Handyman

How much does it cost to build a deck?

Because of their durability, composite materials are an increasingly popular decking choice.
Because of their durability, composite materials are an increasingly popular decking choice. Tribune News Service

Putting up a new deck can improve the function and look of your home and its future resale value. Costs vary, depending on square footage, the type of materials used and whether you hire a contractor or do it yourself. So, what can you expect to pay for a deck? Here are variables you need to consider:

▪ Type and size: The most important cost consideration is the size and type you want. The bigger it is, the more you pay. The type of deck boards also factor into overall cost.

Where you’re putting your deck also matters. If it’s low enough to the ground, you may be able to place the joists on four-way deck blocks rather than digging post holes. It’s possible to level the soil and place these directly on the ground, but most homeowners add gravel or a large paving stone to keep the structure from shifting.

Higher decks mean you pour concrete pilings for support pillars, and your city or town has rules about how high a deck can be before needing supports. Post holes must be augured and the posts set in place before any construction.

▪ Materials matter: Pressure-treated wood such as southern yellow pine, chemically processed to resist rot and insects, runs $8 to $20 per square foot. The price goes up if you use higher-quality wood.

Cedar, for example, is soft to the touch and doesn’t splinter or crack as much as pine. Decks built with cedar cost between $11 and $26 per square foot.

Manmade or composite materials are among the most expensive, sometimes as much as $50 per square foot. Composite is increasingly popular and sometimes replaces wood decks in homes before they’re put on the market.

▪ Hiring vs. DIY: There are several benefits to hiring a pro, especially if you have a complex project. A contractor will know what works and what doesn’t, and can advise if a particular idea is too costly or won’t work with your house. They come with a crew and all the necessary tools, and bring or order all materials.

Get a guarantee in writing about the deck’s workmanship. Typically this will cover any structural issues over a certain number of years. Also make sure the contractor you hire will take care of any permits that are required, and ask how they will assemble your deck. Lag bolts will last longer than carriage bolts, for example.

▪ Removing the old deck: Don’t forget to consider the cost of removing your old deck. Many pros charge between $2 and $3 per square foot to demolish a deck, with an average job costing about $700. Others may charge more if they have to rent a dumpster or drive debris long distances to a landfill.

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