Asking the question “how much does it cost to build a deck?” is a little like asking “how much does a year in college cost?” Most expert deck builders would answer—it all depends. The cost of building a deck depends on where you want the deck (its exposure to weather will make a difference in wood treatment), how big it’s going to be in square feet/yards, how sturdy you want it to be, what kind of materials you will use (which will determine the sturdiness) and what kind of labor is involved (just you, you and your best friend, or a contractor’s team). We’ll start with basic figures that will show you how much it will cost to build a deck .
To figure the average cost of building a deck, assume you want a comfortable size that isn’t too ostentatious or showy, say 8 to 12 feet, by 14 to 16 feet. That set of dimensions ought to give you enough room for a family of 2 to 5 to enjoy, without crowding and with no danger of damage to the deck (or for that matter, the occupants of the deck).
You can estimate ten days or so to build a deck, whether with friends or with the help of a construction company; it will probably extend to two weeks if you’re a do-it-yourself kind of builder. The average cost of building a deck is between $700 at the low end and $1100 when using top of the line in materials.
The cost of building a deck by yourself, or with a few friends, is probably close to the ballpark figure given under the average cost, give or take; in other words, you can figure the cost of building a deck at about $800 to $1000, barring any difficulties with materials or shortages of wood or cement. That assumes the cost of the materials, the actual pouring and setting of the cement (which will be done by hand,since that’s one of your jobs) and the setting of propping posts (called “piers”) in the cement before it dries. It will, as we mentioned, take you about two weeks alone.
That estimate includes the week it will take the concrete to set properly (or “cure” as some experts call it), and your own labor after that in building and installing the ledger, footings, joists, post bases, beams and then the actual decking and trim.
Experts do disagree about the cost of building a deck by a professional, but on average you can expect to double your estimate if you hire a professional deck builder, and nearly triple it if you need a fast installation. You can count on one invariable element: it will always take a week to cure the concrete, and there’s nothing you can do to accelerate the process.
Deck material will cost from $300 to $500, no matter whether a professional is used or not, unless you work with a deck builder who supplies his own materials. They will either be cheaper than average, to cut down on customer costs (these builders are getting rarer, however) or a bit more expensive, because the builder trusts the better material. When you are figuring how much it will cost to build a deck, you must decide whether you trust the builder who brings his own materials for either a bargain or a better-built deck.
Materials including wood and concrete should run almost exactly to the cost of the job, if you’re including every piece in the cost of building a deck—the concrete usually averaging out at about $300, the deck materials between $500 and $700. This may turn into more money if you’re including any kind of clear protective coating on the wood, and this estimate assumes you’re playing it safe and using a pressure-treated floor frame. It also assumes your deck is no more than a foot or so up at most, so a railing is not required.
The figure quoted in the last section is only for materials.
The labor cost in building a deck is either free (your own), a few drinks and dinner (if your friends help) or between $800 and $1800 for labor, depending on the time it takes the construction crew, how many workers are needed, and the complexity of the work they must complete.
The cost of building a deck may not be significantly lowered by the use of deck building software, but there are many software construction programs that will give you a great head-start in figuring out how the process works, and will make it far more easy for you if you’re a do-it-alone kind of construction worker. Deck building software, if you’re adding it to how much it will cost to build a deck, will usually run you about $15 to $20 for a solid step-by-step program, if purchased by itself from Amazon.com or EBay.
Here’s a secret, however: you can save yourself that money by looking up the dozen or so websites that offer free deck construction software right on the site. You can’t get a better price than that.
The cost of building a deck is approximately what you see above; however, it assumes you are building a deck that is only a foot or so up from the ground, needing no railing for safety. If the deck is any higher than a foot, you must put a railing around it, for the “feeling” of security if nothing else.
The average cost of a railing running around a deck of 8 to 12 feet by 14 to 15 feet will be between $700 and $800 dollars. It will be less than half that, if the cost to build a deck is left in the hands of a do-it-yourselfer; the materials will cost you $300 to $400.
Finally, there’s “sky’s the limit” land, the place where custom building will allow you any size, shape, trim, wood, coloring or stain, protective seal and railing style. You can probably expect to pay between $3000 at the very least to $10,000 and above for the absolute deck of your dreams.
So that’s how we tackle the question of what it will cost to build a deck. As you hopefully have seen, there is more than one answer.