Deck projects are as unique as the people who build them. Even so, different projects have common features, such as size, level of complexity. In this story you'll find illustrations of six deck projects -- small, medium, and large deck sizes, each with t
Floor deck plans 12’

Building a small deck

A small deck, such as this one, provides an ideal locale for quiet at-home escapes -- a spot to relax with a good book or to enjoy the beauty of a backyard garden. If a place for restful solitude is the goal for your deck, a small deck may provide all the space you need. Of course, small decks are ideal if you have limited outdoor space and want to maximize outdoor use. Modest-size decks are also appropriate with a bungalow that would be over-whelmed by an expansive deck.

This 10 x 12' platform deck is positioned only 12" above the ground, offering an easy transition from house to yard and requiring no railings. Steps ease the transition from house to deck and deck to yard.

The vignettes provided in this story include a few details of construction and materials needed. You should expect to pay more for materials and labor in more distant locations, such as Hawaii, and lower costs in a less remote locale, where costs of transporting materials are lower.


  • Decking: pressure-treated lumber

Small deck upgrade options

If you only have the space or budget for a small deck, plan carefully to make the most of the square footage. Use flour to outline the proposed deck area in your yard. Prior to finalizing dimensions, measure the furnishings you plan to use, or if you have the furniture already, place it within the area. Determine whether you have enough space to comfortably move around. If not, adjust the dimensions slightly. You may not even need to increase square footage to make the area function better. Maybe a 12 x12' square works better for your situation than an 8 x18' rectangle, even though both provide 144 square feet of deck.


  • Decking: ipe, double-diagonal pattern
  • Built-in benches
  • Trellis behind bench on far side of deck, or arbor in same position
Floor plan of deck
White deck tops
Trellis: Supports flowering vinesand provides privacy
2 boards/dark/Light
Ipe, top, and compositedecking, bottom
Dark boards coming together at an angle
Decking: Double-diagonal pattern
Built-in benches

Building a medium deck

A medium-size deck, such as this one, creates an outdoor room. At approximately 2015', the deck provides space for alfresco dining just outside the kitchen, with additional space for a small gathering or family activities. A deck of this size integrates better with most story-and-a-half and two-story homes than a typical tiny builder's deck, and it offers ample room for activities.

The raised deck offers the opportunity for enclosed under-deck storage. For locations with a view, alternative railing styles, such as stainless-steel cabling or safety glass, preserve the view in all directions.


  • Decking: pressure-treated lumber; boards parallel to house
  • No skirting; river rock or gravel underneath deck
  • Standard, most basic railing style around deck
  • No overhead structures
Deck floor plan 20’

Upgrading a medium deck

With a deck this size it's key to consider how you will use the deck prior to finalizing amenities and upgrades. Add too much and the deck may feel cramped; leave it as a plain, open space and you may miss opportunities for outdoor fun. In addition to the options shown here, consider the following:

  • Cooking area with grill and adjacent counter space for food prep
  • Lattice screening on one side of deck to screen unwanted views
  • Built-in benches along perimeter for ample seating
  • Flower boxes integrated with deck railing, depending on railing style


  • Decking: cedar; diagonal pattern
  • Overhead structure similar to illustration, or flat-top pergola over portion of deck, with overhead in illustration
  • Skirting around deck, with one part that opens on hinge for storage
  • Metal wire railing, perhaps stainless-steel cabling
  • Built-in storage bench next to house, under window on left; doubles as seating bench
Floor deck plan medium size
Storage bench
Storage bench: Doubles asadditional seating
White lattice skirting
Lattice skirting: Attractiveunder-deck coverage;hinges allow access tohandy storage area
Overhead deck
Overhead structure: Providesshade for portion of deck
2 boards light color
3 strings of Steel cable
Railing: Stainless-steel cabling

Building a large deck

A large deck should be designed as a multifunctional area, with space for a variety of outdoor activities. At approximately 650 square feet, this large, multilevel deck project adds an abundance of outdoor living area and smoothly integrates with a number of entry points to the back of a house.

A key benefit of this deck is access. Doors open to the deck from the kitchen at one end of the house and from a master bedroom on the other. The well-planned deck also transitions well to the yard. Platforms gradually step down from the highest level of the deck nearest the house to the lowest platform that opens to the yard.

Another successful design element is the use of individual spaces -- some designated by a shift in level, others by decking patterns -- to give each area of the deck personality and to indicate rooms. The octagon, for example, is a natural location for outdoor meals -- particularly when sheltered by a screened gazebo, as in the upgrade. The space adjacent to the master bedroom is a natural spot for intimate conversations and relaxing at day's end. Open areas nearer the kitchen and family room offer plenty of space for large gatherings.


  • Decking: pressure-treated lumber, boards parallel to house
  • Basic railing
Floor deck plan, Large size

Upgrading a large-size deck

Because of their size, large decks offer the chance to include the most amenities and options. Don't simply add as much deck space or as many amenities as you can afford, however.

A huge deck may overwhelm your house, and you may not need every possible amenity. Though this deck is loaded with special features, each contributes to a carefully planned outdoor living space.

Here are other amenities to consider for a large deck:

  • Pergola or arbor for filtered shade
  • Hinged access to under-deck storage
  • Custom railings
  • Hinged storage benches that double as extra seating


  • Decking: composite, with patterns changing on each area of the deck to visually distinguish various areas
  • Gazebo on octagon portion of deck
  • Built-in spa
  • Privacy screen to shelter spa
  • Outdoor kitchen with large built-in grill, prep sink, and counter space with storage under counter
  • Built-in seating along perimeter of deck, with planters along top of back portion of seats
  • Wide stairs with easy access to lawn
  • Skirting around perimeter

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