What To Consider When Building An Outdoor Deck

If you bought a new house, chances are it didn’t come with a deck. Sooner or later, you will consider building a deck. In this blog post, I will show you the decisions we made to build our deck, from choosing a contractor, to accepting a proposal, through picking a design and building materials.

Why Should You Get an Outdoor Deck?

Do you need a deck? The answer is no. You can enjoy your full backyard directly stepping out of your house. Sometimes your backyard may be too small to accommodate a functional deck.

But most houses I have seen in Delaware have a deck. Since my wife and I moved to Delaware in August 2019, we have had the chance to see many homes around and noticed that very few don’t have a deck.

Deciding to build or not to build a deck is a personal decision. These are the reasons why I think we will benefit from a deck:

What To Consider When Building a House Deck - Our corgiOur corgi would like to play on the deck!
  1. Without a doubt, a deck will increase our living space and add functionality. We could use it as an area to enjoy some of our plant projects, as a living space to have dinners in the outdoors, to grill delicious food, and as an enclosed playground for our little Pembroke Welsh Corgi.
  2. I think the deck adds beauty to the yard, and this is probably why most houses have one. With the right design, the yard will have a little more personality.
  3. Ultimately, a deck will add value to the house. We are positively not thinking about selling this house since we are considering it our forever home. But it is always good to know that the money you pay for the deck will add some value to the house, even if it is less than what you spent.

Should You DIY Your Deck or Hire a Contractor?

The first thing you need to do before you go ahead and build your own deck is to assess your skill level. Do you have construction skills, do you like that type of work and do you have the time to do it.

If you have never done this type of job, it could undoubtedly be exciting, but bear in mind that if you don’t have what it takes, it can also become a nightmare project eating up time and money.

Thankfully for me, the decision is easy. I have zero skills and no desire to tackle this kind of project. As a result, I had to also outsource our porch swing project. Remember Dirty Harry (Clint Eastwood): “A man’s got to know his limitations.”

Perhaps this video from Third Coast Craftsman will help you decide whether to DIY your own deck. Chris starts the video by saying that he will show us how easy it is to build a deck. Piece of cake 😁. I enjoyed the video, but I don’t think it is a simple task at all.

How to Hire a Contractor to Build Your Deck?

Once you have decided that you will hire a contractor to build your deck, you may be inclined to quickly research the internet for the right contractor. This is what we did and soon realized that we didn’t know who to trust. It is clear to me that a lot of internet reviews are bogus.

We found a couple of contractors through Home Advisor, and we never heard from one of them, and the other one responded after two days of our inquiry. We were not happy with the contacts we were getting from Home Advisor. Later on, I found out that Home Advisor has terrible reviews.

Even though we don’t know too many people in Delaware yet, we decided to go with the old fashion word-of-mouth. We believe we found a good company to install our sprinklers. We still haven’t had the sprinklers installed (that will be a separate blog post), but we liked the chemistry with the company’s boss (Chip), which is much more than I can say of Home Advisor.

Chip told us that he knew a good contractor (Kevin) he uses often and is currently working on his house. That is the best referral we can have right now.

We couldn’t wait to meet Kevin. We called him, and we met at our new home the next day. It was fast. Perhaps a little too fast. We didn’t realize that before you talk to the contractor, you need to come up with an overall idea of what you want. While contractors are very knowledgeable, they are not necessarily designers.

We were not willing to pay extra money for a designer, so with Kevin’s help, we brainstormed a design on the spot. I think it would have been better if we had come out with some ideas before meeting Kevin, but it worked out alright.

So, right there standing on the lawn, we came out with the approximate size based on the shape of the back of the house. We also decided that we will have two levels and two attached areas.

One 18’x16’ deck and one 7” elevated 12’x12’ attached deck for a total of 432 square feet. This section will be near the septic tank –see how we decided to hide the vent pipes.

What To Consider When Building a House Deck - Deck Layout
What To Consider When Building a House Deck -Deck Drawings

Then came time to talk about materials. Kevin’s recommendations were:

  • Railings: White, aluminum, reinforced vinyl.
  • Trim board: White, vinyl, Versatex.
  • Deck board: Azek slate grey.

Kevin told us that these materials were not cheap, but they were worth it. They are all supposed to be maintenance-free; more on that next.

How We Chose The Color Of The Deck?

It wasn’t obvious to us what color goes with a light blue house. We found a website that gave us an overall idea. Grey was an option we liked and was a match for a blue house. Based on that, we went with Azek slate grey. We will ask Kevin for a sample to confirm that we like that type of grey.

How Much Does a Deck Cost?

We initially thought we could build a deck for about $7,000, which was true. So, how did we end up with a $15,000 quote? Keep reading to see how easy it is to spend more.

Based on Homeguide.com, “the average cost to build a deck is $25 per square foot with most homeowners spending between $4,380 to $10,080 total. An entry-level deck with basic materials costs $15 per square foot, while a deck built with premium materials costs $35 per square foot.” The website hgtv.com also agrees with these costs.

Our deck will end up being 432 square feet in total. Since we will pay $15,000, that is $34.7 per square foot ($15,000/432). That is the cost of building the deck with premium materials. Our premium materials are Polyvinyl chloride (PVC), Azek, and Versatex materials.

What To Consider When Building a House Deck - Deck Construction Proposal

It looks like these two companies saw synergies between the two, and Azek ended up acquiring Versatex in 2018.

I feel that it is worth using these good quality materials, but time will tell. The website, thespruce.com, has a good summary of the pros and cons of PVC vs. Wood-Composite vs. Natural Wood.

It looks like PVC is about 15% more expensive than wood-composite, which is more expensive than natural wood. So, we probably could have saved almost 50% if we had chosen natural wood, but we would have paid in the long run with maintenance. Based on the article, wood is guaranteed to rot, whereas PVC will never rot.

I have to admit that I probably would have preferred the look of natural wood, but I don’t want to spend time taking care of it. I will have plenty of opportunities to use my time with other house items.

Why We Didn’t Choose a Covered or Enclosed Deck

The short answer is we don’t like them. For sure we don’t like enclosed decks. We are not spring chickens, but I feel as if enclosed decks are for older people. Let’s go over some pros and cons for my peace of mind.

  • Pros: It will provide shade, become a shelter in the rain, and could increase the home value, no mosquito bites, or insects (enclosed).
  • Cons: It will cost more initially, it will cost more to maintain, no sun when you are on the deck, darker rooms near the deck.

It will provide shade, but we already have shade in the house. I feel that the purpose of the deck is to be outside. You still feel outside with covered decks, but not with enclosed decks. It does rain a lot in Delaware, so that’s definitely a covered deck plus to consider.

I am not concerned about the potential additional increase in value, especially because it will also cost more to start and to maintain. Mosquito bites is definitely something my wife and I don’t like. You can prevent this with an enclosed deck, which again, we definitely don’t like.

My wife adores sunlight. So, making the house darker is not an option.

Conclusion, nothing is perfect, but overall we prefer the open deck option.

What’s next…

Kevin will have some deck drawings to be presented to the HOA. We are part of an HOA; more material for a later post. Once the HOA architectural committee approves the project, Kevin will apply for building permits. Once I have this I will update this post.

When the Deck is finished, I will upload a picture 🙂

Deck Progress Pictures

The deck was scheduled to be built in June 2020 and here are some of the pictures showing the progress. We are very happy with the final product. It will give us a great space outside our home.

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