Most sundecks beyond the simple BBQ deck included with many homes will be custom additions to an existing structure. And like most custom building projects, the more thought you put in, the better the result. This means your new sundeck doesn’t begin with the first nail, but instead, with the first pencil line made in your sketchbook.
Whether building yourself or hiring out, initial planning should be done by those who will be using the deck. A good designer can help with this, but most homeowners have a pretty good idea what will work at this earliest design stage. A great place to start is by determining the deck’s shape using a bird’s eye or “plan view” sketch. Simply draw a line representing your house wall, adding to it the shape you envision for your deck. Take a few stabs at it. You may find yourself doing arcs and unusual angles, but it’s all in pencil so play with it. When you consider that most decks are about playtime, it makes sense somehow that the sticking to right angles at the design stage may not make for the best sun deck design. Some of the finest sundecks are whimsical.
While you are outside walking the shape or “footprint” of your favourite sketches, think about levels, or “elevations.” Raising or lowering a deck level in places by even a single step can add greatly to a deck’s look and feel. Once an approximate idea of the deck’s footprint seems to work, consider points of access to the deck if any, and whether stairs are needed.
Thinking about elevations in decks is important for a couple of other reasons, the first being that most deck surfaces have joists supporting them. The bottom of these should be about eight inches (20 cm) above the ground in wetter areas to protect woodwork. An even more pressing consideration is railings. In general, if a deck surface is more than two feet above ground, a railing is required. If over six feet, a higher railing is needed. In my view, any elevation change on a deck should be obvious. Some mark elevation changes with planters or other obstructions for safety.
Once you’ve cobbled together an approximate shape and height, then considered access and rail questions, think about whether a roofed area suits the plan. Roofed areas increase the amount of time a deck can be used in a year in many regions. Where I come from, we call that, “More bang for the buck.” Naturally, any deck roof should not conflict with the existing building, but this is true of your deck on the whole. Harmony of design will enhance your deck’s character.
Probably the biggest question…