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How Much It Costs to Build a Deck
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If your outdoor space is currently lacking, you might be thinking about adding a deck to your home. Before tackling such a project, you want to be sure it’s not only affordable but hopefully, an improvement that will eventually recoup at least some of your expenses. Keep reading to learn more about the process and costs of building a deck so you can decide if adding one to your home makes sense.
Should you add a deck to your home?
Adding a deck to a home typically increases livability and enjoyability, said Jessica Lautz, director of demographics and behavioral insights at the National Association of REALTORS.
“This would be a really strong project to do for your own enjoyment in the home,” Lautz said.
In fact, a new wood deck received a “joy score” of 9.8 out of 10 on NAR’s 2018 remodeling impact report published in conjunction with the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
Of the consumers surveyed, 81% revealed they have a greater desire to be home since adding their new wood deck, 74% have an increased sense of enjoyment when they’re home and 77% feel a major sense of accomplishment when they think about the project, according to the report.
But does it make financial sense, too? More than just enjoyment in the present, building a deck can make your house more marketable.
“It’s a good investment if you want to sell home your home at a later date,” said Lautz, who co-authored the report.
However, Lautz advised against building a deck if you’re planning to put your home on the market immediately afterward. According to the report, you can expect to recover about 80% of the value from building a wood deck. Consequently, only 9% of realtors surveyed in the NAR report suggested homeowners add a deck before putting their property on the market and just 4% said the project recently triggered a sale.
Before you get started
“A new deck is one of the best, most cost-efficient ways to expand a home in usable living space,” said Dan DiClerico, HomeAdvisor smart home strategist and home expert. “Not only that, it creates a really strong connection to the outdoors.”
He said building a deck is one of the most common requests received by the pros at HomeAdvisor.
“It really is a place for you and your family to spend time,” DiClerico said.
Questions to ask before you begin
How do you plan to use the space?
Before deciding whether to build a deck, DiClerico advised asking yourself how you plan to use it. He said the answer to that question would help you determine the size of the deck and the complexity of the design.
If you’re looking for a comfortable spot to enjoy your morning coffee or host small family cookouts, DiClerico said a basic 10-foot-by-12-foot deck would likely meet your needs. However, a smaller deck won’t work for everyone.
“If you’re sort of envisioning more elaborate parties or you know you’re seeing that deck as a true second living room, it’s going to need to be a larger area with greater design complexity,” DiClerico said. “Think about ‘What do I want this space to do for me?’”
He said decks come with a notably wide price range because there are so many options.
How much time do you have to maintain your deck?
DiClerico said you should also consider the amount of maintenance you want to do because this will help you determine the type of decking material to use. After the deck is built, he said, you’ll be actively engaged in its maintenance, which will mean treating it at least once every few years or maybe even every year, depending on the type of sealant used.
“If you want to really show off the grain of the wood and use a clear sealant, you’re going to be applying that once a year,” DiClerico said.
Wood vs. composite. That’s a different experience compared with one of the newer composite materials, which require a lot less maintenance, DiClerico said. However, he noted you’d never mistake this material for a natural wood deck. Despite that, he doesn’t think composite is necessarily a bad idea.
“It’s a very good option, especially if you’re looking for [a] low-maintenance deck.”
You also might not have to start from scratch. If you already have a deck, you could consider repairing or expanding the current structure to cut costs.
Next, do your homework
If you think a deck is for you, don’t swing a hammer just yet. First:
- Check in with your HOA. If your community has a homeowners association, review the rules to make sure your new — or improved — deck doesn’t violate any regulations.
- Call your insurance agent. It’s also wise to check with your homeowners insurance company to see if the new addition will increase your premium.
- Takes taxes into account. Adding a deck can lead to a larger tax bill the next time your property is reassessed. Specific rules vary by state and/or municipality, so research to learn more about your local laws.
- Do you need a permit? Finally, building or remodeling a deck will likely require a permit, which will also add to your total cost. Rates vary by city, so find out how much you’ll need to pay to make sure your deck abides by local building regulations.
Costs of building a deck
Building a deck requires many different supplies. In addition to your decking material of choice — i.e., the type of wood or composite material you select — you might need supplies such as stain, sealant, corrosion-resistant fasteners, railing and stairs. Specific materials will vary according to your deck plan.
Most homeowners spend between $4,063 and $10,375 to build a new deck, according to the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide, but prices can be lower, around $1,700 — or swing much higher to $18,000+. However, the national average cost to build a deck is $7,211, according to HomeAdvisor, much higher than the $2,930 most people expected to spend.
“That’s kind of typical,” DiClerico said. “People tend to underestimate most home improvement projects.”
If you choose to hire a contractor to build your deck instead of doing it yourself, labor costs will consume a large portion of your budget— but more on that in a bit.
As we mentioned earlier, the material you choose will largely dictate the overall cost to build your new deck. These estimates from the HomeAdvisor True Cost Report can help you better gauge your budget:
- Pressure-treated wood: $2,500 to $15,000
- Cedar: $6,000 to $25,000
- Redwood: $10,000 to $25,000
- Hardwood: $13,000 to $26,000
- Composite decking: $8,000 to $23,000
Prices vary by square footage and other features added to your deck, according to HomeAdvisor.
Of course, you might already have an existing deck. If you’re trying to decide between repairing it and building a new one, taking the former route can save you quite a bit of money. Most homeowners spend $725 to $2,512 on deck repairs, with average costs totaling $1,600, according to the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide.
