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HomeAdvisor's Guide to Hiring a Deck Professional

From giving the kids a place to play to providing a quiet spot for morning coffee, decks are versatile and have tons of potential. You can cover them with plants or turn them into an extension of your home with comfortable lounge furniture.

If you love to entertain or you regularly welcome family and friends to your home, a deck can give your home more hosting room. Not only do decks provide extra space to let guests breathe, but they're also a great place for kids and spill-prone adults to hang out. Decks also tend to be easier to clean than indoor spaces, so tidying up after a party isn't an issue.

Planning Your Deck

Because these outdoor spaces have almost limitless potential in terms of design, materials and add-ons, no two decks are the same. Here's what you need to consider before hiring a professional to build your deck.

  • Layout: When deciding on a layout for your deck, start by listing the activities it will need to accommodate. Make sure there's ample space for a dining table and chairs and that your deck is large enough to hold friends and family comfortably. If you're having trouble visualizing how a layout will work, create an outline of the space in your yard. Use stakes and a rope to illustrate the space, and get a better feel for your future deck.
  • Location: Many homeowners opt to connect decks to their back door, but there's no hard and fast rule about this. Decks can connect to nearly any level of your home, or they can remain freestanding. Sometimes the options change depending on your home, your yard, and your city code, so talk with a professional deck builder to decide.
  • Stories: Just like your home, decks can have more than one story. Multiple levels can give you more space or create visual interest. With more than one story, you can get even more creative with your deck, building different areas for grilling and relaxing and both covered and uncovered spaces.
  • Stairs: When planning your deck, consider whether you want one or more sets of stairs to the ground level. If you build your deck near ground level, you also have the potential to install stairs around the entire perimeter, which can open up your deck even more and allow easy access for kids and adults alike.
  • Covered vs. Uncovered: If you want an open space to grow a variety of plants, you're probably best off with an uncovered deck. If you want a shady place to cool off with an icy beverage in the afternoon, consider a covered deck. Pergolas offer partial shade and a place to install ceiling fans or grow decorative plants. If you struggle to choose between a covered and uncovered deck, an outdoor umbrella makes a good compromise between the two.
  • Railings: Choose from wood, glass, metal, cabling, vinyl or a combination of these. Whatever you choose has the potential to take your design to another level as well as offer a stylish yet functional safety feature. If you build a ground-level deck, you can go without railings, which open your line of sight and improve your view. Consult with your local code, or check with your contractor to be sure a railing isn't necessary.
  • Seating: Deck seating can be movable or built-in. Movable options include everything from folding seats to classic Adirondack chairs to outdoor rockers. Built-in options range from basic benches to porch swings to fully upholstered sofas. While it's easy to add more movable seating as necessary, consider all built-in seating as you're designing your deck.
  • Lighting: This element can add yet another functional design element to your deck. Install lights on deck posts or underneath built-in benches for subtle illumination. If your deck includes a pergola or roof, consider installing ceiling lamps for even more light.
  • Fire Pits: If you live in an area where temperatures drop at night, adding a fire pit to your deck will help you stay warm while still enjoying the outdoors. Local codes determine whether it's possible to build a fire pit in your area, so make sure you understand the regulations before adding one to your deck.
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Deck Options

With decks, you're not limited to just one material. Here are some of the most common decking materials, their benefits and things to consider.


As the traditional decking material, wood has many great qualities. Most varieties are either naturally weather-resistant or can be treated to be so. With a little regular maintenance, wood can enjoy a long life.

  • Pressure-Treated Wood: This material is easy to stain and waterproof, and it tends to be very affordable. It requires constant maintenance in the form of resealing, restaining and cleaning. Pressure-treated wood is one of the least expensive decking materials. Cost: $10 to $15 per square foot.
  • Cedar: One of the most popular types of wood for decks, cedar naturally resists bugs. Though it ages well, cedar does require regular maintenance and waterproofing to ensure a long life. Cedar is also more expensive. Cost: $15 to $30 per square foot.
  • Tropical Hardwood: This material is more difficult to work with than cedar, and installation can be a demanding job. Tropical hardwood naturally resists bugs and rot, and it lasts a long time with regular maintenance. This is one of the most expensive decking materials. Cost: $30 to $40 per square foot.

Plastic Lumber

Made with recycled plastic, this material is a great eco-friendly choice. It resists rotting and warping, and it also lasts for years with little maintenance. Cost: $30 to $45 per square foot.


A newer material on the market, composite decks typically last longer with less maintenance. Unlike wood, composite boards won't rot or crack. They do, however, cost more up front. One of the more expensive types of composite decking material is trex, which costs anywhere between $900 and $2,200 to install. Maintenance can also be tricky, since scratches show up easily, and stains can be permanent. Cost: $25 to $45 per square foot.


As a synthetic material, vinyl has many benefits. It resists moisture, so you don't have to worry about rotting or sealing. You'll never have a termite problem with a vinyl deck, either. Note that vinyl tends to be moderately priced, but some versions might not look like natural wood. Cost: about $10 per square foot.

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What to Ask Prospective Deck Builders

Because decks can turn into complex projects, it's easy to get overwhelmed by the possibilities. You can construct your deck yourself, but if you want anything more than a small deck with the most straightforward design, it's best to call in a professional. Keep the following in mind when finding a deck builder to work with.

How Much Will it Cost?

As a general rule, ask for written estimates from at least three deck builders. With three bids in hand, you can compare them to assess average costs and determine whether a contractor is over- or undercharging for any aspect. When in doubt, get a fourth or fifth estimate for even more comparisons.

Do You Have Good References?

