How much does it cost to build a deck? per square foot price for decking installation, estimate for a deck job

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Deck in 2018?


How Much does it cost to Build a Deck Labor Included 2018?

Everyone asks how much does it cost to build a deck? What is the real cost of decks? What is a reasonable price to pay?  Can you separate out the Labor?

Most people believe that decks are all the same and there is a per square foot price that everyone should charge. This is just not right. I just went through all the deck price calculators by Home Depot, Home Advisor, and HGTV.  HGTV was the only web result that even intimated that there are different levels of build quality which factor into the cost of a new deck.

Every location has different factors that go into the cost of building a deck. Here in Toronto, our average deck is 30,000, but we build decks that are much more than $100,000 every year. We also come across newer high-end decks that were built by other builders with problems that cannot be fixed. We typically have to put those decks in garbage bins and haul them away so that we can build the client a proper deck. This is the danger of wearing “Price Blinders”. Wishful thinking will not get you a long-lasting deck. Working with a low-cost deck builder is gambling.

3 Factors that Affect the Price to Build a Deck

  1. Who is building?  There are builders out there that have been making the same mistakes for 30 years. They leave a trail of unhappy homeowners behind with a nice low per square foot price for decks. There are many rookie builders that mean well but lack the experience to put together a long-lasting deck.  They are building low-cost decks to gain the experience. There are average carpenters that may have decades of experience indoors, but really lack experience building for the outdoors. 10 years of building experience will sound impressive, but when the stairs fail after 3 years, you will wish you had asked other questions. The best would be, can I see a 5-year-old deck that you built? You will also find experienced deck builders that can give you many references on the spot, with thousands of decks behind them. If something goes wrong with their decks, they go back and fix them. The premium cost per square foot may be jarring if you are expecting prices from that online calculator you found.
  2. What materials will you use? Pressure treated decks will be the lowest price. Cedar, redwood, hardwood can be 300% more cost to build a deck. Composite is generally available in levels of quality and they vary 200%. PVC and Aluminum are the top end of the spectrum and will cost 500% more than Pressure Treated.
  3. What will Detailing and Life Expectancy Be? When you use the best materials and put it on a standard deck frame, you will have very expensive materials hanging off a rotten frame in 15 years. A common thing I see in the high-end decks business is these code compliant frames with very expensive materials on the deck. A code legal deck frame is good for 15-20 years. If you are using the best materials, you should expect a much heavier frame with helical footings in order for the deck to last. A heavy frame is about a $15/sf premium price. It all comes down to cost. The best value happens when a deck is built to last–

Cheapest Decks- What do they look like?

cheap decks in Toronto - how much does it cost, get a deck estimate!
Here is a cheap deck. lattice skirting, rail from the 1970’s with 2×6 joists, stairs built improperly…people need to understand that this is what you will get for the lowest per square foot cost when building a deck.

I just grabbed this photo from the internet when I Googled “Cheap Decks”. It was one of those directory sites where handymen can add photos and look for work for free. To the untrained eye, it looks ok. To a builder, wow, where do we start! This is one of the most brutal decks I have seen lately. An inspector would give a report about a page long on this deck, and for us to fix it–it is easier to put it in a bin and start again.

What Price do you Expect for Building Decks?

The price for building decks is not a rigid thing. The hard part is making your expectations meet reality. The price you should expect for decks has a lot to do with what you want the deck to look like and how long you want it to look that way. Quality has a funny way of costing more when it comes to building decks.

Decks Range from $20 per square foot to $500/square foot!

The level of quality you want is in direct relation to the price you pay per square foot for decks. Add in a roofed area, curves, PVC or stone decking, aluminum joists, glass, lights and all the bells and whistles and you get up near the price of a new luxury home per square foot. The labor and materials are on par in that range.  If all you want is a basic pressure treated deck by a decent builder to code, factor in a $30-40/square foot, depending on where you live.

Anywhere you are, if you are looking for a builder in the $20 range, you are setting yourself up for a “Life Lesson”. This is the price danger zone.

We receive 50 or so calls that go like this.

“We hired a guy to build my deck and he took a deposit–He never showed up!”

“My husband had to fire my deck builder because….”

“I had this deck built last year and now the building inspector wants me to get a permit”

Regional Differences in Deck Price

Depending on where you live, there are regional differences in the deck prices you should expect.

In North America, the most expensive places to build a deck are New York City, Los Angeles, and, Toronto. Put simply, the closer you are to a large city, the higher the per square foot price for decks. Deck pricing is based on the cost of materials, the price of labor, and overhead. Since taxes and cost of doing business are higher in the big cities you can expect to pay more.

Legitimate businesses have an overhead that fly-by-night builders do not. This can often double the price you pay for a deck, however, you will actually have a warranty if you go with the professional builder.

Price for decks- Design also has plenty to do with it!
3 D Photorealistic Deck Design by

What about design- What do you want your deck to look like?

The design of the deck has everything to do with the price per square foot for decks.  The estimate for building decks in the early stages is just a ballpark. If you want a kick-butt design, expect a big price! Building for durability is not easy or cheap. Not every deck builder is even capable of designing high-end decks. You may have to go to an architect or designer to get something magazine quality.  We produce better designs and renderings than most architects, and we do charge for the service, but we try to keep it reasonable.

The key is that we design to fit the budget that our clients offer to us. They will often say, let’s see what we can do in the $30,000 to $50,000 range. Since we are familiar with all the costs involved, we are able to show them designs in that range. It really is the most transparent way to do things.

How much do decks cost per square foot?  “Well Maam, How much would you like it to cost?”


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