Project Guide

Building a Deck: How to Choose a Site for Your Deck

Consider Your Terrain- Building a Deck

The contours of your yard can affect your deck design. If your landscape is fairly level, construction should be uncomplicated. Slopes may require grading a level spot at the bottom or building a retaining wall. A deck can also be at the top of the slope. Posts can reach down the slope to keep the deck level and sturdy or you can build a multi-level to take better advantage of the site.

Analyze Your Soil- Building a Deck

All dirt is not the same; there are countless varieties of soil and they can affect where you put your deck and how you build it. Loose, sandy soil is great for plants, but not good for deck posts. It erodes quickly and local building codes may require concrete footings in loamy soil. The same conditions apply for silted soil. Water runs off of clay soil quickly so you may need to include a drainage system to divert runoff away from your deck.

Consider Sun, Shade, Wind And Rain- Building a Deck

If the sun beats down on your deck mercilessly for most of the afternoon and early evening hours, you may not want to spend much time there. If you put the same deck where trees can shade it from the harsh sunlight, it will be much more enjoyable. Weather patterns can greatly affect the enjoyment of your outdoor space; taking them into account often means the difference between a deck that bustles with activity and one that sits empty and idle.  

If the only place available for your deck is affected by extreme weather, you can add some climate control. An umbrella will provide localized shade or you can build an overhead pergola with open rafters or lattice roofing to shade a large deck. Lattice screens or fence panels will reduce the wind while adding privacy. With a small roofed structure over your dining space, you can still enjoy the deck during inclement weather. A roll-out awning can also provide safety from the elements. and you can retract it when it is not needed.

Site Location Options- Building a Deck

When planning your deck site, look for places in your yard where nature provides shade. Trees and shrubs that shade and screen your deck help lower your costs by eliminating the need for building oversized structures or fences.

A deck at the bottom of a slope gains privacy from being hidden by the formation of the landscape. Almost all such locations will require a retaining wall as shown here. Ground covers planted on the slope can add color and will keep the soil in place.

Work with nature, trees, large stones, or other permanent landscape features do not need to push your deck out of an otherwise perfect spot. With a little extra framing to support the decking, you can build your deck around the obstacle instead of trying to remove it.

Make your own shade where nature does not provide it. A stylish table umbrella can create a quick and inexpensive shady spot on a sun-drenched deck. Plan for the future: plant a small tree now so it will add more shade when it grows to maturity.


When you are planning the location for your deck, use your camera. For example, if you have looked at the unadorned sides of your garden shed for several months, it no longer seems unattractive. When you put your deck in a spot that brings focus to the shed, you will soon be looking for a way to fix the view. In this case, a trellis with climbing plants can brighten up the structure, and your outlook. If the camera shows that the neighbors are able to view your deck and anyone on it, consider installing a privacy screen.