Finding or creating the right deck plans
A deck is a great way to add value and space to your home, and building a deck makes a great DIY project for the weekend handyman (or woman).
The key to a great deck is good planning, starting with a deck design that suits your backyard and meets your needs. Just make sure that it also meets local building codes and any other protocols that may be in place. For example, in most places, pools have to be inaccessible to passersby, so your pool deck plan should allow for a high, closed-in railing and a gate.
Once you have a design in mind, you can find or create deck plans to guide construction. Accurate plans will allow you to better estimate materials and will help ensure that the final product looks just the way you imagined.
A variety of websites offer free deck plans for downloading, but keep in mind you will likely be unable to alter the plans to meet your needs. If you want something more customizable to your particular space and design sense, you're probably better off investing in deck design software to help you draft your dream deck. This software is relatively inexpensive and quite easy to use, even for those who have no previous experience with drafting or design software.
Of course, for a truly custom deck, you may have to hire a professional designer or architect to bring your vision to life. Check around for DIY deck designs and software tools first, though. You'd be amazed at the flexibility some of these programs offer, and even the high-end ones are likely to be cheaper or at least comparable in price to hiring someone.
The next step, of course, is turning your plans into reality. Again, you can hire a professional—and this may be the best course of action if your deck design is intricate or calls for complicated structural elements—but building the deck yourself can save you money, and it's not as difficult as you might think.
Home improvement stores like Lowes and Home Depot often offer seminars or workshops on a variety of home improvement projects, including deck building and maintenance. There are also plenty of home improvement books and magazines offering tips and advice for building a deck, and numerous websites will teach you how to build a deck step by step.
Depending on the size and complexity of your deck, you should be able to complete it in anywhere from a few hours to a couple of weeks. Most simple decks, however, make the perfect weekend project—start Saturday morning, and you could be watching the sun set on your brand-new deck Sunday night.