Pro Guide to Planning Your Multi-Level Deck

A multi-level deck enables you to create individualized outdoor spaces which have unique purposes — it’s a great way to expand your outdoor living space and add value to your home! You can connect the various levels of your home or make the most of a graded yard with a multi-level deck. Whether the deck levels are separated by a step or two, or an entire flight of stairs, you’ll want to create a design that fits your lifestyle and uses materials that will last for years to come. Read on for pro tips about the deck design process and the best decking materials for your multi-level deck project.

Designing a Deck for Your Lifestyle

Before designing a deck, think about how your family will use the space. Make a “wish list” of features that you’d like for your new backyard oasis. Whether you need a cozy space for family gatherings or a sprawling deck for hosting parties, remember that a multi-level deck is an extension of your home. Some popular deck design ideas include deck space for sunbathing, an outdoor kitchen, a dining area, or a living room area with an outdoor fireplace.

TimberTech Advanced PVC decking in CoastlineTimberTech Advanced PVC decking in Coastline

Once you decide which features your multi-level deck design should have, you can plan its layout and size, choose materials, and finalize the construction budget. When designing a multi-level deck, start by considering these three things:

Consider Deck Location and Orientation

Each deck build is different, and multi-level decks require solid structural support for long-term stability and safety. Factors like deck height, soil condition, and existing footings will impact your deck plan. Multi-level decks have unique considerations because low decks retain more moisture while high decks require additional safety measures.

If you plan to remodel an existing deck, it’s best to have a deck builder, architect, or engineer assess the condition and load-bearing capacity of your deck’s foundation. Rocky ground or unstable soil might require changes to the deck design or location. DIY homeowners must be sure to check local building codes for permits, setback requirements, and safety standards.

TimberTech Vintage Collection in CoastlineTimberTech Vintage Collection in Coastline

Your deck’s orientation can provide sunny areas or take advantage of shade from existing plants and trees. Observe the yard throughout the day to see how the sun moves; then use shade trees or your home’s shadow to create spaces for relaxing out of the hot sun. The coolest spot is usually the upper deck area that’s shaded by the house. If your deck location will receive full sun, consider adding shade with a pergola, awning or shade sail. The amount of sun will also determine the level of UV exposure and moisture on the deck, so choose colors and materials wisely.

TimberTech Advanced PVC Deck Color: Whitewash Cedar; Railing: Classic Composite Series - Drink RailTimberTech Advanced PVC Deck Color: Whitewash Cedar; Railing: Classic Composite Series - Drink Rail

Plan Activity Zones And Tra20ffic Flow

Activity zones help ensure that every inch of your deck is put to use. For example, a deck’s upper level is a great spot for a dining area or barbecue grill because it’s convenient to the kitchen. A lower level might have a seating area that looks out on a pretty view, and ground level is perfect for a fire pit or pool deck. Different levels separated by even a few steps customize your deck for maximum enjoyment and value. Creating multiple levels separated by a few steps also unites your space more than one long flight of stairs.

Multi-level wood deck finished in Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Solid Stain in Spanish MossMulti-level wood deck finished in Benjamin Moore Arborcoat Solid Stain in Spanish Moss

Open spaces make it easy for guests to circulate, so they’re ideal for homeowners who have large parties. Consider using contrasting colors and inset shapes to help to set off each area. Note how the curved deck boards set off each dining area. This look is possible with PVC decking which can be molded into custom shapes.

TimberTech Advanced PVC in Coastline with Island Oak inlayTimberTech Advanced PVC in Coastline with Island Oak inlay

Landings are the perfect way to break up flights of stairs and to ease the transition between levels. Clearly, railings are an indispensable safety feature, so plan ahead to integrate the railings with your overall deck design. You can create exactly the look you want with TimberTech’s composite and PVC deck railing systems.

TimberTech Reserve Collection in Dark RoastTimberTech Reserve Collection in Dark Roast

A pass-through bar between the indoor and outdoor kitchen areas is the perfect spot for feeding hungry kids and for hanging out during meal prep. The stools tuck under the bar to maximize living space when not in use. Note that the levels are distinct, yet it’s easy to transition between them.

TimberTech Advanced PVC by AZEK with tri color effectTimberTech Advanced PVC by AZEK with tri color effect

This multi-level deck design packs a lot into a small space, with a cafe table and bench seating facing the grill area. When square footage is limited, this is an excellent option for adding variety and interest to your outdoor area.

TimberTech Composite in Tigerwood and MochaTimberTech Composite in Tigerwood and Mocha

As you plan activity zones, think about the ways people will move around the deck and how furniture placement can improve functionality and comfort. Try to create a balance between open spaces for socializing and intimate spots for relaxation.

TimberTech Advanced PVC multi-level deckTimberTech Advanced PVC multi-level deck

Choose the Right Deck Materials

Selecting the best material for your deck is a crucial part of the design process. A large, multi-level deck is not only a big investment, it will require far more maintenance than a single-level deck. Decks built into hillsides are also more prone to moisture problems, and more difficult to reach if repairs are needed. Because of this, the best materials for a multi-level deck are long-lasting, low-maintenance products like composite and PVC decking from TimberTech.

