Compare DIY Deck Building vs Hiring a Contractor
Hiring a Contractor
A deck is a great addition to any home. It creates an outdoor living space that can be used to relax or entertain, and it increases the resale value of your home.
If you’re not handy, hiring a contractor is the way to go. Building a deck is a difficult task that requires at least a basic understanding of construction principles. And materials are expensive, so even small mistakes can be costly.
A contractor can handle the design and building process from start to finish, including purchasing the materials and securing any necessary permits. Or, you can shave anywhere from 5 to 20 percent off the total purchase price by buying and transporting your own materials and securing your own permits.
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Cost of Hiring a Contractor
Contractor prices vary widely depending on the type of wood you choose and the size and configuration of the deck. The average price to build a deck with pressure-treated pine is about $30 to $35 per square foot. That price includes the wood planks, supporting framework, railings and all labor costs. Cedar, redwood or wood composites are more expensive, ranging from $35 to $60 per square foot installed.
At those prices:
- A 16x20 foot deck made with pressure-treated wood would cost $9,600 to $11,200.
- A 20x20 deck using the same material would cost $12,000 to $14,000.
- A 16x20 deck using premium wood or wood composites would cost $11,200 to $19,200.
- A 20x20 deck using premium materials would cost $14,000 to $24,000.
Keep in mind that it is very difficult to estimate the price of a deck without talking to a contractor. Labor and materials costs vary from one contractor to another and from one region of the country to another. The best way to get a good idea of what you can expect to spend is to seek multiple quotes from local contractors.
- Professional quality - A professional will do a better, faster job in most cases. After all, he or she earns a living by building. Professionals know how to create beautiful, sturdy decks in a matter of days. And they know how to prevent small mistakes that can lead to big problems later. They are experts in the craft.
- Saves time/effort - Hiring a contractor saves many days or weeks (even months, in some cases) of hard work. Spend your weekends tackling other projects on the to-do list or doing things you enjoy.
- More expensive - If you’re hiring a contractor to build the deck, plan on spending double. Contractors have to make money, of course, so they charge labor and overhead fees. Most of the time, those fees add up to about the same cost as the materials.
- Lack of control - When someone else handles the project, you have to trust them to do everything to your satisfaction. When you do the work yourself, you have control over every detail.
DIY Deck Building
Building a deck is no easy task, but it can be tackled as a do-it-yourself project if you’re particularly handy. You’ll need the necessary tools and supplies, plenty of spare time and a sound understanding of construction principles.
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Obviously, with a DIY project, you’re only paying for materials - not labor. As with a professionally-built deck, the cost of materials varies widely based on the type of wood you choose and the size and configuration of the deck. A cedar or composite wood deck is going to cost significantly more than a deck made out of pressure-treated pine. A multi-level deck with features such as handrails and benches is going to cost significantly more than a simple ground-level deck.
If you’re planning to build a 20x20 foot deck with a railing, budget anywhere from about $4,000 to $10,000 or more for materials. Pressure-treated pine falls on the low end of that price range, but it will gray and splinter over time. Higher-quality redwood and cedar, as well as wood composites, fall in the middle of that price range. Exotic woods are priced on the high end.
- Less expensive - If you opt to build the deck yourself, you’ll spend about half as much as if you hire a contractor. You’ll have to buy the materials, but you won’t have to pay for labor.
- Sense of accomplishment - Many people get satisfaction from tackling and completing a difficult project on their own. For the right person, building a deck can be a rewarding experience.
- Time consuming - Building a deck takes time. The project could eat up a month or more of your weekends, particularly if you’re building a large or complex deck.
- Difficult - Building a deck is hard work and it requires significant construction know-how. It is not a project for the DIY novice.