Roger Diez | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011
A deck is one of the best home improvement projects you can undertake for a couple of reasons. First, it provides an attractive and useful space for outdoor entertaining. Second, it is one of the best things you can do in terms of return on investment when you sell your home. A deck is also a project you can do yourself if you have the time and some basic carpentry skills. By using your own labor you can save a considerable amount of money, plus the satisfaction and pride of ownership that doing the work will provide.
Like costs in any other home improvement project, deck costs can be separated into materials and installation labor. The costs listed below are for a variety of decking materials, expressed in cost per square foot, with a range encompassing basic to premium materials. To calculate the cost of your project, multiply the square footage by these figures. If you plan to do the work yourself, disregard the installation costs. If you plan to hire a contractor, use the installation costs for comparison with the bids you receive.
- Cedar: $1.25 - $3.95 material; $0.70 - $1.25 installation
- Ipe hardwood: $4.30 - $7.25 material; $0.70 - $1.25 installation
- Redwood: $4.75 - $8.85 material; $0.70 - $1.25 installation
- PVC vinyl: $4.00 - $6.15 material; $1.00 - $1.80 installation
- Composite: $4.25 - $6.50 material; $1.00 - $1.80 installation
- Plastic: $5.25 - $8.25 material; $1.00 - $1.80 installation
- Aluminum: $6.45 - $7.85 material; $1.10 - $2.05 installation
Aluminum is more difficult to work with than other materials, and is best installed by a professional.
Additional costs include ground preparation, which may include excavating. Add concrete piers, pressure-treated joists and 4-by-4 posts, screws and joist hangers. Wood decks require initial staining and sealing to prevent rot and insect damage, plus periodic sanding, re-staining and re-sealing. If you want to add railings, benches, and stairs, those costs must also be calculated. A multi-level deck will also have costs relating to higher posts and more bracing, and will incur more labor costs as well. A free-form or unusually-shaped deck will have more material waste. Your local government may also require building permits and inspections, which will cost you fees. There will also probably be an increase in your property taxes because of the added property value the deck brings. On the upside, the national average return on investment upon resale for a deck is 85 percent of the cost.