As with anything, deck design does have a certain set of limitations. Over the past few weeks we covered the process of brainstorming your dream deck, but what good is a dream deck when its limitations exceed its possibilities? There are a certain set of circumstances that reign in the infinite options within deck design. Here are a few to consider.

Ledger Board

Often, a ledger board poses itself as a limitation, when in reality it is the opposite of that. Attaching a deck to fit an existing position and length of a ledger board can stifle the options and process within designing your deck. The thing to recognize is that although the current length and positioning of the ledger board is an option, it isn’t the only option. In most situations, the ledger board should be adjusted to fit your certain set of needs and circumstances for your deck. Don’t let the ledger board determine design elements, when it doesn’t have to.

Extension or Addition?

A major limitation in any custom deck design is the house itself. Because a deck should act as an extension of the house, marrying the comfort of home with the nature of outdoors, take extra consideration in what will actually work with your existing home. Often, we see home owners build generic deck designs onto their home, which look out of place and as if it were just tacked on.

Instead, consider the design and existing aspects of your house and yard. Strive to build a deck that is more of an extension and less of an addition. Consider what you love about your home and look for ways to incorporate it into your new outdoor living space. Think about your deck as a smooth transition from indoors to outdoors.


The elevation of your home is a definite design limitation that will determine a lot about your deck. Both high elevation and low elevation decks have their own unique set of characteristics and challenges.

Low elevation decks are characterized by less than 30” above the grade of the land. These low decks don’t require guard rails and have a tendency to appear quite massive and short. One benefit of low decks is that low decks take the existing yard into consideration by making a visual connection between the house and the yard. Another benefit is that low decks don’t require the use of a ladder during construction. Because the deck is so low, though, and it may be difficult to see the underside of the deck, a framing inspection might be required.

Higher decks require guard rails and have a lightweight, floating platform look to them. Long stretches of stairs are usually utilized to reach the ground and lower elevations, so take extra precautions about construction and safety measures. Although construction and design of a high deck can be quite a complicated and tedious process, high decks offer a beautiful perspective of the yard and space adjacent to the home. The space under the deck can also be utilized in creative ways, depending on your specific yard and deck environment. Although elevation is a limitation, working with the conditions instead of against them can help you build a beautiful and functional deck that works with your home and environment.

Door Location

The location of the back door of a home is the main access point for your deck. Although it is possible to move a door, it is not easy or cost effective. Instead, accept the location of the door as a limitation in your deck design and work with the current layout of the home to build a deck that compliments it. This door will be a focal point of your new deck, so take size, style and its design elements into consideration. Although you can’t move the door, you can replace the door itself if need be. The size and location will also influence the layout of the deck you build onto your house. The door will function as the path of traffic, so consider how people will move about the deck from the door to the other areas, and design accordingly.

We’ll be back in two weeks with more important design limitations in a custom built deck. In the mean time, check out our custom deck design portfolio to get some more ideas on how to begin designing your dream deck. Call us at (919) 460-8802, or fill out our contact form to reach one of our deck designers.