Budgeting For Your Deck

Welcome to the fourth installment in a series designed to help you understand and navigate the steps to getting the outdoor living space of your dreams! If you missed them, here are Part 1 –Design,  Part 2 – Materials and Part 3 - Working With Contractors. This week, we will focus on the elephant in the room - budgeting for your deck.
Budgeting For Your Deck

There are many factors that will combine to create the cost for the deck of your dreams. The first step is to decide what amount you’d like to spend on the project. Make sure this is a realistic number, which takes into account both materials and labor, and set that number as your target budget. It’s also important to consider the absolute maximum amount you can or are willing to spend on your deck and make sure that you don’t go above that number, no matter what.

Several factors in the design of your deck will affect materials and labor costs. The size, shape, whether it will sit at ground-level or raised up and any extras, such as built-in benches, hot tubs, lighting, fire pits or any curving of the boards, will all have an effect on the total cost of your deck. Additionally, the materials themselves have a range of associated costs.

As a reminder, it’s important to remember that regardless of what kind of decking you choose it will only apply to surface decking.  Composite and PVC materials are not approved as a structural material, so you will need to use pressure treated lumber for the substructure of your deck. The substructure for the deck will be what the code calls for in your municipality and some deck designs may require more stringent substructure designs.

For the deck surface, you’ll pay more money for composites than for natural wood upfront, but the added maintenance and replacement costs for wood can make for a more expensive deck over its lifetime, so make sure you consider that when pricing out the deck surface and railing material. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a tool in 2006 for use in comparing the costs of using yellow pine (pressure-treated wood), redwood (hardwood), composite decking and recycled HDPE plastic (similar to PVC) over the life of the deck, broken down by materials, installation and maintenance and gives you an idea of the average annual cost over the lifetime of the deck. Although the numbers have not been adjusted for inflation, this Excel tool has worksheet tabs that allow for cost inputs and can give you a good idea of the cost differences between the materials.

More recently, an article featured on the popular reviewing site, Angie’s List, estimates that on a simple 14’ x 20’ deck with one flight of stairs, you’ll pay around $4,600 more in maintenance costs for treated lumber than composite decking material over the first eleven years you own your deck.

Overall, a deck adds value to your home and has a high return on your investment if you ever sell your home. The lifestyle value allows you and your family to enjoy an expanded and beautiful outdoor living space for years to come.

Stay tuned for our next installment in this series designed to help you navigate the deck of your dreams - Care and Maintenance. Or, if you can’t wait, download our free white paper, What to Expect When You’re Decking.
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