Building a Deck? Here Are Common Costs and Prices to Consider

These expert tips from contractors and builders will help you estimate deck building prices—and decide whether to DIY or hire a professional.

Perhaps you decided to wait out the lumber shortages of 2020 and 2021. Perhaps now is simply just the right time. Whatever the reason you're finally ready to add that dream deck onto your house—congratulations! A deck is a good investment for your home and one you'll enjoy for years to come, potentially throughout every season.

outdoor kitchen and entertaining
Ed Gohlich

Deck Features and Decking Material Costs

Your main decision will be about decking materials, and you'll probably want to choose from pressure-treated wood (the most affordable option), composite products (a blend of wood and plastic fibers), and hardwoods or red cedar.

Consider whether built-in planters or benches are important to you, as well as any special lighting features or strategically located electrical outlets for string lights and patio heaters. Most decks higher than 30 inches from the ground require railings to meet building codes. These can vary in design and material, with the most common being pressure-treated wood. Cable handrails are popular right now but are more expensive than pressure-treated wood.

Should I DIY or pay for labor costs to build a deck?

If you have carpentry skills, a deck might seem like a fairly simple DIY project to bang out over a few weekends, saving hundreds or thousands on labor costs. But there are several factors to consider.

"Ideally, a contractor will know how to do things more cheaply than the homeowner because they have a discount at the supply houses, or their subcontractors will offer more favorable pricing to contractors for repeat business," says Daniel Fleisher, owner of Fleisher Building Group.

The more complex a project, the more a contractor can help out in terms of time and costs. If your plan involves masonry work, lighting, painting, or other extras, a contractor likely has connections that will keep the project on track.

"Most subcontractors will service their contractors first and put others on the back-burner until they have time," Fleisher says. "A contractor can also vet the people coming in and keep the schedule going properly because of relationships."

Fleisher also notes that DIYers sometimes underestimate the time a job will take. "They think it takes a few Saturdays. Three months later, they're sick of giving up Saturdays." If you're doing your own work, be realistic in planning for delays due to weather, material shortages, or other extenuating factors.

Carefully research building requirements in your area. There are codes associated with building decks, and experts often see homeowners running into problems with construction flaws after the fact. For example, Fleisher notes, properly flashing the point where the deck is attached to the house is a must. "Lots of times people do that in such a way that it becomes an area of water intrusion," he says.

Tips for Working with a Deck Builder

As with any home improvement project that involves hiring professionals, take the time to do your research and get a few bids. Contractors price jobs in different ways, so make sure to ask about this. Generally, they're looking to make 15 to 30% on a job, Fleisher says, which, when their discounts on materials are factored in, might mean a 10 to 20% cost bump for the homeowner over going it alone.

A builder might have ideas that will save you money on your vision, as well. "We've been doing fewer decks lately because the lumber is more expensive than pouring concrete," says Craig Kennedy of Bootstrap Architecture + Construction. "Because of the costs of building materials and framing labor right now, it's cheaper to do a patio—even if we have to do a concrete slab. You get a long-term better product in terms of lifecycle at less cost."

How much does it cost to build a deck?

Kennedy gives the example of a recent project in which his team ran a cost comparison between a poured-concrete foundation for an outdoor living space and a framed wood deck. The concrete option, including planter boxes, wooden benches, railings, and steps, came out to roughly $30 per square foot including labor, whereas the wood deck, using premium hardwoods, would have cost around $45 per square foot.

Builders say they wish they knew more about what's to come for prices in the lumber market, and, as with any commodity, costs will rise and fall over time. But as of early 2022, they feel reasonably confident that after two years of extreme volatility—when costs rose steeply, leveled off a bit, then rose again—we might see less extreme fluctuation in the year to come.

"We're in a much better position now, cost-wise, than we were eight months ago," says Kennedy.

While costs vary considerably depending on the project and its features—such as built-in seating, planters, special lighting, types of railing, and other extras—you can expect to spend $10 to $17 per square foot on materials for a pressure-treated wood deck, and $15 to $25 per square foot for a deck made out of composite or hardwoods.

Chris Morrison of Walker Lumber estimates that in 2022, you can expect a materials cost of $12 per square foot for a pressure-treated wood deck. A 10-foot by 10-foot deck, at that rate, would cost around $1,200, plus labor.

"A lot of people in the industry are saying that this is a correction," Morrison explains. "The lumber market had not increased in 20 years, so there was an overcorrection with prices. Now they're starting to come back down."

"I would expect that materials are going to stay high," says Fleisher. "It's not just the pandemic. There's a huge increase in global demand. Globally, more and more people are having the means to purchase more goods, there are more and more people using building materials. I'm not anticipating prices to go down next year, but no one knows for sure."

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