An In-Depth Guide to Decking Design

Garden with a central circular wooden decking, adjacent pond, and garden lights creating a serene ambiance.
Jump to section

Creating the perfect outdoor living space requires careful planning and attention to detail. This comprehensive guide will help you navigate the various decking design considerations, from selecting the ideal deck size and shape to incorporating built-in seating and lighting. By following these expert tips, you’ll be well on your way to crafting a beautiful and functional deck that you and your family will enjoy for years to come.

Deck Size

Determining the optimal deck size is essential for creating a functional and aesthetically pleasing outdoor space. Factors to consider when calculating deck size include the deck’s purpose, available space, and proportion to your house.

  1. Purpose: Consider how you plan to use your deck. Will it be used primarily for relaxing, entertaining, or a combination of both? The activities you envision will dictate the required space for furniture and traffic flow.
  2. Available space: Assess the area you have available in your garden for a deck. Remember to leave enough space for other landscaping features, such as lawns and planting beds.
  3. Proportion to your house: Ensure that the deck size complements the size of your home. A deck that is too large or small may appear disproportionate and detract from the overall aesthetic.
Activity / Furniture ArrangementRecommended Deck Size (square meters)
Dining area (4-6 people)9 – 12 sqm
Dining area (8-10 people)15 – 20 sqm
Lounge area (sofa and chairs)9 – 12 sqm
Outdoor kitchen / BBQ6 – 9 sqm
Hot tub / spa9 – 12 sqm
Fire pit with seating12 – 15 sqm
Combination of activities (e.g., dining and lounge area)20 – 25 sqm

Calculating your ideal deck size may seem daunting, but our Ultimate Guide to Garden Decking Planning & Design can help simplify the process. 

Deck Shape

The shape of your deck can dramatically impact its overall appearance and functionality. Popular deck shapes include rectangular, L-shaped, circular, and multi-sided designs. Each shape offers unique benefits, so it’s essential to choose one that suits your needs and complements your outdoor space.

  1. Rectangular: Rectangular decks are the most common and straightforward to build. This shape is versatile and can easily accommodate various furniture arrangements.
  2. L-shaped: L-shaped decks create separate areas for different activities, such as dining and lounging. This shape is ideal for maximising available space and creating a more dynamic layout.
  3. Circular: Circular decks provide a visually striking focal point and are perfect for creating intimate seating areas. However, they can be more challenging to construct than rectangular or L-shaped decks.
  4. Multi-sided: Multi-sided decks offer a unique and eye-catching design that adds visual interest to your garden. These decks are often built around trees or other landscape features and can be customised to fit irregular spaces.
An L-shaped decking in a garden showcasing separate areas for dining and lounging

Deck Levels

Incorporating different deck levels into your design can enhance the visual appeal and functionality of your outdoor space. Single-level decks are the simplest option, while multi-level decks offer various benefits, such as designated areas for specific activities and improved views.

  1. Single-level decks: A single-level deck is a straightforward and cost-effective option suitable for most gardens. They are easier to build and maintain, making them an excellent choice for DIY enthusiasts. Our How to Build Decking in 5 Easy Steps guide can help you get started on your project.
  2. Multi-level decks: Multi-level decks are ideal for gardens with uneven ground or when you want to create distinct areas for various activities. These decks provide visual interest and can make your space feel larger.
A beautiful multi-level deck with separate areas for dining and lounging

Factors to consider when deciding on deck levels

When choosing between a single-level or multi-level deck, consider the following factors:

  1. Garden topography: Uneven ground or sloping gardens may require a multi-level deck to create a flat and functional surface. Our guide on How to Lay Decking on Uneven Ground can provide further assistance.
  2. Purpose: Multi-level decks are perfect for separating different activities, such as cooking, dining, and relaxing. If you envision multiple uses for your outdoor space, a multi-level deck may be the best option.
  3. Budget and complexity: Building a multi-level deck is generally more expensive and complex than a single-level deck. Consider your budget, construction skills, and the amount of time you’re willing to invest in your project before making a decision.

