Should You Build a Deck or Hire a Pro?

By HomeAdvisor

Updated October 21, 2016


Everyday homeowners are faced with the question of doing a home improvement project themselves or hiring out the work. Often the momentum behind this is that homeowners want to try these kinds of projects for themselves, but often it is a case of money. Many people want decks, a new coat of paint, or new tile, but feel they can only afford what they can do themselves. This article examines the fine points of whether or not it deck building makes sense to do yourself.

There is no clear answer to this question. If you are handy and understand the fundamentals of construction, then go for it. If you have (or have access to) all the tools you will need, then you can build a deck for around 40% percent of what it would cost to have it done professionally.

Professional Deck vs. Do It Yourself Deck Building

There is no dispute, a professional deck builder will do a better, faster job than you can. This is not a shot at you, but a deck professional has been deck building for long time, he does it every day, he knows all the little things that can go wrong, and he knows how to avoid and repair these occurrences. These craftsmen have perfected their skill, and they are very efficient in completing a new deck.

That’s where you come in. If you are considering building a deck yourself, then most likely you are up to the task, as this type of job just takes a lot of sweat and a little bit of want to. While your deck may have a few blemishes that you will want to cover up, you can do this. What’s cool about doing new projects is that by the time you are finished, you will have everything figured out.

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Do It Yourself Costs

With any hired project, materials are usually marked up 5-10% because the contractors have to pay for the materials, transport them, and carry the balance until the project is finished. Many deck contractors bid jobs based off of three times the cost of deck materials. So as a do-it-yourselfer, you can expect to only pay 1/3 of the bid from a contractor. Keep in mind that this number is only for the cost of materials. If you need a miter saw, a cordless drill, among other things, this will drive the cost quite a bit as these tools can cost a great deal of money.

As with any DIY project, your time (labor) is how you make up the real cost. So if you are a weekender, just know that it might take a month of weekends to finish the deck. If that is acceptable, then start working. If not, hire a local deck builder.

Solid Advice from Our Pros

Basically there is a battle between cost and quality. You want professional quality, but you can’t afford professional prices. If that sounds like you, then here are a few ideas where you can do some of the work and help shave the cost of the new deck.

  • Buy the deck materials yourself. Talk with your deck pro to get his okay and his materials list. Hand this to the workers at the lumber yard. This way you are paying exactly what the materials cost without any markup. This can save as much as 10%, and maybe even more because it takes some of the up front financial burden off of the deck builder.
  • Ask your contractor if he will build the frame. This way, you can lay the decking. Laying decking is more of a chore than a craft, especially if you are dealing with composite decking and don’t have to match grains. If you want rails and benches, your deck builder can come back after you have finished laying the decking. By doing this you can save on the labor involved in laying the decking materials.

The best idea for anyone who is considering deck building on his or her own is to ask a contractor if he is willing to make certain arrangements, like the ones listed above, with you. Most likely you can find one who can offer you something that will give you top level quality without paying sticker price.

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