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Expert Tips, Material Choices & FAQs

When you’re planning a deck for your luxurious outdoor oasis, there are several factors to consider. Materials, design, and labor expenses are just a few factors contributing to the cost of building a deck. So whether you’re building it yourself or hiring a professional, here’s everything you need to know to save money and build a deck right.

Average Cost of Building a Deck

The average cost of building a deck is about $20 to $50 per square foot. Deck prices also vary considerably according to factors like the size and the materials used. All-told, the average cost of a deck is $7,300 to $7,700.

Small decks can be built for less than $2,000. Large, luxurious decks made from premium materials can cost up to $40,000. When it comes to deck building, several factors influence the cost and provide opportunities to save money. We’ll try and break it all down for you.

Factors Influencing the Cost of Deck Construction

Most people know that you can lower the cost of building a deck by choosing less expensive materials. You can also opt to build it yourself. However, other factors also influence the cost of deck construction.

Deck Size

The size of the deck you are building is one of the most important factors influencing the cost to build a deck. On average, most people build decks between 300 and 400 square feet. That can vary depending on the purpose of your deck. If you’re using your deck for entertaining, you’ll need a larger space than if you simply want a deck for relaxing or barbecuing with the family.

The cost of building a deck caries by both the size and complexity of the project.


There is a significant difference between the cost of high-quality decking materials and inexpensive materials like cedar and bamboo. Premium deck materials like hardwoods and composite decking cost up to $20 per square foot. On the other hand, pressure-treated wood, which is the least expensive deck material, costs as little as $2-4 per square foot.

Design Complexity

Complex deck designs take longer and require more skill to build, so they cost more. Choosing a simple deck design will cost you less, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice style. Plenty of stunning deck designs can save you money, and how you decorate your deck after it’s built can be just as important as the design complexity.

Site Conditions and Location

Site conditions that add to the amount of time it takes to build a deck make the cost go up, like rocky ground or steep terrain. If your deck is high off the ground, it will require stairs, which adds to the overall cost. Accessibility also plays a role because if deck builders can’t get in with heavy equipment to excavate footings or deliver materials, it will take longer to build your deck.

Labor Costs

When it comes to building decks, several factors can affect labor costs. This includes the size of the business, how much of the design work they do, and prevailing market conditions in your area. It’s important to remember that cheaper isn’t always better when it comes to labor costs.

Permits and Inspections

When required, deck permits cost anywhere from $50 to $500, depending on where you live. Most deck permits cost between $150 and $350. You may not need one if you’re replacing a deck and aren’t changing the design’s footprint.

For new deck installations, you’ll need detailed drawings and inspections. Inspections are often required when the footers go in and the deck is complete. Land surveys, which cost $2,000 to $2,500 on average, could also be required and affect your deck build.

Additional Features

Design amenities can add to the cost of your deck. For example, additional deck features like built-in planters, seating, and privacy screens require more time and materials. Other features that can increase the cost of your deck include multiple floors, decorative design work, and pergolas.

How to Build a Deck: Step-by-Step Guide

You can save a lot of money building a deck yourself. However, it’s important to avoid common deck-building mistakes to ensure that your completed project is safe and attractive and doesn’t cost more than you want to pay.

Planning Your Deck: Design, Size, and Location

One of the most important stages of any project is planning. Deciding where you want your deck to go is usually determined by how it will be used. For example, decks that add outdoor living space are often built off the side of the house closest to the living room.

deck plan blueprints materials

The deck size should be scaled to match the size of your house. A large home needs a substantially larger deck than a tiny home. If the proportions don’t match, the overall effect will be awkward.

When you’re DIYing a deck, be sure to match the complexity of the design to your skill level for the best results. Remember to also keep your design simple if you want to keep your costs low. You should also consider the materials you use when you design your deck.

Obtaining Permits and Ensuring Compliance

Most municipalities require permits whenever your deck is 18 inches or higher. Permits require a detailed plan of your deck and they also help formulate the overall cost of building it. Since planning is critical to the success of your project, this is something you should have anyway.

You could incur heavy fines if you build without a permit, so it’s important to stay in compliance. Every municipality has specific rules about how close your deck can be to property lines. It’s important to contact your city or county about building codes before you start planning.

Also, permits and planning help you avoid problems like running into utility lines, but it’s still important to call 811 before you dig. Calling 811 automatically routes you directly to your local 811 center, so this works in all 50 states!

Building Your Deck: Foundation, Framing, and Finishing

There are many steps to building a deck, starting with the foundation. Decks you much of the same construction as houses. They include footings made of concrete to support the deck posts, followed by joists that hold the decking in place.

building a deck framing

To build a deck, follow these steps:

  1. Clear away debris, then excavate and level the area.
  2. Install your deck’s foundation by digging post holes and setting posts. Make sure the posts are level and secure.
  3. Build the frame using beams, joists, and posts. Connect your frame using joist hangers, screws, and bolts. Remove the siding and install flashing before attaching the ledger board securely to your house.
  4. Lay the decking boards according to your deck design pattern. Fasten them with screws or hidden deck fasteners, leaving ⅛” between deck boards to prevent deck rot.
  5. Install sturdy and secure railings that meet safety codes.
  6. If you use wood, finish your deck by staining and sealing.