Railing and Balustrades

Railings and balustrades serve both functional and aesthetic purposes in decking design. They provide safety and can enhance the overall appearance of your deck. Popular materials for railings and balustrades include wood, metal, glass, and composite.

  1. Wood: Wooden railings and balustrades are a classic choice that complements most decking styles. They can be painted or stained to match your desired colour scheme. However, wood requires regular maintenance to prevent rot and decay.
  2. Metal: Metal railings, such as aluminium or wrought iron, are durable and low-maintenance. They offer a sleek and modern appearance that can elevate your deck’s design.
  3. Glass: Glass balustrades create a clean and contemporary look while providing unobstructed views. They are an excellent choice for decks with scenic surroundings but may require more frequent cleaning.
  4. Composite: Composite materials, which combine wood and plastic, provide the appearance of wood with the durability and low-maintenance benefits of plastic. Composite railings and balustrades are resistant to rot, splintering, and fading.
A deck featuring a modern glass balustrade

Tips for choosing the right railing and balustrade design

When selecting a railing and balustrade design for your deck, consider the following factors:

  1. Safety: Ensure that the chosen railing and balustrade design meets safety requirements and local building regulations.
  2. Style: Select a railing and balustrade design that complements your deck’s overall style and your home’s architecture.
  3. Maintenance: Consider the level of maintenance required for your chosen materials and ensure that you are prepared to invest the necessary time and effort to keep them in good condition.
  4. Budget: Evaluate the costs associated with different railing and balustrade materials and designs, and select an option that fits within your budget.

Rodent Prevention

Rodent prevention is a crucial but often overlooked aspect of decking design. By implementing the following tips, you can protect your deck from potential rodent infestations:

  1. Proper ventilation: Ensure that your deck has adequate ventilation to prevent the accumulation of moisture, which can attract rodents. This can be achieved by installing vents or maintaining sufficient gaps between the decking boards.
  2. Sealing gaps: Seal any gaps or openings in your deck’s structure to prevent rodents from accessing the area beneath your deck. This may involve adding mesh screens, caulking gaps, or using rodent-resistant materials.
  3. Use of rodent-resistant materials: Choose materials that are less susceptible to rodent damage, such as composite decking, metal railings, or glass balustrades.

Built-in Seating and Planters

Incorporating built-in seating and planters into your deck design can create a cozy and inviting outdoor space. These features add visual interest, enhance functionality, and provide opportunities for personalisation.

  1. Benefits of incorporating built-in seating and planters:
    • Space-saving: Built-in seating and planters can free up valuable floor space, making your deck feel more spacious.
    • Customisation: Built-in features can be tailored to your specific needs and preferences, ensuring a unique and personalised design.
    • Cohesive design: Integrating seating and planters into your deck creates a seamless and harmonious aesthetic.
  2. Design ideas for built-in seating and planters:
    • Bench seating: Install bench seating along the perimeter of your deck to provide ample seating for guests and create a relaxed atmosphere.
    • Planter boxes: Incorporate planter boxes into your seating design to add greenery and create a natural, organic feel.
    • Multi-functional features: Combine seating and storage by incorporating built-in storage compartments beneath bench seats.
  3. Tips for choosing the right materials and styles:
    • Material selection: Choose materials that match or complement your decking materials, such as wood, metal, or composite.
    • Style: Select a style that aligns with your deck’s overall design, whether it be modern, traditional, or rustic.
A deck with built-in seating and planters to create a cozy outdoor space


Proper lighting is essential for creating a comfortable and inviting atmosphere on your deck. Lighting options include ambient, task, and accent lighting, each serving a specific purpose and contributing to the overall ambiance.

