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Building a deck increases your home's living space, provides a comfortable outdoor gathering spot, and bolsters home resale value. In fact, you should recoup 70 percent or more of the cost of a new deck should you decide to sell your house. But if you plan on staying put for the foreseeable future, you're probably less concerned about return on investment (ROI) than you are about enjoying your investment. This buying guide aims to maximize your decking project by explaining the major options and costs involved.
Deck Building Considerations
Keep the following design features in mind as you plan your decking project.
Among the first things you should decide about your new deck is whether it will be constructed from wood or a synthetic material. If using wood, which most homeowners do, you still must choose a species. Pressure treated yellow pine is a popular and economical wood, although it isn't as beautiful, nor as durable, as cedar or redwood. Exotic species such as mahogany and Ipe are also good decking choices, but you can expect to pay more for them. No matter what type of wood you go with, bear in mind that not only costs, but also color, grain pattern, and maintenance requirements (i.e. staining and sealing) will vary.
Homeowners looking for greater durability and lower maintenance requirements may be intrigued by composite decking. Made of recycled plastic and wood fibers, composites are virtually impervious to damage of all kinds, and many come with a warranty of 20 years or more. Another synthetic option is vinyl decking, which is made from the same polyvinyl chloride (PVC, a type of plastic) as vinyl siding. Like composite decking, vinyl decking has superior durability, with some brands offering a limited lifetime warranty. Both synthetic materials, however, can have a plastic appearance that some people don't care for. Moreover, their color can fade with time and they are more expensive than wood.
Deck Size & Layout
The size, shape, and height of your deck all have a major impact on the work that goes into it (and subsequently, its cost). While many homeowners opt for a simple rectangular deck, L-shaped decks, wraparound decks, round decks, and many other deck designs are equally feasible. Following that line of thinking, you might want a deck that accords with your home's lines, but you could just as easily have a deck installed at an angle to your house for a purposefully incongruous look (view some outside-of-the-box deck ideas at HGTV.com).
For an attached deck, height will primarily be determined by location of the home's access door. A freestanding deck, however (one that doesn't attach to the house), doesn't face this limitation. Multi level decks can be used to solve the problem of an oddly-sloped yard, or simply because they're architecturally interesting and maximize deck functionality.
Once you've settled on a design and materials for your new deck, you can begin to focus on the details. Fixtures of the deck itself, including railings, posts, spindles, and balusters, are highly customizable. Furthermore, you can mix and match materials (for example, pressure treated decking, metal balusters, and composite railings) as your taste, needs, and budget dictate.
Even after you've planned out your basic deck structure, there are many more options to consider. Things like built-in planters and storage, post caps and skirts, benches, pergolas, and a separate grilling area can enhance the comfort and usefulness of a new deck (as well as its cost). You'll probably also need to add some furniture and lighting to your deck, and some landscaping to the surrounding lawn can be a nice finishing touch.
Deck Building Costs
The actual cost of a new deck is determined by the factors described above in addition to local labor and material prices.
- You might pay anywhere from $3,000 to $13,000 or more for a new deck, although costs tend to fall within the range of $5,000 to $10,000.
- According to the annual Cost vs. Value report from Remodeling magazine, the national average cost for a new 16 x 20 foot wood deck is around $11,000, while a new composite deck of the same size costs $15,000 to $16,000. Again, your deck may cost more or less depending on the options selected.
- For basic DIY decking materials, plan on spending $2 to $6 per square foot for lumber, $3 to $5 per square foot for composite boards, and $8 to $12 per square foot for vinyl decking.