11 amazing budget backyard deck ideas

 Stay cool on the cheap with these backyard deck ideas on a budget

<p>Backyard deck with vases, baskets and area rugs. </p>

Key takeaways

  • Consider privacy, versatility, materials and design
  • Look into pricing, staining, sealing, painting and plants
  • Don’t forget trees, lighting or firepits
  • Peruse pergolas and gazebos
  • Get down into the details


Got an old deck that needs an upgrade? Always wanted one and wondering about building it? Thinking about adding another deck to your collection? None of the above but just curious about inexpensive outdoor decorating? 

You’re in luck. 

In this post, we’ll cover all these topics and more. Whether you have a small backyard deck, a ground-level deck, a covered deck or just want to learn more about any of these, please read on for simple deck ideas with an eye on keeping prices low. Cheap deck decorating doesn’t have to look cheap, and whether you’re considering a total deck makeover or just planning a few upgrades, effort and attention to detail can make a small backyard investment go a long way. 

Before you know it you’ll be “deckorating” like an old pro! Read on for 11 things you’ll want to consider as you embark on your deck adventure.

1. Privacy

If you’re planning on spending more time outside on your deck but have neighbors who are a little too close for comfort, you may want to make things a little more private. If you don’t have railings on your deck, this is a good place to begin. 

Today’s railings come in all sorts of materials, from reclaimed construction rebar to synthetic composites, more traditional treated lumber and even wire. Choose an affordable solution that matches the aesthetic you’re going for, and use those materials to meet the level of privacy you’re targeting. 

If you want to take your privacy to another level, consider building a freestanding privacy wall or panel on one side of your deck, which can be as simple as installing two or three posts and adding horizontal boards but can add plenty of intimacy and an increased coziness factor to your backyard gatherings.

2. Versatility

Your deck can serve you well as a platform for virtually any sort of gathering. It can be a dining destination, a yoga studio, a grilling headquarters or even a playground or patio combination. Flooring on a deck can range widely according to your needs, so don’t limit yourself to thinking every bit of it will always be treated lumber. You can divide your deck into zones for different uses. Find closeout deals on discontinued tiles or flooring and consider adding it to portions of your deck according to how you intend to use each section. Most flooring liquidators have big sales on flooring that needs to make way for newer versions. Don’t forget to select materials that can withstand weather exposure. Look for cheap or even free stones, pavers or bricks that make great stepping paths through grassy areas to and from your deck.

3. Materials and design

If you don’t have a deck yet and are planning to build one, the most popular and affordable material is treated lumber. However, decks constructed with water-resistant composite materials are another option that require no staining or sealing, which can save you money over time. 

While decks are often elevated or even tiered to match the height of a home, it’s increasingly popular to install a deck lower to the ground, for easy access from the home and yard. More modern and contemporary deck designs often include covered sections to protect items like grills and outdoor furniture. Some even include outdoor curtains and room dividers for situations when one area of the deck could use a little more isolation, like a hot tub.

You’ll need to keep your budget in mind for these extras, but they aren’t necessarily completely out of reach. Look for closeout deals on materials — especially around holidays and during the off-season — and DIY as much as you’re comfortable doing.

4. Pricing

When building a deck or adding to the one you already have, pressure-treated lumber is usually your least expensive bet, but it always makes sense to do some research into the cost of a wide range of materials. When doing so, try not to limit yourself to whatever the local home improvement store has to offer. Spend a little time thinking outside the box, and you might be surprised with some of the great deals you discover in slightly more unconventional places. 

At local and regional recycling centers, Habitat for Humanity stores and discount materials resellers, you can often find excellent deals on deck materials, priced to move. Composite and vinyl materials offer the convenience of not having to stain, paint or seal anything, which wood requires every few years to preserve its integrity and look. 

If you’re on a micro-budget and building a deck, consider used wood pallets. Recyclable and sometimes already recycled, they’re a great way to build a platform on the cheap. Sometimes you can even find them for free if a warehouse wants to get rid of some. Even a pallet-built deck can look great with a little creative “deckorating.”

5. Staining, sealing and painting

If you have an older deck in need of revitalization, sometimes a fresh coat of stain or paint is the perfect solution. If you want to stain and seal your deck simultaneously, there are plenty of products on the market that accomplish both, from the same can. 

When you’re ready to decorate that deck, sometimes a refinish with a new flash of colored paint is a great place to start. Your options are limited only by the rainbow, and you can get as eclectic as you like. Some people like to “paint a rug” on a section of their deck to tie a “room” together. You might think about the outdoor furniture you already have or plan to have, before you determine your color scheme for painting. 