Decking Materials: Options and Cost Considerations When Building

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing deck materials and controlling costs when building. Your budget may influence your deck material options, but there are excellent choices in every price range.

Pressure-Treated Wood

pressure treated deck material

At $2 to $5 per square foot, pressure-treated wood (PT) gives you the cheapest deck material for building a deck. PT wood is treated with chemicals to make it resistant to decay and insects. It’s often used to construct decks, pergolas, gazebos, and fences, and it’s a good choice when your deck is low to the ground because it’s approved for ground contact. However, the chemicals used to treat PT wood can harm the environment, and it is prone to checking, so it requires a lot of upkeep.

Composite Decking

types of decking boards materials
The use of composite decking can easily double or even triple your material costs.

Composite decking materials are more expensive than most types of wood at a cost of about $10 to $20 per square foot. The long-term benefits of composite decking make the extra cost worthwhile, though, because it is long-lasting and doesn’t require as much maintenance. It also comes in many colors that you can match to the exterior of your home.

Natural Hardwood

Compared to softwoods like pine and fir, natural hardwood decking materials like tigerwood and Ipe offer many benefits, including fire resistance and durability. These strong woods are resistant to warping and rotting. Even though they increase the cost of building your deck by $10 to $15 per square foot, they can last two to three times as long when properly sealed and maintained.

Vinyl or PVC Decking

Vinyl decking, also commonly referred to as PVC decking, lasts 20 to 30 years and costs about $10 to $15 per square foot. Like composite decking, which is made with a blend of PVC and wood, vinyl decking is long-lasting and requires little maintenance other than annual cleaning. On the downside, vinyl decks are more difficult to install, and this type of decking material can get hot enough to burn bare feet.

Cost Comparison and Durability of Decking Materials

When making cost comparisons, it’s important to consider the durability of decking materials. If keeping the upfront costs down is more important, you can choose a less expensive material that doesn’t last as long or requires more annual maintenance. However, if you want to build a deck that will last and look beautiful for years, choose long-lasting deck materials like hardwoods and composites.

Who to Hire to Build Your Deck: Finding the Right Professional

Deck building takes a lot of work and skill. From planning to finishing your deck-building project, it requires attention to detail and carpentry skills that many DIYers don’t possess, especially for complex deck designs.

Finding the right professional to build your deck requires thorough research. Use these tips to select a qualified deck builder.

Comparing Deck Builders vs. General Contractors

Deck builders specialize in decks and outdoor living spaces, while general contractors oversee a variety of construction projects. The specialization of deck builders gives them an edge because their experience and expertise in deck building mean they are familiar with deck building codes and are more adept at planning and designing a deck.

building a deck - how much does it cost

Since professional deck builders have more specific experience, they are more likely to finish your project on time and within your budget. That being said, many qualified general contractors with professional reputations have the skills to build a high-quality deck.

Tips for Selecting a Qualified Deck Builder

Selecting a qualified deck builder is an important decision because your deck will be with you for many years. Use these tips as a guideline to help you find the best deck builder:

  • Research the deck builder’s experience and reputation.
  • Ask for references and contact at least three people.
  • Check their license, insurance, and other certifications.
  • Ask to see a portfolio of their work.
  • Get multiple estimates and compare them.
  • Ask about warranties for work and materials.
  • Make sure the deck builder is comfortable working within your budget.
  • Discuss the timeline and payment schedule, and include a clause in your contract to ensure work gets done on time.

Costs of Hiring a Professional vs. DIY

The average cost of labor to build a deck is between $8 and $22 per square foot. It’s important to note that deck-building companies have a lot of hidden costs and don’t usually bid on projects at an hourly rate. Also, remember that cheaper isn’t always better when it comes to skilled labor.

You can save up to 50% by DIYing your own deck. However, if you don’t have the necessary skills, you can still do some things to save money, such as demolishing your existing deck and clearing the site for a new one. If you’re hiring a contractor, ask them about other ways you can pitch in to help lower the overall cost of your deck.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About the Cost of Building a Deck

How much does it cost to build a deck per square foot?

On average, decks cost about $20 to $50 per square foot to build. However, there are many factors that can influence the estimated cost of building a deck, including whether or not you build it yourself. Factors like size and decking materials are other critical factors that impact the cost of a deck. Even the type of deck screws you use can affect costs.

Can I build a deck myself to save on costs?

Depending on your skill level and the complexity of your project, you can save up to half the cost of building a deck by doing the work yourself. You may need assistance from another person because deck building requires lifting heavy beams and other materials.

Do I need a permit to build a deck?

In most locations around the United States, permits are required before building a deck. Depending on where you live, you might not need one if you replace a deck and leave the design unchanged, but you should always check with your city or county planner before starting your project.

How long does it take to build a deck?

The entire deck-building process can take several weeks, depending on the project size and whether or not you need permits and inspections. For complex projects designed and built by professional deck builders, the planning process can take about 4 to 8 weeks, followed by 6 to 16 weeks of building.

What is the return on investment (ROI) for building a deck?

The average ROI for building a deck is around 70% to 80% of your investment. That means that if you sell your home, you can expect to recoup that much from the money you put into building the deck. You will enjoy a greater ROI if your deck can be used for many different activities, including entertaining and relaxing.