Deck Planning Basics

High-Performance Deck Planning


The end result: your own private oasis, mere feet from the fridge. The process? Nearly as easy, provided you put thought into your deck building plans and take the time to think about how you’ll want to use your new entertaining/relaxing/al-fresco-everything living space. You’ll want to be able to tell your top rails from your balusters for sure, but it’s also time to consider some bigger questions, like how much space do you need to pull out the dining chairs? Does your town require architectural plans before permits? And what about a hot tub?

Outdoor Deck Planning Basics

Whether you’ll use your deck for big family BBQs or lazy-afternoon lounging, Trex makes it easy to design, draw up deck building plans and budget accordingly.

Components – Get To Know Deck Building Blocks

  • A: Top Rail - A top rail is the horizontal rail attached to the top of the balusters and between the posts. 
  • B: Post Cap - Cap topping each post is the decorative finish that also stands the weather. See component B in the diagram.
  • C: Baluster - Vertical rungs, sometimes called spindles, that fill the space between two posts.
  • D: Post Sleeve - Hollow sleeve that fits over a solid, pressure-treated post or post mount. 
  • E: Bottom Rail - A bottom rail is a horizontal rail attached to the bottom of the balusters and between the posts.
  • F: Post Skirt - A finishing piece at the base of the post that covers any cuts where the decking and railing meet. Usually coordinates with the cap.
  • G: Decking - The decking boards that serve as the walking surface. Order a decking sample to see why Trex is #1 in composite decking.
  • H: Joist - Dimensional structure, set on edge, which supports decking. 
  • I: Beam - Supported by posts, the beam is the horizontal structural component that supports the joists. 
  • L: Elevated Post - Vertical supports that rest on footings and support the beam.
  • M: Footing - The below-ground support of a deck’s post, usually made from concrete.
  • N: Tread - The walking surface of each step in a stairway. 
  • O: Riser - A board attached to the vertical face of a step between treads. 
  • P: Stringer - The support frame of stairs to which the risers and treads attach. 

Build or Resurface?

Deck planning usually goes one of two ways: you have a framework with a little life left in it and only the top boards need a facelift. Or, you’re starting from the grass up and need a completely new deck. Whatever your plans for building a deck, Trex is the perfect solution, with myriad products that out deck wood at every stage.

Codes & Permits

Make sure you have these things in order before you begin building your deck.

  • 01

    1. Permits:

    Check with your state, county or city offices for what permits are necessary and any building code requirements
  • 02

    2. Homeowner Association:

    Understand any rules regarding deck size, color, product type or design
  • 03

    3. What's Underground:

    Check with local utilities companies for the location of any underground cables, wires or pipes (a builder often helps with this). Call the North American One-Call Referral system at 888-258-0808


Get inspired with curated deck designs.



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