How Big of Deck Do You Need?

After building many decks around Calgary, I have found we need to ask a few questions before answering this one. Why do you want a deck? What activities are you hoping to do on your deck? Answering these questions will create a much more enjoyable and useable deck. Answering our question, “What size should my deck be?”

There are three common uses for a deck.

  • Sitting
  • Eating
  • Barbequing

Many things will be happening around these activities, but these will be the focus.  A larger deck can have a combination, but each section will need to be large enough for these activities.

 A deck for barbequing, minimum 5’0 X 8’0”

  • A deck, rectangle table for 4-6 people to eat, min.14’0”X 16’0”
  • A deck for two people to sit and relax, minimum 6’0” X 8’0”
  • A deck for barbequing and eating, minimum 19’0” X 16’0”

With many ways to layout your deck, the possibilities are endless, but these are minimums to keep in mind. You don’t want to build your deck only to find it is too small to do the very thing you built it for. Then it will break my heart as it sits there unused. To avoid heartache, let’s think through some deck options before building.


Not an outdoor kitchen that will take a lot more space. Simply enough space to fire up the barbeque and grill some meat. Or vegetables if you’re into that. With a small path on the side leading to your steps to the yard. Without steps, this can be reduced to 5’0” X 6’0” deck but steps to your yard are invaluable. If you want a sink and prep counter, you’re looking for an outdoor kitchen, a much larger conversation and deck.

Fire Safety

Now your cooking with fire! And as such, safety is essential to avoid burning yourself or your house. You want a minimum of 3’0” clearance away from your house. Doubling as a place to stand while you grill. A gas or propane barbeque needs a minimum clearance of 3’0” from combustible material; this includes wood railing, vinyl siding, tree branches. If it can burn, keep it 3’0” away. To fit it into this small size will require an aluminum railing, allowing the barbeque to sit in the corner, away from the house.

Proximity to Kitchen

Ideally this your barbeque should be close to the door leading to your kitchen. Convenient access to food and water is essential. With many trips from your kitchen to the deck. Being close to the door also makes it important to be large enough to walk past the barbeque out to the yard.


Eating outside. It just makes food taste better. Plus, a wonderful escape from the hot kitchen after cooking. There are many deck tables options available. Rectangles, squares or round tables all work great. The key is you need room for the table 2’0” each side for chairs plus 1’0” to walk behind the chair or sit down. For example, a 2’6” x 5’0” rectangle table. Add 1+2+5+2+1=11. Round up for the width; you need 9’0”. Meaning you need a minimum deck 9’0” wide by 11’0” long to fit the table

What, you said 14’0” X 16’0”?

Why Yes, but you do want room to walk around your table, right? The extra 5’0” provides exactly this, room to walk around. Your deck will be much more enjoyable if you can move around on it. You can squeeze it a little if you must, but one head bump into the potato salad, and you will wish you had enough room to walk around on your deck.

A view to eat by

Another option, if you are squeezed for space. Or the panorama view is too much to miss. The “Last Supper” arrangement is also great. Pushing the table up against the railing, saving you about 6’0”, with everyone sitting together on one side. Great for a smaller group, sitting closer together and enjoying the view of your backyard.


Intimate or entertaining? Will your deck be your little escape outdoors? To read a book or chat with a friend. Or a gathering place for friends and family? Nose count will determine deck size.


Your little deck oasis outside. Making this place cozy is essential. Too large is intimidating, but with enough room to comfortable walk around. A simple reclining chair or small round table with two chairs. With fewer people at play, your walking path can be smaller, say 2’0” between, but leave enough room to breathe. It’s wonderful to be close, but we all need room to move.


The party has come to you. How many people are you inviting? A rule of thumbs is 10-12 people require at least 300 square feet, but 400 is better. Meaning a deck should be at least 16’0” X 20’0” for ten people but bigger is better. A simple test is right inside your house. In those cold winter months, you entertain in your living room. How big is your living room? Transfer that size to your deck. If you entertain inside with an 18’0” X 16’0” living room, the same will work as your deck.

Deck Chairs

From Wicker to wood and everything in between, there are many options in siting options on a deck. Many will resemble your living room coaches. Which will be helpful as your model for sizing of your deck. The one anomaly will be Patio Lounger Deck Chairs. With there leg rest requiring extra space on your deck, but so worth it as you recline out in the sun on your deck with a good book or view.

Popular Combination, Eating while Barbequing

With all the pleasure of eating outside along with great grilled food, who wouldn’t want to combine the two. A place to eat and cook all while enjoying the great outdoors. Placement of the barbeque by the door is still helpful in food preparation, but options are available for the eating area. Either you can have one large deck combining the cooking and eating together on one deck.

Tiered Deck

Another popular option is a two-tier deck with the barbeque on the higher deck by your patioOpens in a new tab. door and a few steps down your table. The advantage of this is a distinction in deck areas. The hot grill with its smoke is removed from the dining area but close enough to move to enjoy your company while watching the barbeque. The best of both worlds.


The steps between decks enhance both the look and feel. Making a more gradual approach to the yard, breaking up the elevation into two parts. Food preparation is conveniently on the same level as your kitchen, but placing you closer to your yard with a lower deck for eating. The kidsOpens in a new tab. freely running in the yard, all while the danger of the barbeque is far removed.

I want it all, Barbequing, Eating and Sitting

If you have the yard and the desire, combine all three bring versatility and increase the use of your deck. Allowing flow from cooking, eating and relaxing. Making your deck the centre for entertaining large groups. The only need to go inside to bring out more food.

Distinctions Areas

Breaking up your deck is essential with all three. Otherwise, the sheer size creates an overwhelming platform. The beauty and enjoyment increasing by steps down to the sitting area or a small walkway leading to a few chairs. A large deck for eating works well but a small area to the side for sitting is great. As your deck becomes busy with guests, a few can slip off to the sitting area and have a more intimate conversation. Providing space for both those who love to be the centre of the party and those who enjoy a closer connection.

Decking board patterns

A simple change in the direction or angle of the decking helps to create distinction. Visually with the decking changing, your mind separates space. Knowing that one is for eating the other for sitting. The changing decking breaks up the monotony of decking boards with direction change.

Colour Change

Another way to provide a distinction on a large deck is through decking board colour. Composite decking with many colour options lends itself to colour change. It also can be accomplished by staining with pressure-treated decking. A word of caution with changing decking material, as different decking requires a different level of maintenance its is often better to stay consistent.

A Nook

Working incredibly well for a cozy sitting area. A small nook off the deck with a couple of chairs, with a privacy wall creating a cozy area for softer conversations. As many people sitting around the large eating table, louder volume is required. The nook also is great to slip out to in the morning for just a little “me time” outdoors before facing the workday. A mini deck apart from your grand deck.

How Big of Deck Do You Need?

Returning to our first question, how big? That depends entirely on use. How will your deck enhance your home, with outdoor grilling, eating or sitting? Then what furniture will best allow that to happen? Knowing that inside your house, you already have a scale model to work off. Allow room to move around and you will enjoy your deck.

Helpful Dimensions

All this may feel a little overwhelming. How big of table do you need? What is the real size of a chair? You can run down to the store and measure, or a helpful site is Dimensions.Guide. This website has many common dimensions with helpful pictures. Allowing you to design your deck to sizeOpens in a new tab. quickly.

Ryan Nickel

A Red Seal carpenter, passionate about building decks to be enjoyed.

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