You can save on paint by asking about a store’s selection of discarded colors or mixes that didn’t sell. When you’re dealing with splinters, sometimes a thicker, textured deck paint can really help lock them down and keep them safely out of your way. If you don’t have textured deck paint, try pressure-washing the deck and letting it dry before painting, which allows you to blast away most of the pesky splinters before adding the new coat of paint, stain or sealant. If you want to get more creative, try making your own stencils for the deck paint, or maybe try your hand at a little wood-burning art, but be careful!

6. Plants

Plants and flowers are an inexpensive, effective way to make your deck gatherings feel more inviting, while cleaning the air and offering food for local birds and pollinators. Even if neither of your thumbs are green, it doesn’t have to be difficult to keep your new plant friends alive. 

Rule number one is to remember to water them. Set a notification on your phone to remind yourself to do this every few days, and then you’re virtually worry-free. Add pots to the perimeter of your deck, attach planters and boxes to your handrails, make your own vertical deck planter with one of those leftover planters or hang plants like ferns from a trellis. From vines to herbs and succulents to flowers and cacti, there are plenty of hardy options.

7. Trees

If you love the greenery and want to get even closer to nature, your next step is to figure out how to incorporate trees. If you’re still thinking over a new deck design, think about how you might build it around a beloved backyard tree, so that the mature tree itself emerges from your new deck, in sort of a cross between a deck and a treehouse! 

This approach is an excellent way to tie your home more closely into its natural surroundings. If that’s not practical, or even if it is, think about planting various trees and shrubs around the outside perimeter of the deck, too, for some additional privacy and natural greening. Layer in more greenery in planters inside the handrail, and soon you’ll be surrounded by beautiful green in your own backyard oasis.

8. Lighting

Once you have your deck structure completed and painted or finished as you’d prefer, you’re ready to start thinking about lighting. Again, it may be helpful to think in terms of zones. 

After the sun goes down, which sections of your deck will you be using, and when you’re there, what will you be doing? Will you need a reading light? Perhaps some subtle candlelight here and there? Some contemporary fixtures or retro lanterns? You could repurpose an old chandelier for tea lights. Votive candles in jars are a nice idea for mood lighting on the cheap. Maybe some twinkling strands of string lights for a festive mood? Most of these items can be found at reasonable prices and will help you set the mood for whatever you plan on doing.

9. Fire pits

For next-level deck lighting that includes heat for cool nights, look into the fire pit option. Some pre-made fire pits look something like an oversized wok, come with a stand and are easily used on a deck. Others are kits you can build next to your deck or in another part of your yard, but there’s a third option that will save you some money, and that is to build the firepit yourself. 

Whether you use rocks and stones that you find on your own or bricks and ceramics that you purchase at your local home store, you don’t need a lot of material, a complex design or even a lot of space to get plenty of communal enjoyment from a DIY fire pit. These days, they even come in handy tabletop models for that unbeatable fire pit feel on a smaller scale.

10. Pergolas and gazebos

Perhaps you’d like to add another dimension to your deck without adding a second tier. You may also have concerns about sun exposure and have considered a covered deck, a partially covered deck with roof and beams or the addition of a fabric sunshade. A pergola or gazebo is another attractive option that adds some style while creating shade. 

From minimal to complete sun protection, a pergola or gazebo design is flexible, just like a deck design. You may even want to build your pergola separately from your deck, creating two separate living spaces to enjoy, but a combination of the two can be both visually striking and utilitarian.

11. Details

As with any sort of decorating, once you’ve established the basics of your space with color and lighting, what’s left are the details. These aesthetics are at the heart of “deckorating” and are how you’ll express your own unique style. Options abound, but here are a few suggestions just to get you started:

Storage benches: Create outdoor storage for cushions and deck items with this affordable DIY furniture that doubles as spacious seating for family and friends.

Swings: Some people have porch swings, but why not a deck swing? If you have a stout pergola or gazebo over your deck that can support the weight, add a deck swing.

Seasonal decor: One easy trick for changing your seasonal “deckorating” is to use neutrally colored furniture and simply change out differently colored pillows with the seasons.

Bar: Build your own tall, slender, outdoor bar, and it can double as a table for informal dining with friends. Add a few tall stools, and enjoy your new favorite outdoor hangout.

Birds: If you’d like to attract fine feathered friends, think about adding feeders, houses and baths, or at least one of the above. Of course you can also decorate these yourself!

If you’d like to read more about decorating at home, check out our outdoor home decorating ideas. As the weather gets warmer, if you’re thinking about swimming, we’ve got some swimming pool ideas for you. If you’re still working around to that spring cleaning you’ve been meaning to do, here are some related life hacks we wish we knew sooner.

The information in this article is intended to provide guidance on the proper maintenance and care of systems and appliances in the home. Not all of the topics mentioned are covered by our home warranty or maintenance plans. Please review your home warranty contract carefully to understand your coverage.

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