As the homeowner it is up to you to make the initial decision about your decks look and feel. Only you know what you know what you want from your deck. It is likely that you want to entertain on it, barbeque on it even have a hot tub.
Make a list of features you want.
Knowing what you plan to put on the deck will help you determine the size of deck you need.
Magazines are also great place to look for ideas. Cut out pictures of railings, decking material, lights or patio seats. Keep all the pictures. Once you have a few variations of the different components you can narrow down your choices.
Books are also a great resource. Books will usually have a series of deck projects that you can follow along. Some are plan books that contain a series of plans. Any generic plan will need to be brought to local codes.
Drive around new subdivisions and see what is being built. If anything, this will give you a bit of an idea on the framing of the deck.
Watch home improvement shows on TV to see what the new trends are. You can also get a list of good websites that can provide information about new products.
The availability of materials will also be a factor in what you use to build your deck. Using materials that are native to your area will be less expensive then if you have to special order materials.
Once you decide on all the features and styles you want to include in your deck you are ready to have a deck plan drawn. Hiring a designer or builder to design your deck is the most common way but is also the most expensive. Finding a set of pre drawn plans will save you some money but you will still need to have the plans updated to meet the local building codes.
A home owner can buy computer programs that will enable them to design their own deck. This can be daunting for those with very little experience but if you work at it you can have something that you can build with.
Building Codes and local by-laws
When building you deck it is important to work with your local building department. In most areas you will need to have your deck plan approved and a building permit issued before you can start construction.
Your local building department will likely look for the following information.
•Overall deck size
•Height off the ground
•Position relative to property lines
•Size and location of framing
•Species of wood being used
•Method of connecting framing
Once your local building department is satisfied your plans meet code and local bylaws. They will then issue you a building permit, likely for a fee.