It’s the stuff the American dream is made of—nights grilling outside with the fireflies, daytime birthday celebrations, and casual happy-hour cocktails with the neighbors. If you have the backyard for it, a deck can be great for aesthetic reasons, for making the outdoors feel more homey, and from a purely practical standpoint, making it so guests and furniture don’t sink into the dirt.
But as useful as they are, the cost to build a deck can add up fast. From the deck installation to the cost of raw materials, a deck can set you back tens of thousands of dollars.
For starters, the average cost to build a wooden deck is around $10,950 —and that’s the low end of the spectrum. The average composite deck price, which is made with recycled wood fibers and plastic, is around $17,668.
Keep in mind that these estimates are based on a 240-square-foot deck. Other estimates put the national average at $7,000 for a 200- to 500-square-foot deck.
The prices vary widely depending on a few factors, like where you live, if you need to hire outside labor, the materials you use, the size of your deck, and the level of professionalism you want with your design and finish. But there are some ways you can work to keep costs low while still keeping quality high.
First off, although you might want to keep the cost to build a deck down, it’s important that you build it the right way. It’s a structure that requires a foundation, just like a house.
For the foundation— consider pressure-treated joists, account for sloping of the backyard, and ponder the long-term aging of the materials in your climate.
Consider the 50/50 Rule When Accounting for Labor
In short—if you don’t know a lot about construction, building a deck yourself might not be the right place for a DIY home-improvement project. But if you are handy and know how to build structures that last over time, building a deck yourself can be an inexpensive option.
If you’re following the 50/50 rule, plan in your budget that for every dollar you spend on materials, expect to spend a dollar on installation. If the cost of labor is too high for you, consider building a smaller deck now and then expanding in a few years.
Getting Acquainted with Permitting Rules
Another word to the wise—if you do decide to go the DIY route, most towns and cities require permits for additional structures like decks. Carpenters and project managers usually are well-versed in this process, especially when it comes to the specifics of an application. Make sure that if you are doing the project yourself, you know enough to follow local buildings codes.
If you are semi-handy, but just not enough for the whole project, consider hiring someone to take care of the nitty-gritty plans, application process, and foundation design, while you can take care of the easier labor.
Carpentry is similar to plumbing or automotive repair in that if you aren’t an expert, it can be hard to gauge the price. It can be helpful to ask for bids from a few local contractors in order to make sure you’re getting the best deal.
However, for a long-term investment in your home, going with the cheapest option might not be the best strategy overall. Although there are ways to keep prices lower, you don’t want to sacrifice quality for price. After all, this is something that you and your family will be using for years.
When price shopping for a contractor, they should be able to provide photos of previous projects or specific references. If you go for the cheapest bid, or even the most expensive, you will know what you’re paying for.
Expanding Your Deck
If your deck project is an expansion, it might be easier to do some parts of the construction yourself. The foundation and initial parts require a greater dose of construction know-how, so if those are already complete, an expansion can be simpler. There are numerous resources online, from YouTube videos to blogs, that can help with your deck or patio expansion.
Deciding on the Materials
If you’re starting from scratch, one of the first questions you have to answer is: What material do you want to use to build your deck? Although composite deck prices are higher than natural decks made of wood, they require less maintenance over time and therefore, in the long run, may cost you less.
Another factor to consider is the climate. Do you get a lot of snow in the winter? Is it very humid in the summer? You may have to use different materials depending on the weather.
Going for a No-Frills Design
After materials and labor, the actual design will end up costing you. If you want something on the lower end of the spectrum, keep the corners square and overall layout small. Although you can’t do much about the slope of your yard (which could add more in construction costs) you can use a simple design to help keep costs down.
Covering Costs With a Personal Loan
While decks bring comfort and enjoyment, the cost of building a deck can be significant. If you’re tempted to put it all on a credit card, but you might consider using a personal loan instead. These home improvement loans may have a lower interest rate, which can mean a lower cost in the long run. Whatever materials or payment plan you decide on, enjoy your time in the great outdoors while making your dream deck a reality.
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