Building a deck in the spring: Top things to knowBy Dave Kile
As spring arrives, the daffodils beacon and the robins call you outdoors. If you have ever contemplated deck building to create an outdoor living space, now’s the season to take action.
A deck will not only provide a place to dine al fresco, grill in the sunshine, and relax in a hammock. It’s a valuable home improvement. In Remodeling magazine’s 2020 cost vs. value report, on average, a homeowner can recoup about 67% of the cost of a composite deck and about 72% of the cost of a wood deck. The value of a deck is likely going to rise, following a year of pandemic lockdowns, in which we all needed an escape from the indoors. According to the latest National Association of Realtors’ Remodeling Impact Report (2018), a new wood deck ranked fifth among the top outdoor features that appeal to homebuyers.
What is the Best Time to Build a New Deck?
Warm weather brings a new opportunity for deck construction as the ground thaws, and the temperature becomes more pleasant. In fact, spring and summer are the most popular times of the year for building outdoors. Though you may find builders have more availability in the off-season, you’ll be able to envision and create the landscaping around the deck that’s not possible in colder months in spring.
- Be sure you know your property line and the necessary setbacks.
- Look for your dream deck design online and get inspired.
- Talk to deck builders or create a design for a DIY build.
Depending on your locality, you may need to show drawings to get a building permit for your deck.
How Big Can I Build My Deck Without a Permit?
Speaking of building permits, do you definitely need one? Most likely.
According to the latest International Residential Code, any deck constructed more than 30-inches above adjacent grade will always require a permit. Below 30-inches, not exceeding 200 square feet in area, not attached to the home, and not serving the house’s required exit door may be exempt. Considering those very specific criteria, most decks require permits.
It’s best to call your local government office and find out what is required regarding plans and setbacks. Building a deck without a permit can lead to serious problems, including fines or having to tear down a brand new deck. If you’re using a contractor, they can lose their license for this offense.
Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own Deck?
Because the most significant expense in building a deck is labor and lumber (or composite deck boards), providing your own labor will definitely reduce your costs. However, you should consider the experience you have and whether or not you can construct a quality deck.
As to costs, a basic deck design using the least expensive lumber will cost about $8 to $10 per square foot of deck area if you do the work yourself. You’ll pay about $25 per square foot if the material is professionally installed.
Obviously, better wood or composite decking, which requires almost no maintenance in the years ahead, will cost more. Durability and maintenance must be factored into the long-term life of your deck, though it is tempting just to save money now.
How Much Would it Cost to Build a 20’x20′ Deck?
As with anything, the bigger a construction project, the more it will cost. Once you have a design, you should be able to do some estimates by talking to your local lumberyard. Here are a few examples of what to expect, provided by Better Homes & Gardens:
- An 8×8-foot elevated deck, built DIY and attached to your home, using treated lumber, will run about $1,600 for materials. Hiring a contractor for the build raises the price to $3,200-$4,800.
- A 12×16-foot raised deck, built with treated lumber, will cost about $2,500 in materials. Hiring a professional builder to do the work for you brings your total cost to $5,000-$7,500.
- A 16×16-foot elevated deck constructed with composite decking materials will cost about $4,500-$5,500 in materials and $10,000-$15,000 to hire a builder.
Of course, additional features such as built-in planters or benches, multi-levels, and deck lighting will cost more. Home Guide states that the average U.S. deck costs about $6,280. They estimate a 20×20′ deck, using wood, will cost homeowners between $6,000 and $14,000.
Inspect your Existing Deck
If you already have a deck, use spring as a time to make sure everything is in order. Do a visual inspection for any damage done through winter: check the underdeck for rot, mildew, discolored wood, or nails that have popped out. Especially pay attention to the ledger board, which joins the deck to the house. The North American Deck & Railing Association (NARA) estimates there are more than 40 million decks in the United States that are at least 20 years old, and hundreds of deck accidents are reported annually.
Spring into this new season with a deck project! Your new outdoor space will give you the breathing room you need for grilling, relaxing, and entertaining as summer approaches.