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Choose a decking design

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Decking designs   
With a bit of imagination, decking can be used to create amazing living spaces and stunning designs. Image courtesy of Trex.

The decision to add a deck to your home is an easy one to make – it adds value to the home, provides a beautiful living area and makes a fabulous place to entertain guests. Choosing the right kind of deck design can make all the difference between a nice deck and a stunning one so it is worth putting careful thought into. Here are nine things to think about when planning your design:

1. What is the purpose of your deck?

What is your deck primarily going to be used for? Many people use their deck as a quiet area, a place to relax and unwind and your design should reflect what you intend it to be used for. A barbecue area will look very different to a Zen garden and both will have different requirements to a deck surrounding a spa or hot tub.

2. How much space is available?

Positioning and space are key to the design you’ll come up with. Is the deck going to be freestanding or attached to the house? Does it need to be placed high up or on sloping ground? Are there any backyard features you’ll need to work around? What kind of surroundings will it be set in? Does it have a view? Will it be visible to the neighbours?

3. How high will the deck be?

You will need to know in advance what kind of support structure your deck will require. The higher up your deck will be, the more support you’re going to need underneath. Consulting with an architect or designer might not be a bad idea if you are concerned that this could be an issue. Likewise, decks higher than 1m from the ground will require handrails - and a separate set of rules applies to decks that are higher than 4m.

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4. Are you building near or around trees?

If you have a tree or trees growing near the deck, you may need to build around them to accommodate your design. Trees can be incorporated into the deck design too and can make for a striking focal point. Be aware though that not all trees will be good for a deck – excess leaf litter, branches and other materials can make keeping the deck clean a more frequent chore than it needs to be. Likewise, roots can interfere with your deck's footings either directly, or by changing the moisture content in the soil they're set in.

5. Will you build a pergola?

Will your deck be accompanied by a pergola, gazebo or similar structure? If so, be aware when designing that the posts for the pergola will need to come up through the floor of the deck and make allowances for this. If you're not planning on installing a pergola but may want to do so in future, consider the load bearing abilities of your deck and what it might take to accommodate one in future.

6. Do you need handrails?

It's already been mentioned, but decks over a metre off the ground will be required to have handrails and even where it’s not required, if you think there is a risk of someone falling off and hurting themselves which could be prevented by a handrail, it's not a bad idea to include one. Handrails can be a good place to lean while enjoying a view and can enhance your design opportunities, but will need to meet loading and weatherproofing requirements.

7. What permits are needed for your deck?

When adding a deck to your home, check with your local council about any requirements they have so you can incorporate these into your design from the planning stage. You won’t need a permit in every circumstance, but you will need to know if one's needed or not.

8. How will your deck affect your insurance?

Adding a deck will add value to your property and will therefore increase the amount it's worth to insure. In fire prone areas, it might increase the risk of your house catching alight, which may raise premiums. Check with your insurance company for any details before adding a deck to your home.

9. What sort of weather will it experience?

You should also think hard about how much sun and rain the deck is going to see, and whether you want to keep the deck looking pristine or allow it to weather and age. A deck that is partly covered will have the exposed wood age faster than the covered boards.

10. How much maintenance will be involved?

Not everyone will value a natural wood look and feel over the need to clean, oil and generally maintain it, and for some people a composite or uPVC deck will make more sense. When you choose materials, weigh up what's required in terms of maintenance, how long the deck will last and how the materials you use will affect the value it adds to your home.

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