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Decking: DIY or Professional Installation?

Homeowners are often faced with a dilemma: Will it be cheaper in the long run to hire a professional or to do it yourself? Some homeowners approach projects with a certain sense of adventure, the desire to build with your own hands, to stand back at the end of the day with the satisfaction of a job well done. For others, the impetus is often a desire to save money. Building a deck can be an easy and uncomplicated project perfect for a budding handyman, or it can be a multilevel nightmare best left to a professional.

Pro vs DIY

When deciding whether to build your own deck, first consider the tools and workspace available to you. If you already have a set of tools, some experience with woodworking, and a space to work in, you’re already in a good starting position. However, understand that your skills do not compare with those of a professional deck builder. A pro, who does the same thing every day to earn a living, will finish faster and be in a better position to deal with problems that arise during the project.

On the other hand, building your own deck is great experience, and a great way to expand your skills. There are a number of things to consider, including existing construction, like a cement slab that cries for modernization, or the need for supports under an elevated deck. The less complicated construction there is, the more likely you are to be happy with the results.

Saving Money with DIY

When you hire a professional, you can assume a material markup up 5 to 10%. This covers the cost of purchasing and transporting the materials. Some contractors simplify the bidding process by charging three times the cost of the materials. In that case, an intrepid homeowner can save more than 2/3 of the cost of installing a deck by doing it himself.

This is a significant savings unless you must factor in the cost of tools, like a cordless drill, a rubber hammer, a jigsaw, and a miter saw, to name just a few.

Time Considerations

You can’t save time with DIY. A pro will be finished in a short period of time, but it may take you a month or more of weekends. Home DIY projects are a labor of love. They require a commitment to see the project through to the finish. If you’re willing and able to commit, go for it.

Shaving Cost without Sacrificing Quality

If the task of building the deck is daunting but you need to save money, consider a hybrid approach. Buy the materials and bring them home yourself. Consult a deck builder in advance to get his recommendations, make careful measurements, and follow a materials list. Shop at a discount lumber source. You’ll get the same materials and save the markup. You can also hire a contractor to build a foundation only.

Have a solid frame built then add the finishing touches, including the flooring and the railings, yourself. That way, you can be sure the deck is structurally sound and still get bragging rights for knocking out the deck on your own.

(7) Comments

  1. Hi,

    Love your composite decking! Our existing deck is treated timber.
    It is so ugly! It looks like it was painted over a seal. And some cracked boards were replaced &’just raw treated timber. It is large & around a pool.

    Our Question is: could we just put the interlocking composite system on top of the old deck.?.. The framing is quite strong and structurally we have no problems …just needing cosmetic updating.

    Thank you

    • Hi Joseph,

      Take a look at this for composite decking installation instructions which should give you a good guide to plank spacing on joists.

      I hope this helps!

  2. Joyce McLaughlin - Reply

    Had new wood on deck to replace old. New wood has cracks especially where nails are.What will the results be in the future?

  3. I am attempting to complete my Boy Scout Eagle project and would like to know if you could help me with designing a small access bridge to a play ground. I am very interested in building it with composite wood to last longer and to be a safer all round product to children do not injure themselves.

    I allmost forgot… the deminisions are 12′ X 8′

  4. I am attempting to complete my Boy Scout Eagle project and would like to know if you could help me with designing a small access bridge to a play ground. I am very interested in building it with composite wood to last longer and to be a safer all round product to children do not injure themselves.

  5. Hi. can you lay composite decking on cement? If not, what would you recommend to cover the cement patio (12×32 approx.). I love the patio, build cover extends from roof. But, the cement, gotta be changed. Am currently replacing the landscaping, what there was (2 trees). HELP ME PLEASE. I AM UNABLE TO DO THESE PROJECTS DUE TO A SPINAL INJURY THAT MADE MY ARMS VERY WEAK ALONG WITH THE MIGRAINES.

    THANK YOU!

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