Basic things to consider prior to starting your deck construction
First thing to establish is budget. This is something we unfortunately, cannot help you with. Your budget will quickly determine the following decisions. The second thing to think about is the size of your new deck. Are you replacing existing and expanding? Is it a blank canvas for a backyard? If so, you will want to also establish a plan for the whole backyard and incorporate the deck into the yard with all your landscaping desires. A larger size deck does allow for more options such as tiered levels. Nobody has ever regretted building a bigger deck.
A multi-level deck with many angles and stairs may look good on paper, but once built, it can prove to be a problem with placement and size of patio furniture and accessories. Try to incorporate the furniture and accessories you want in advance. This will save you shopping for something that will fit after the deck is built. Imagine entertaining guests on the deck. Make sure the size of deck, any tiered levels, placement of furniture and accessories allow for easy movement and spacious seating. Functionality is key to a successful deck party or just for you and that special someone.
Most mistakes made in stair planning are what looks good on paper vs. site conditions. The height from finished grade or finished landscaping to the top of the deck will determine how many stairs you have. A good example is that you may like the idea of having a 2 step/3 rise on your drawing, but the height is 25"-30". With a 30" height, you would have to have a 3 step/4 rise set of stairs. Each rise would be 7 1/2", which is a perfect height. Stair rise should be kept between 7" and 8". Anything above 8" feels uncomfortable or like a chore to walk up. A rise below 7" sometimes feels like stumbling or short stepping up the stairs. Also locate the stairs for optimum functionality.
Forget about the structure for a moment and think of the finished product. What is aesthetically pleasing to you? Composite decking has come a long way. Manufacturers have come out with affordable products for the average consumer, while wood remains the most economical. A couple of things to keep in mind are, what will it cost to stain a wood deck every year or two? What is the life expectancy of a wood deck vs a low maintenance deck? Right now there are low maintenance manufacturers offering 25 even 30 year warranties. Low maintenance material is a much more durable product and in some cases, a heavier product, thus increasing the specifications and cost of the structure. Therefore, the long and short of it, is a treated deck is cheaper but will not last near as long as maintenance free. If you are shopping prices of low maintenance products, and notice that some are cheaper than others, keep in mind that you get what you pay for. Edmonton Custom Decks have had the misfortune of working with some of these products and will not work with them again. A simple scratch test will give you an idea of the durability of the various products.
Skirting/Enclosing the deck
Do you want to have your deck closed off? It does look pretty good, but if you are low enough to the ground, it may not be necessary. Do you plan to store a lawnmower or other yard maintenance equipment and want an access incorporated?
Railing at this point should be a fairly easy decision. If you decided to build a treated deck, you can choose either treated railing or low maintenance. If you chose to build a low maintenance deck, it is now a decision of what kind of low maintenance material to use. Aluminum railing is a popular choice with various color and spindle options available. The low maintenance decking manufacturers also supply matching rail systems which are very attractive. Spindled railing is cheaper than glass inserts, but glass does really open up the deck.
Structure at this point is already determined by Alberta Building Code. It is important to review and comply with City of Edmonton's license and permits for your custom deck, as well as filling out the application form and deck construction detail sheet. This is a step Edmonton Custom Decks can take care of for you as well.