  1. Ambient lighting: Ambient lighting provides general illumination for your deck, making it safe and functional during evening hours. Options include string lights, lanterns, or wall-mounted fixtures.
  2. Task lighting: Task lighting is focused illumination for specific activities, such as cooking or reading. Examples include deck post lights or under-rail lights.
  3. Accent lighting: Accent lighting highlights specific features, such as built-in seating or planters, and adds visual interest. Options include spotlights, uplights, or downlights.
A well-lit deck showcasing various lighting options

Tips for selecting and positioning deck lights

When choosing and installing deck lights, consider the following tips:

  1. Layering: Combine different types of lighting to create depth and visual interest in your outdoor space.
  2. Energy efficiency: Opt for energy-efficient lighting options, such as LED or solar-powered lights, to reduce energy consumption and costs.
  3. Placement: Position lights strategically to illuminate high-traffic areas, avoid glare, and highlight key features.

An excellent option for deck lighting is the Solar-Powered LED Deck Light Kit, which includes both ambient and accent lighting options.


Creating a budget for your decking project is crucial for managing costs and ensuring a successful outcome. Factors affecting decking project costs include materials, labour, and additional features, such as lighting or built-in seating.

  1. Factors affecting decking project costs:
    • Material costs: The type of decking material you choose, such as wood, composite, or PVC, will significantly impact your overall budget.
    • Labour costs: DIY projects can save on labour costs, but hiring a professional may be necessary for complex or large-scale projects.
    • Additional features: Incorporating built-in seating, planters, lighting, or other custom elements will increase the overall cost of your project.
  2. Tips for creating a decking budget:
  • Research material costs: Investigate the prices of various decking materials and select one that fits your budget and meets your design preferences.
  • Obtain multiple quotes: If you plan to hire a professional, obtain quotes from multiple contractors to compare prices and services.
  • Prioritise features: Determine which features are most important to you and allocate funds accordingly. You can always add or upgrade features later if your budget allows.
  • Factor in maintenance costs: Consider long-term maintenance expenses, such as staining, sealing, or repairing damaged boards, when creating your budget.

Table of Estimated costs for different decking materials and features

Decking Material / FeatureEstimated Cost (£)
Pressure-Treated Wood (per sqm)£80 – £120
Cedar (per sqm)£100 – £150
Composite (per sqm)£140 – £200
PVC (per sqm)£140 – £200
Railings and Balustrades (per linear meter)£50 – £150
Built-in Seating (per linear meter)£100 – £200
Planters (each)£50 – £200
Deck Lighting (per fixture)£20 – £100

Please note that these estimated costs are for reference only and may vary depending on the specific product, labour costs, and location. Always obtain quotes from multiple suppliers and contractors to ensure accurate pricing for your project.

To help you estimate your decking project costs, consult our Decking Preston local services page for information on our offerings and pricing.


How do you design a decking layout?

Designing a decking layout involves several steps, including determining the deck’s purpose, size, and shape, selecting materials, and incorporating additional features, such as railings, lighting, and built-in seating. Our Ultimate Guide to Garden Decking Planning & Design can help guide you through the process.

Do I need an engineer to design decking?

An engineer may be required for complex decking projects, such as those involving multiple levels, structural modifications to your home, or decks that exceed local building code height and size limitations. Always consult your local building regulations and guidelines before starting your project.

Who can design decking for me?

Professional deck designers, landscape architects, or contractors can help design decking for you. If you’re in the Preston area, our team at Acorn Gardening can provide expert advice and design services tailored to your needs.

Why do you need planning permission for decking?

Planning permission may be required for decking projects that exceed certain size, height, or location restrictions. In the UK, planning permission is generally not needed for decks less than 30cm above ground level, covering less than 50% of the garden area, and not located within a conservation area. However, always consult your local planning authority for specific regulations applicable to your project.


Designing the perfect deck requires careful consideration of various factors, including size, shape, levels, railings, and more. By following the expert tips provided in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to creating a beautiful and functional outdoor living space that suits your needs and complements your garden. Good luck, and happy decking!

As Amazon associates we earn from qualifying purchases