Hiring a deck builder to construct what's essentially an addition to your house is a major decision. You want to make sure any contractor you hire is professional, reliable, competent and easy to work with. The best way to do this is to request references from the contractor or to read reviews in home improvement forums.

What Does the Contract Say?

Don't agree to hire a decking professional before reading over and signing an agreement. Here's what the final contract should include.

  • Permits: When you hire a contractor to build your deck, he or she will be responsible for obtaining any necessary permits. Be sure permits and related costs are included in the final contract, because you don't want to run the risk of an unsafe or illegally constructed deck.
  • Sketches: Don't just assume that your contractor understands what you want in a deck. Request a sketch that's to scale and includes dimensions. Not only will this help you envision what the final product will look like, but it will also eliminate any confusion about design, orientation or built-in elements.
  • Timeline: Are you and your contractor on the same page regarding a timeline for your deck construction? Don't run the risk of scheduling a big outdoor party when your deck is nowhere near complete. Make sure you understand when your contractor plans to do the work, as well as when he or she will complete the project.
  • Final Cost: Be sure you understand your deck's final cost as well as all the components that go into it. The cost should include a breakdown of materials as well as labor costs. This breakdown should also indicate whether your contractor takes responsibility for hauling away debris and construction materials. From the deck itself to built-in furniture to staining and sealing, the final cost should cover everything.
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How Much Should a New Deck Installation Cost?

Worried about the cost of building a deck? Many home experts believe decks offer a great return in value. You can enjoy your deck while you live in your home, and when you're ready to sell, the deck will likely pay for itself. Though some homeowners take on the task of building a deck themselves, it's usually best to hire a pro. Experienced deck builders are knowledgeable about potential safety issues, building codes and materials. They also have experience designing and building more complex deck setups.

The average deck spans about 10 by 12 feet, and you can typically hire a professional deck builder to complete this project for about $1,500. Decks that are much larger, include multiple levels, have a number of built-in components or require significant foundation work can cost $5,000 or more. For instance, decks that measure 350 square feet average $8,000, while decks that exceed 500 square feet can cost upwards of $20,000. Remember that many factors, such as your location, the design of your deck and the grading of your yard, can make your deck more or less expensive.

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Deck Safety

When built properly, your deck should last for years. That doesn't mean it will last forever without maintenance or repairs, though. Here's what to look for to determine when your deck needs maintenance.

Common Deck Repairs

To ensure your family's safety, keep an eye out for signs that you need the following deck repairs. Though you can tackle minor fixes yourself, repairs that require professional attention cost anywhere from $300 to $3,500.

  • Decay: Wooden decks can decay over time, especially if you delay regular maintenance. Periodically check your deck for rotting or decaying wood, and take a closer look at areas where water gathers or flows. Repair cost: anywhere from $500 to $3,500, depending on how many boards or posts you need replaced.
  • Railings: Even sturdy railings and posts can loosen over time. Test yours by applying pressure. If they move easily, consider calling in a professional to stabilize the railings. Repair cost: $500 to $4,000 depending on the extent of the problem.
  • Stairs: Nature can easily overtake deck stairs, so check that plants and grass haven't grown through or over your stairs. Trim back plants that pose tripping hazards. Cost: about $100 to $300.
  • Fasteners: Regularly check to make sure screws are tight and nails are in place. If you find any corroded fasteners or metal plates, replace them with new ones. Not only is corroded metal an eyesore, but it can also damage the surrounding wood. Cost: under $1 to replace most fasteners.
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Regular Deck Maintenance

When planning deck maintenance, remember to weigh the benefits of doing it yourself versus hiring a professional. You can take on many of these tasks as DIY projects, but if you don't want to invest in materials or take the time to do the job thoroughly, hire a decking pro.

  • Cleaning: Take on this easy DIY project regularly to make sure branches, leaves and other natural materials don't accumulate on your deck. They might seem harmless but can encourage mildew and other damaging substances to grow. Cost: about $100 to $300.
  • Staining: Adding color is optional for wooden decks. Staining allows you to coordinate your deck with your home or to add visual interest. Cost: anywhere from $750 to $2,500, depending on the size of your deck and the complexity of the job.
  • Sealing: Wooden decks require regular sealing to protect them from the elements. Be sure to choose a high-quality sealant to make sure it performs to your expectations. Cost: $500 to $1,500.
  • Waterproofing: Sealing protects decks against damage from absorbed water, but it won't protect them from standing water. Add an extra layer of protection by waterproofing your deck, a project you can often schedule at the same time as sealing. Cost: about $500 to $1,000.
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Decking Glossary

  • Banding: This is the border around the base of your deck. It's not always required but can make your deck more durable and attractive.
  • Composite: This decking material is typically made with recycled wood fibers and plastic. It often resembles wood but tends to be more durable and long-lasting.
  • Framing: This refers to your deck's structure and supports. It's important to create a solid frame so your deck is sturdy, level and safe.
  • Grading: Leveling the ground underneath your deck might be necessary if your yard has hills or uneven areas.
  • Pressure-Treated Wood: This process inserts preservatives into the wood to better protect against insects and mold.
  • Sealant: A substance that protects wood from harmful materials such as water, mold and insects. Homeowners typically need to seal their decks at regular intervals.
  • Stain: A pigment or dye applied to wood. Stains can either bring out or hide wood grain, and many also repel mold.
  • Waterproofing: A substance that protects wooden decks from standing water and rainwater.

Many factors go into building a deck, from design to material choice to outdoor accessories. When you work with a trusted deck builder and schedule regular deck maintenance, you and your family can enjoy outdoor living space for years to come.

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