location, use garden hoses or string lines to mark the perimeter of your proposed deck.

Place some furniture inside the layout, and consider collecting a small group of people to simulate the kind of social gathering you envision for the deck. Expand or shrink the layout as needed.
Are you more concerned about the effect a deck will have on your view from inside the house? Then set up a more elaborate trial run.

Use inexpensive plastic fencing and wood or metal fence posts to create a more realistic mock deck. Set the fencing material at the height of your proposed railing, and then study the effect from inside the house.

Is your biggest concern how the deck will affect the flow of people into and around the house? Then set up markers along the trial layout to represent railings, stairs, and other elements, and ask people to move through the layout accordingly.

Study the effects that different layouts have on congestion and other traffic patterns.

This experiment can help you plan ideal locations for stairs and it may also aid in settling the question of whether or not to install a new door.

Use Your Computer To Make Deck Drawings - changes are easy

Deck drawing aids, computerized Computer software can make it easier to try out different options for designing your deck than if you work by hand. One of the advantages of using a computer is that you can make changes quickly.

One of the disadvantages, however, is that you may need to spend some time learning how to use the program.

Programs are available specifically for deck and landscaping projects, although you may have better luck with an established home-design program intended for do-it-yourselfers.

Before investing in a program, read reviews and see if a trial version of the program can be downloaded from a Web site.

As weillustrate in these older clips from a deck design program, an online deck design service or a downloadable deck drawing and planning program can generate a variety of helpful drawings including framing details, a plan or isometric view of the deck, and even variations in deck flooring patterns.

Drawing Plans for Your Deck

Once you have determined the best site and size for your deck, it is time to put your ideas on paper and transform them into a workable design.

You can generate plans using a computer design program if you have one. But you need only a few basic tools to create useful drawings.

Deck floor layout plan Graph paper and an architect’s scale rule allow you to make drawings that are to scale, a practice that is highly recommended—and also required by many building departments.

Scale drawings help you spot design problems on paper, rather than during construction, and they also make it easier to determine your lumber needs.

Deck Plan views

A plan view shows the deck from above. It gives the scale of the deck in relation to the house and indicates the decking pattern.

Since it includes horizontal measurements, a plan view also allows you to visualize how people using the deck will circulate, and to judge the sizes of different areas.

A framing and foundation plan view offers a similar bird’s- eye view, but without the decking. It shows the sizes and number of joists, beams, posts, and footings, and the distance between these parts. On relatively basic decks, you can easily combine this plan with a decking plan, as in the illustration at left.

More complex decks may require separate drawings.

There are several advantages to designing a deck so that the joists overhang the beam. The overhang, or cantilever, moves the edge away from the beam, creating a more attractive deck. An overhang also allows you to create a larger deck surface than the framing would seem to allow.

Calculating Deck Floor Joist Overhangs

But how far can you extend the overhang? From a strictly engineering standpoint, you could safely overhang a joist by up to half of the ledger-to-beam distance.

Thus, if a beam was spaced 8 feet from the ledger, the joists could extend up to 4 feet beyond the beam.

(Another way of saying this is that up to one-third of the total joist length could extend beyond the beam.) In practice, however, building codes often limit the overhang to 2 feet or less, and from an aesthetic standpoint, a 1- to l ½ foot overhang usually looks best.

Once you over-come the learning curve, a good software program can speed up the process of designing a deck. Making adjustments is particularly easy.

When to Hire a Professional to Help with Deck Design

You may not want to do the designing and building yourself.  If this is the case, then by all means hire a professional. There are many ways for you to tackle a deck-building project.

You can design and build the deck yourself; design it, then have it built by a contractor; have it designed by a professional and build it yourself; or make any number of intermediate arrangements. If you have a knack for design, there is no reason why you cannot develop a working plan for your deck. Still, you might want to have a landscape architect or a professional designer review your plans.

If you are inexperienced at handling power tools and performing basic carpentry tasks, the decision of whether or not to build the deck yourself can be a tough one.

Building a deck can be an ideal project in which to begin accumulating some carpentry tools and skills. But if you are not sure you want to make this commitment, or whether you can handle the hard physical labor, then it may make more sense to talk with some contractors.

There are some deck-building projects for which you should strongly consider seeking professional help, if for no other reason than to review your plans. These include:


Continue reading at DECK LEDGER BOARD INSTALL or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see BATTER BOARDS LAYOUT METHOD - how to lay out any structure on the ground

Or see DECK LOCATION where we describe making a plot plan or rough sketch showing where the deck might be located at your building.

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DECK PLAN & SKETCH at - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.


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