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Top 8 Design Features for a New Deck

November 10th, 2022 | 4 min. read

By Jacob Livingston

Deck with curved edges and 2 tan umbrellas

Are you building a custom deck for your home and unsure what design options are available to you? We're here to help.

Knowing the options available before constructing your deck will make the design process simpler and more enjoyable, leaving you with the finished product you desire. 

As a deck designer and builder with over 15 years of experience in the Mid-Michigan area, we know what outdoor living features to recommend based on what our clients love.

1. Incorporate a dedicated dining space

Over 80% of the decks we have created in the past 15+ years have a dedicated dining space. This is an important decision to determine before incorporating other design features. It often requires some intentional layout decisions to ensure your outdoor dining table fits well.

Putting this space at the top of your list for design features is essential in creating the outdoor living space that will best suit you.

Consider having your dining space:

  • In an area that allows chairs to be moved easily
  • Away from your outdoor kitchen (to avoid grill smoke)
  • Near plants or flower pots
  • Away from any stairs
  • In a space that allows for temporary shading like an umbrella
  • Below a gazebo or pergola

outdoor dining room with pergola and white curtains Outdoor dining area with wooden pergola

2. Add deck lightsDeck with stair riser lights

Adding lights to your deck is a great way to create a pleasant and inviting ambiance at night. 

If you love to host or entertain during the summer months, this is a great way to ensure your space can be used into twilight.

Design locations for deck lights include but are not limited to:

  • Stair Risers
  • Post Caps
  • Recessed on the deck surface
  • Wedge lights on posts

Lights are a great option and available for all deck projects. 

3. Expand your outdoor living space with Trex RainEscape

Under most circumstances, rain will keep you inside. Trex RainEscape, allows you to use the space under your deck even when inclement weather occurs that would take you inside.

Usable when it rains or when the sun gets too hot, the underside of your deck is your place to stay outside and comfortable. 

Outdoor space underneath a deck

Trex RainEscape is an internal gutter and drainage system between the joists of your deck. As rain falls on your deck this drainage system diverts any water away from the underside, keeping everything underneath dry.

Pros of Trex RainEscape:

  • Expands your outdoor living space
  • Increases the life of your outdoor furniture
  • Gives you shelter from the weather

Cons of Trex RainEscape:

  • Additional expense
  • Increases build timeline

Internal drainage system inside a deck

Adding a Trex RainEscape system to a newly built deck creates not one but two usable outdoor living spaces.

4. Create a pergola or gazebo

Adding a pergola or gazebois a great option if you want a covering over your deck to limit sun and weather exposure.

Deck with pergola and white railing Deck with gazebo and thatch roof

Gazebos have a functional roof that provides full weather protection. Pergolas have a slatted roof that only protects from sun exposure.

Pergolas and gazebos create great outdoor spaces for dining and lounging areas.

Benefits of adding a pergola or gazebo to your deck includes:

  • Reducing exposure from the sun
  • Creating dedicated outdoor dining or lounging areas
  • Providing additional protection from rain

5. Build an outdoor kitchen areaOutdoor kitchen area with gazebo covering

An outdoor food preparation area is another fantastic way to entertain.

To enhance your outdoor kitchen, options include:

  • Oven
  • Pizza oven
  • Grill area
  • Wet bar
  • Dishwasher
  • Food prep area

An outdoor kitchen with any of the options above will create an enhanced outdoor living experience.

Outdoor kitchen spaces are customizable to fit your needs.

Outdoor grill area on a deck


6. Add a hot tub to your deckOutdoor deck with a hot tub and pergola

Hot tubs are an excellent way to create a relaxing environment on your deck. 

Usable year-round, it provides a place for enjoyment or relaxation no matter the time of year.

Extra structural support will be needed to accommodate the added weight of the hot tub and water.

Every hot tub is different so it’s necessary to design your structure to accommodate a specific hot tub.



If you are searching for a more cost-effective option, with a ground-level deck, placing the hot tub next to your deck is the best option. It reduces the cost by removing the need for additional support beams.

Deck with a hot tub adjacent to the deck

The best areas to feature a hot tub on your deck include:

  • Building the deck around your hot tub
  • Adding an elevated portion (which creates a built-in bench)
  • Constructing a pergola or gazebo over the hot tub
  • Building a bar space next to the hot tub
  • Adding a privacy wall next to the hot tub


7. Build a privacy wall

If you are looking for privacy and want your deck to feel sheltered, a privacy wall is a great way to achieve this.

Wooden deck with 2 angled privacy walls and hot tub

Privacy walls can be built to any shape or size to accommodate your design and privacy requirements.

Deck with a built-in bench and privacy wall

Design options for a privacy wall include:

  • Lattice wall
  • Solid wall
  • Retractable outdoor curtains or screens
  • Designer panels
  • Privacy fencing



8. Create seating areas using built-in benches

Built-in benches provide great space for families to sit outside without needing space to accommodate individual chairs.

Deck with built-in benches, with grey deck boards and a black railing

This deck feature can be the same color as the deck boards, so it matches exactly or can be a different color for some contrast. 

Pros of adding built-in benches to your deck include:

  • Seating is always available for you and your guests
  • Benches can match your deck color
  • Benches don’t need to be lifted and moved as the weather changes

Cons of adding built-in benches to your deck include:

  • They are permanent. If you like to move furniture around these are not a good fit for you
  • Additional cost. Adding these to your deck will bring up the cost of your project

Next steps for your deck project

Now that you know the top-recommended design features for your upcoming deck project, you will be prepared to have a streamlined design process and ultimately create an outdoor living space you love.

Most remodeling companies can accommodate these design features, but be sure to confirm the options with your builder before construction.

Custom Built has extensive experience designing and building each of these accessories into our client’s outdoor living spaces. If you have questions or are looking to find out if Custom Built is the right design and remodeling company for your project, reach out to our sales team. We'd love the opportunity to build your dream deck or outdoor living space.

Want to learn more about decks, porches, and outdoor living spaces? Consider the following articles:

Jacob Livingston