by Marcus Pickett
If you're like most homeowners, before you weigh on the dozens of deck choices, materials, and the project itself, you probably want some idea of what common decking projects will cost and how long they will take. Here are the averages that you can plan for and the range of costs and construction times that show how varied these projects can be. The average deck installation costs $7,572 and takes two weeks to complete, according to data collected by ServiceMagic from homeowners who recently completed a decking project. But this data also shows projects that cost as little as $2,000 and took only a day and a half to build, as well as projects that cost $25,000 and took more than two months to finish. Where the parameters of your deck installation fall depends on the size and design of your deck, as well as the weather and the contractor's schedule.
Made from various combinations of wood scraps, plastic, and other materials, composite decking is creating controversy among homeowners, manufacturers, and contractors. Some claim the material is revolutionizing the decking industry. Others claim composite decking is somewhere between a fad and a scam, something to be avoided at all costs. The advantage of composite decking is easy to understand: You can say goodbye to annual or biannual deck sealing. Yet, despite minimal maintenance, the overall durability of composite decking is still in question. Some products have been known to fade over the course of just a few years, leaving an eyesore in the middle of your yard.
For every exemplary composite deck, there seem to be two that fail to make the grade or fail to deliver on manufacturer promises. Plus, many new manufacturers and products simply haven't had the time to prove themselves. That said, anybody interested in reducing the maintenance for their deck should at least consider composite decking materials. By talking to local deck contractors about the local performance of different composite decking products, by asking them about pros and cons of composite versus wood decking, and by conducting your own research, you can probably piece together a fairly accurate assessment of how this type of decking will perform.
Most people already know the basics of deck design: How big will it be? Will it be freestanding or attached? Will it be a wraparound deck? What type of stairs and/or entry points will it have? Yet, few people take the time to truly mark off and imagine how their preliminary design might affect the rest of their yard and the curb appeal of their home. One common problem is inadvertently having deck stairs that end on a sloping lawn. You may need to have your lawn re-graded or move the placement of your stairs.
No deck would be complete without the accessories that define it. Below are the average costs for major deck accessories, but don't forget smaller accessories like planter boxes and wind chimes.
No matter how much you may learn about deck installation and design, don't get cocky when choosing your contractor. No matter how much the first contractor seems like "the guy," take the time to solicit at least three estimates, check references, and ask for a detailed list of credentials and professional experience. In the end, the right choice may be matching your contractor with the intended scope of your project. Some contractors specialize in minimizing costs for small, functional decks. Other contractors specialize in luxurious and/or complicated deck designs.
-- Marcus Pickett is a senior home improvement writer with ServiceMagic.com. He has written more than 1200 articles on managing your home and home improvement trends.