Building a Deck | Ideas, Free Deck Plans, Plus Building Codes and Costs

Wooden Deck

Gone are the days when a simple wood deck supported a grill, patio furniture and perhaps a few potted plants. Today's decks come in a variety of decorative designs and serve as outdoor living spaces, complete with dining pergolas and sunken hot tubs. If you plan on adding a deck to your home for relaxing and entertaining purposes, keep the following in mind:

Design - You won't need to hire an architect to design this addition to your home, as dozens of websites offer deck building plans free of charge.

For example, has more than 80 different deck plans available for download, and each one comes in multiple preset sizes. They range from basic wood decks in square and rectangle shapes to more elaborate decks in multiple shapes and with multiple levels and areas. also offers deck building plans free of charge. Regular wood decks come in rectangular and octagonal shapes, and pool decks come in three different layouts. You can customize the size of the plans from, and the website also offers plans for multiple types of railing.

Once you select a deck building plan, either website will send you the plan and materials (framing, decking and railing) list, with also including a cost estimator. Your best bet involves requesting plans for three favorite setups, then meeting with your professional handyman to help you make a final choice. He can advise you as to which deck will be the best fit for your home. And, unless you do this sort of work professionally, he can take on the task of actually building the deck itself.

Building Codes - Your handyman will also advise you as to the building codes and permits involved in adding a deck to your home. For example, the North American Deck and Railing Association website notes that "The International Residential Code (IRC) requires residential decks and porches to withstand a minimum of 40 pounds per square foot plus the weight of the porch." Dozens of other rules apply when installing a deck, and your handyman will follow each and every one of them to ensure not only the safety of your family and guests, but also the legality of the project. Your insurance company will also want any home additions to be done by professionals. A deck not built to code will be a problem, as well, if you ever decide to sell your home.

Cost - Once you pick out a deck design and discuss the project with your handyman, you must determine whether or not you can afford what you have planned. In addition to the cost estimator built into the free plans offered by, you can use the Estimate Your Dream Deck calculator at offers some helpful information about the cost of labor, but your handyman can provide estimates more tailored to your project. Once you have all of the costs associated with each deck, do the math and decide which one fits into your budget.

If your favorite plan does look like it will cost more than you expected or wanted to spend, keep in mind that a deck will add to your home's property value. Robert Markovich, home and yard editor for Consumer Reports, told U.S. News & World Report that adding a deck can be a smart way for homeowners to maintain or even improve their home's value. He said, "It's safe to say that a deck is one of the more cost-effective things you can do. Decks are really a high-return item." The article went on to state that 85 percent of the cost of building a wooden deck could be recouped during resale, while a bathroom remodel came in at 78 percent, and a family room addition at 69 percent.

Deck Repair and Maintenance

Once the deck goes up and becomes your family's favorite space, be sure to properly maintain it year-round. Cleaning , checking connections and re-staining when necessary help keep your deck looking like new. Elsewhere on this blog , you will find plenty of articles - and even a video - pertaining to deck repair and maintenance, all projects Mr. Handyman would be more than happy to take on for you.

This article is part of the Deck Repair and Maintenance Series

Mr. Handyman can maintain your home to save you money. One call really does take care of everything on your to-do list. All Mr. Handyman franchises are Fully Insured with General Liability and Workers Compensation. Some services are subject to state and local licensing and may not be available in all locations. Make sure to stay on top of all your household repairs, improvements and maintenance needs and request service in your area.