After your deck is completed, you’ll probably be eager to purchase new furnishings. Seating will likely cost you $500 to $1,500, along with $1,000 to $2,500 for outdoor dining and another $150 to $400 for a patio warmer, according to the HomeAdvisor True Cost Guide.
DIY vs. professional help
“I never rule out do-it-yourself, DiClerico said. “I think it’s really important for homeowners to just sort of stay engaged in the maintenance of their home.”
DiClerico advised allowing the three Ts — time, tools and talent — to guide your decision on building a deck yourself versus hiring a professional. If you want to take the DIY route, he said you really need to have all three of them.
“It’s time-consuming,” DiClerico said. “There’s a lot of heavy lifting (and) moving parts.”
He advised building a deck yourself is pretty difficult, especially if you don’t have a full crew of workers. “At the very least, you need at least one helper,” DiClerico said.
He said a lot of specialized tools are needed, and if you don’t have them handy, it can become kind of prohibitively expensive. “It’s a pretty difficult do-it-yourself job,” DiClerico said.
However, if you have the skills and resources, he said you’ll save a lot of money by building the deck yourself.
“Very experienced do-it-yourselfers should definitely think about it,” DiClerico said.
He also noted that safety is an important issue to consider. If there’s any height to the deck, he strongly recommended professional installation. Among other issues, he said an experienced builder will put the structure on a stable foundation, ensuring the deck won’t ultimately collapse.
|Do-it-yourself or hire a pro?|
|Don’t own specialized tools||✅|
|Have plenty of help||✅|
|$35/square foot exceeds my budget||✅|
|Building on a hill or other awkward spot||✅|
Though it’s difficult to break down the costs of building a deck yourself versus hiring a professional, DiClerico noted that most deck builders charge about $35 per square foot — with labor costs for the average deck totaling $3,500 — plus extra for materials. In comparison, building your own deck costs an average of $10 to $25 per square foot, according to Discovery’s DIY Network. You can also estimate the cost of materials for a DIY project by using online calculators — Home Depot has one that helps you add up the cost of lumber, concrete and hardware.
DiClerico said if you have all the tools, choose one of the more affordable decking materials and go with a simple design, you could build your own deck for $500 to $1,000. If you opt to hire a contractor, you can avoid the stress of doing the work yourself, but you’ll pay for it.
“With any professional hire project, the materials are usually marked up 5% to 10%,” DiClerico said.
Therefore, if you hire a contractor to build your deck, expect labor costs to be a major part of the total price.
“Most contractors bid their jobs based on three times of the deck materials,” DiClerico said. “As a DIY, you can expect to pay about one-third of what the contractor will bill.”
How to choose a contractor
If you decide to get outside help for your deck project, choosing the right contractor is key. When searching for a professional to build your deck, it’s a good idea to get multiple estimates, perhaps as many as five or six to get the best idea of market rates in your town.
Here’s what you should ask when interviewing prospective contractors:
- How long they’ve been in business
- Do they have the proper licenses and insurance, including workers’ compensation
- Find out if they’ll be doing the work themselves or hiring subcontractors
- Can they provide references from previous clients
- Ask if they guarantee their work and for how long (a year is standard)
- What is the payment plan? It’s customary for a contractor to request a small 10% to 15% deposit, but never more than one-third of the costs upfront
Watch out for a contractor who insists on being paid in all cash, as this is often a red flag, and never make a final payment until you’re 100% satisfied.
DiClerico also noted that getting permits is the contractor’s job. He said if you’re asked to start pulling them yourself, it could be an indicator they’re not in good standing with your city or county’s building department.
He also stressed the importance of getting all project details in writing. The contract should cover the entire scope of the project, including materials, the start and end dates and payment.
How to pay for your new deck
The options for financing your new deck are as varied as the decks themselves. You could, of course, pay cash or finance the project through your deck installer — home improvement store Lowe’s is offering 0% interest for 18 month for purchases, including installation services, on its Lowe’s Advantage credit card. Be aware that many 0% credit card offers carry what’s known as deferred interest, which means you could be hit with all the interest accrued since your purchase date if you carry a balance past the promotion date. Homeowners can typically find lower interest rates by tapping their home equity for home improvement projects. Here are a few options:
Home equity loan
Typically a fixed-rate loan, financing your new deck with a home equity loan will likely let you know upfront how long it will take to repay and exactly how much you’ll owe each month. Do note, you’ll probably have to pay upfront closing costs on the loan.
Home equity line of credit
If you’re not sure how much cash you’ll need to build your deck, a home equity line of credit could be the answer. This financing option allows you to leave the line of credit open, offering increased flexibility. However, HELOCs are generally attached to variable interest rates, meaning your payments could rise over time.
A cash-out refinance for a remodeling project allows you to completely replace your mortgage with a new loan that is larger than your existing one, freeing up cash in the process. This option offers many benefits, including the possibility of scoring a lower interest rate and lower monthly payment on your new mortgage and gaining more equity in your home. However, this will extend your repayment period, plus you’ll have to pay closing costs. There’s also no guarantee your interest rate will be lower than your existing loan.
The bottom line
Building a deck can be a great addition to your home, but make sure you have the budget to do it the right way. Calculate all costs before starting the project, so you know exactly what you’re getting into. Preparing in advance will ultimately get you a deck you’re proud to own.