Decks are a beautiful addition to any home with many options for outdoor living. Whether you are looking to spend many nights outside on an outdoor oasis or need a place to relax and enjoy the evening eating some BBQ a deck can provide the solution to your dreams. Decks come in nearly every shape, size, style, material, and have many options available. Options like lighting, shade structures, privacy screens, and decking inlays can make your deck unique. The possibilities are limitless. How do you know what deck to choose? Many times it comes down to budget.
When you want to buy a new vehicle there are also many options to choose from. You can find one you like and the base price is something within your budget, but when you get into the details and all the add ons that you want, the price swells and can push the car beyond what you want to afford. Decks can be very similar. A new deck should last 20-30 years and is a big investment. Many factors can affect the cost. The biggest cost drivers of a deck are:
The size of a deck is the biggest driver of the total cost. Many contractors will give estimates using a square foot price range. A relatively small deck (10’ x 10’) will be much less than a deck three times that size. It may take the same amount of time to build an 8’ x 8’ deck as it does a 4’ x 4’ deck. Sometimes larger decks take the same amount of labor as smaller decks which means a square foot price will not be 100% accurate.
This square foot pricing will help you budget for your deck. The shape can affect the price too. A deck with many angles or curves will be more challenging to build and take more materials. Some decks have two tiers, part of the deck is at one level and the other part is at a lower level. Two-tiered decks are essentially two decks. A rectangular deck that is 12’ x 16’ with stairs to the ground is very common.
Stairs are also a big factor in cost. There is often as much labor and time involved in building a full flight of stairs as there is in building the platform. A long run of steps adds a day’s labor to the project. Some stairs wrap around the full length of one or two sides of a deck. Wider stairs will cost more than the standard width. Stairs can become deeper too which will add material cost and time to the budget. Stairs with a landing in the middle (shaped like an “L” or “U”) will cost more. A landing is essentially a tiny deck and will need four footings for support. Stairs are more complicated to build than the deck and when built well can add to the aesthetics and function of the entire space.
The choice of decking will generally be the largest portion of the material cost for the whole deck. After all, it covers the entire floor and stairs. The decking you choose will also determine the overall cost of maintenance over the life of the structure. Choosing a lower quality decking will cost more in the long run. Wood is typically the lowest cost choice. Treated pine and cedar are two types of wood that dominate the world of decking. Wood decking requires annual maintenance that will add up over the life of the deck. There are hardwoods out there that you can use as decking as well. The maintenance will be similar, but hardwoods offer a much higher price point than treated pine or cedar. Often the cost of hardwoods and the inevitable decay leads people to choose man-made alternatives. PVC and Composite decking are great alternatives to wood. Composite decking is a mixture of recycled wood and plastics wrapped in a PVC cap to protect from decay. PVC is made up of entirely plastic materials and as far as we know will not rot away in our lifetimes. Choosing these man-made alternatives will increase your initial investment by 30-70% over the softwoods. The initial investment is higher, but the long-term warranties and very low maintenance make synthetic decking an attractive alternative to wood. Aluminum and stone can also be used to create a surface on the deck. Both these options will be more than wood and potentially more than the composites. Whichever decking you choose it will be the largest chunk of the total cost of materials for the deck.
Railings are required on decks higher than 30” off the ground measured three feet outside the perimeter of the deck. There are several styles of railing available. The most common choice is wooden rails and balusters. A simple upgrade to that look is to use aluminum balusters. If you don’t want maintenance and have the budget, choosing aluminum or composite railing is a great option. Choosing things like cable railing, glass, lighting, metals, or other materials will increase the cost of your deck.
Many people want to add a pergola or shade structure above the deck. Adding things to protect you from the sun, rain, weather, and the neighbors prying eyes will increase the total cost. Lighting can be a simple upgrade that adds ambiance with little additional investment. Things like roofs, stone columns, under deck drainage, privacy screens and so many other design ideas make the backyard deck a great place to get creative.
As you can see there are many things to consider when trying to budget for a deck. The best way to get a price is to pick out the size, shape, stairs, and materials you want and ask a deck contractor for an estimate. Professional deck companies can help you choose the best design and materials for you and your family.
Typical costs for wood decks start at $35 a square foot while composite decks can be $65-$85 a square foot. Long flights of stairs can add thousands of dollars to the cost. The average 12’x16′ composite deck with a long flight of stairs ranges from $20,000 to $26,000. What kind of deck will you choose?