Some homeowners choose cedar deck boards, or hardwoods like ipe because of their traditional appeal. However, natural wood decking must be stained and sealed every few years—on a multi-level deck this is a time-consuming and expensive project especially with high decks that are difficult to access. Synthetic decking eliminates these problems because it never requires sealing or recoating.

While upfront costs may be higher, composite and PVC decking materials are the most cost-effective option once you calculate the expense of construction and maintenance over time. Wood decks typically have a lifespan of 10-20 years with careful maintenance. TimberTech’s Composite decking has a lifespan of 30 years, and their Advanced PVC decking lasts up to 50 years.

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Color Ideas for Your Multi-Level Deck

The best deck designs integrate seamlessly with the architectural style of your home and the surrounding landscape. Once you’ve determined the deck layout, it’s time to decide on the color scheme and other decorative details. While wood decks must be stained or painted, PVC and composite decking are available in a wide range of shades, with textures that resemble real wood. Homeowners love TimberTech’s engineered decking because of the variety of colors that can be used together to differentiate levels and create a custom look.

LEFT: Multi-Level deck with TimberTech Vintage Collection in Mahogany with Dark Hickory; RIGHT: TimberTech Prime+ Collection in Coconut Husk with platform border in Sea Salt GrayLEFT: Multi-Level deck with TimberTech Vintage Collection in Mahogany with Dark Hickory;

RIGHT: TimberTech Prime+ Collection in Coconut Husk with platform border in Sea Salt Gray

Rich wood tones are the perfect complement to a wooded lot. This home’s black railing and black window trim unite the deck with the home.

TimberTech Advanced PVC by AZEK in English Walnut with cable deck railingTimberTech Advanced PVC by AZEK in English Walnut with cable deck railing

For decks in full sun, composite or PVC decking in a light color is much cooler on bare feet. The darker gray board was chosen to emphasize the pool’s border which is a beautiful way to enhance safety. You can see why many people highlight the technical design of their deck through the creative use of color.

Pool deck in TimberTech Composite Legacy collection, Whitewash CedarPool deck in TimberTech Composite Legacy collection, Whitewash Cedar

To learn more about TimberTech’s color and design options, check out our guide Choosing the Best TimberTech Color For Your Deck.

Discover 25 Nature-Inspired Decking Colors That Never Fade

Planning Shade Cover for Multi-Level Decks

Creating a shady area on your deck is a smart idea. A built-in shade structure is a more permanent solution than an umbrella, and lets you enjoy the deck on sunny days. On a multi-level deck, you can create a shaded area on one level and a sunbathing area on another. Here are some popular shade solutions for you to consider:

  • Awning – Stretched fabric on a frame attached to your home; some awnings are retractable and will partially shade a porch, patio, or deck.
  • Pergola – A structure with a slatted roof and corner posts; shade is provided by growing plants overhead, attaching shade fabric, or both.
  • Attached overhead structure – A roof-like structure attached to your home and supported by posts, much like a porch.
  • Roof extension – An extension of your home’s roofline to partially shade the deck. This may require an architect to incorporate the extension into your home’s design.

TimberTech Legacy Collection in PecanTimberTech Legacy Collection in Pecan

Create Privacy with Screens

A privacy screen is the ideal solution for a deck that has neighbors close by. Consider using the screen as a focal point or to divide the space into outdoor rooms. You can create privacy with a vine-covered trellis, a decorative lattice, or a solid wall of the same material as the deck. An architect or landscape designer can design privacy screening that takes your custom deck to the next level.

Pool deck and privacy wall in TimberTech Advanced PVC Vintage Collection in CoastlinePool deck and privacy wall in TimberTech Advanced PVC Vintage Collection in Coastline

Deck Lighting for Every Level

  • Outdoor lighting lets you use your multi-level deck into the evening hours while making stairways and landings safer. TimberTech offers a range of built-in lighting options for your deck:
  • Riser lights to illuminate stairs
  • In-Deck lights emit a soft glow to delineate deck edges
  • Accent lights for general lighting on posts
  • Post Cap lights to softly illuminate each post
  • Under-Rail lighting to frame the deck with a soft glow

TimberTech by AZEK Composite Drink Rail in White, with post cap lightsTimberTech by AZEK Composite Drink Rail in White, with post cap lights

Explore TimberTech Decking at Ring’s End

A multi-level deck adds character and versatility, plus it’s a great way to unify the varying heights of your property. Keep in mind that engineered decking is the most practical choice for a multi-level deck — you’ll get the best product options with the least maintenance. Composite and PVC materials are perfect for the complexities of combining multiple levels, and you'll love the design options and extensive warranty TimberTech offers.

Here at Ring’s End, we offer an unparalleled selection of building materials both in-store and online.  We’re proud to offer TimberTech products, because we know that homeowners have confidence in their 25-50 year product warranty. To learn more about our selection of TimberTech decking options, check out our product guide or reach out to one of our expert sales representatives through our chat! You can also visit a Ring’s End store near you for free color samples and professional help with planning, pricing, and delivery.

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Multi-Level Deck FAQs

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