Starting the Planning Process

Essentially decking breaks down into the following five categories:

  1. Decking Materials
  2. The materials that you want to create your deck out of.
  3. Deck Size
  4. How big or small would you like your home decking?
  5. Location
  6. Where around your home should the deck be constructed? Right out the back door? Surrounding a pool? Part of the natural landscape?
  7. Access
  8. Sounds simple enough, but getting on your deck easily can tie into the location of your deck. Ideally you would want a few steps away from your kitchen.
  9. Wow Factor
  10. Uniquely constructed decks grab the attention of friends, family, guests, and potential buyers. Keep this in mind when planning out the design.
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Deck Materials

Deciding the type of material you want to go with is a large part in the process of choosing a deck for your home. Skilled deck builders will be able to craft the project out of any material you choose. While there are many specific choices you can make, the main five (technically 7) options are listed below the cost guide (4).

Essentially the square footage for your deck cold cost you:

  • Wood Decks

    Wood Decks

    $8-$75 per sq. ft.

  • Wood


    $8-$50 per sq. ft.

  • Cedar


    $20-$75 per sq. ft.

  • Redwood


    $30-$75 per sq. ft.

  • Hardwood


    $40-$80 per sq. ft.

  • Composite


    $25-$70 per sq. ft.

  • Aluminum


    $8-$20 per sq. ft.

  • Trex


    $10-$20 per sq. ft.

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Pressure-Treated Lumber

This is by far the most economic option. Pressure treated (or PT) lumber is the most viable choice for homeowners, able to be shaped into nearly any design you can imagine. With nearly 75% of all decks being constructed with this material, it's no wonder the lumber is still the no. 1 material in the country (5). Generally this material comes in planks, with a price range of about 2 x 6s (90 cents per linear foot), or 5/4 x 6-in. planks ($1 per linear foot).

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Tropical hardwood is tough, long lasting, and worth the hefty price tag (6). These kinds of wood can last well over 25 years for your deck and stand up to any kind of punishment. If you're looking for a secure home feature that will last a lifetime, hardwood decking is the way to go. With that said, tropical hardwoods are fairly expensive, and somewhat difficult to work with, making more elaborate or ornate decks more difficult to construct. But once it's built, it's not coming down. Very general costs for different tropical hardwoods are as follows:

  • Cumaru - $1.89/lineal ft.
  • Cambara - $2.99/lineal ft.
  • Ipe - $1.99/lineal ft.
  • Golden Ironwood - $1.89/lineal ft.
  • Red Balau - $2.00/lineal ft.
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Cedar and Redwood

Redwood and cedar are naturally superior to PT lumber. Because a pressure treatment isn't used and therefore the chemicals aren't present, these western softwoods are rich with natural colors and beauty. And while they do naturally resist rot, decay, and invasive insects, a large factor in that is dependent on the quantity of heartwood present. Heartwood is found closer to the core of the tree and much stronger than the outer sapwood of the same tree. Also priced by the plank, a typical 8-ft.-long red cedar 2x6 can cost nearly $4 per linear foot. A lower quality redwood 2x6 could cost about $2.35 per linear foot. Otherwise cedar is renewable, recyclable, and a perfect insulator (7).

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Composite decking is the pinnacle of modern technology making the ideal material. It blends plastic materials and essentially high quality sawdust together to form a material with the strengths of both aspects and the weakness of neither (8). Composite decking is nearly immune against rot and decay, as well as termites.

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Aluminum is the long-lasting alternative to wood. While is stands the test of time, is easy to work with, and quite lightweight without compromising durability, it tends to be noisy when stepped on. Also it can become slippery when frozen or if frost settles on the material. Otherwise your aluminum deck will last 15-20 years (9).

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While technically also a composite deck, Trex gets its own entry in the guide for its unique blend of (95%) recycled products that go into each construction. It's a completely green material that looks just as good as wood and is completely resistant to mold (10). Trex will protect against fading, scratches, and stains over the course of its lifetime.

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For most typical homes, contractors recommend a standard size of roughly 15x15 sq. ft. This would run between 300 and 400 sq. ft. total. Also this would normally be wider than it is deep, with the longer section running along the home (11). Low elevation decks work best at mid-ground, with higher decks utilizing multi-layered structures more readily. In any case, you'll want to make sure your deck can easily fit the following:

  • Grill or fire pit
  • Lawn furniture
  • Large table
  • Music stereo or device
  • Umbrella
  • Chairs
  • Potential storage area
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Where to Install?

There are many different places as to where you can choose to have your deck installed. The main factor in deciding the "where" is what you want to use your deck for. Again, professional deck builders can work with you on establishing a location for the project. Consider the following practical uses:

  • Garden - Do you have a green thumb? Surround yourself with wonderful plants and flowers.
  • Food prep - Be sure to have ample space for cooking and serving, as well as taking the wind into account for smoke reasons.
  • Relaxing retreat - Install the deck alongside your home for a perfect outdoor getaway
  • Privacy - Surround your deck with tall wooden fencing to get some peace and quiet
  • Curb appeal - To make a show out of your home, put a deck in front of your house to gain potential interest from home buyers
  • Sun - Be sure to perfectly utilize the amount of sunlight that enters your backyard if you're trying to get a tan
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Keep it Simple

It may sound obvious, but keeping your deck easily accessible makes the unit far more practical. Just because you have the space available doesn't mean you have to utilize all of it. Pool decks are a fine example of this, just be sure to have enough deck to make it to the water. Finding a good ratio of backyard to deck will ensure that both are used and enjoyed.

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Certainly this is more up to the homeowner's taste, as there are innumerable decks and porches that can be designed for your yard (12). It's best to have a style, material, and size picked out beforehand, and then start talking to a contractor who can guide you along the rest of the way. While there are many sites that you can use to browse different deck styles with, certainly one of the most popular is Pinterest. Once all these factors are added together, it's easier to see what an estimate on the price tag could be.


  1. "Building a New Deck: Return on Investment". Remodeling Calculator. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  2. "Deck Addition: Return on Investment". houselogic. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  3. "Deck (building)". Wikipedia. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  4. "Cost of a Deck". Costhelper. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  5. Truini, Joseph."How to Choose a Deck Material That Is Right for You". Popular Mechanics. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  6. "Decking Materials". This Old House. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  7. "Why Choose Cedar?". Cedarwood Products. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  8. "Decking". Consumer Reports. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  9. "InterNACHI's Estimated Life Expectancy Chart". NACHI. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  10. "COMPOSITE DECKING". Trex. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  11. Schmidt, Genevieve"Outdoor Deck Size Tips". Landscaping Network. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
  12. Walsh, Peter."How to Determine Your Deck Style". HGTV. Retrieved 1 August 2017.
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