An In-Depth Look at Buying Decking – with Spahn & Rose
A new, quality deck is a dream of many homeowners. Whether you’re entertaining guests or relaxing in the sun, a deck can be a worthwhile addition to your home. Building a deck is an exciting project, but it’s important to make smart choices. By the time the project is finished, you want an attractive deck made from the best available materials. You also want to make sure it’s the right size and shape for what you want to use it for. And you’ll want to avoid complications that can impact the installation process.
That’s why Spahn & Rose compiled this decking buying guide. You’ll get a detailed look at the types of decking supplies available, the best ways to prepare for this project and even tips on knowing when to repair versus replace your deck. You should have all the information you need to build the deck of your dreams.
Part 1: Pick Your Decking Materials
The first thing to consider is the material you want your deck constructed from. With decking wood and similar building materials, there are several options on the market. With many choices, it can be tough to decide which material is right for your deck. Do you want something that lasts a long time? Or do you prefer the look of natural wood?
Let’s review the most common options for decking materials. We’ll also look at the average cost for these materials per square foot, how long they usually last and what maintenance you’ll need to perform.
Pressure-treated wood – This type of decking is treated with chemicals to extend its life span. It’s a popular choice for many homeowners because it’s relatively inexpensive and easy to find. It withstands to wood rot and decay better than untreated wood. However, pressure-treated wood does require some regular maintenance. You’ll need to refinish it every few years to keep it looking its best, and many homeowners do to retain the beautiful appearance of natural wood.
- Average cost: $2 to $5 per square foot. Premium or exotic woods usually cost more.
- Average life span: 10-15 years but can last more with proper maintenance.
- Required maintenance: Staining and sealing every two years or so will help protect your wood deck from the elements. Some boards may warp and crack over time.
Cedar decking – Another beautiful material, cedar planks last a long time with proper care. Its composition also makes it naturally resistant to rot, decay and even insect infestation. Cedar requires less maintenance, so invest in a high-quality sealant for a long-lasting, beautiful deck with minimal upkeep.
- Average cost: Cedar decking can cost around $3.50 to $9 per square foot. There are various types of cedar wood with different prices.
- Average life span: 20-25 years but can last more than 40 with proper maintenance.
- Required maintenance: While it requires less maintenance than regular wood, cedar should still be stained and sealed every few years.
Vinyl – Vinyl decking is a popular option because it is durable, lightweight and easy to maintain. Vinyl decking is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is a synthetic material that is highly resistant to rot, mold and mildew. Vinyl decking is also available in a variety of colors and styles, but the vinyl itself cannot be painted. Vinyl decking is considered high quality because of its durability.
- Average cost: Most vinyl decks cost an average of $9 to $15 per square foot. Higher prices account for a more resilient material.
- Average life span: 25-30 years, but can last more than 50 with proper maintenance.
- Required maintenance: A quick, twice-a-year cleaning is usually all you need, but an annual inspection can watch for signs of trouble.
Composite decking – Composite decking is made from a mix of wood fibers and recycled plastics. It’s also considered a higher quality decking material because it lasts a very long time and requires little maintenance. Composite decking is more resistant to many common forms of damage like wood rot and sun fading. It’s not invincible, but quality composite decking can last a long time when well-maintained.
- Average cost: Anywhere from $4 to more than $13 per square foot. The total price may be influenced on the specific blend of materials.
- Average lifespan: 25-30 years, but can last even longer with proper maintenance.
- Required maintenance: Twice annual cleaning will keep composite decking in great shape. A power washer can be used with cleaners designed for the composite material.
To recap, here are some basic qualities of four different types of decking materials:
|Decking Type||Pros||Cons||Cost||Average lifespan|
|Pressure-treated wood||affordable, attractive||needs period maintenance, vulnerable to wood rot||$2 to $5 per square foot||10-15 years|
|Cedar||resists moisture, beautiful color||more expensive than pressure-treated wood||$3.50 to $9 per square foot||20-25 years|
|Vinyl||low maintenance, durable||can look cheap up close, can’t stain w/ color||$9 to $15 per square foot||25-30 years|
|Composite||combines look of wood with durability of synthetic decking||more expensive than other types of wood decking||$4 to $13 per square foot||25-30 years|
How to Compare Materials According to Your Needs
When it comes to decking materials, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. The type of decking material you choose will on your budget, climate and the level of maintenance you’re willing to do. You’ll want to consider things that can be changed—such as the deck’s appearance and your budget—against things that can’t, like the climate and where you’re building the deck.
- Cost: Pressure-treated wood is great for entry-level decks, making it an affordable choice for lots of people. This lower cost is largely because wood eventually needs to be maintained and replaced to avoid rot damage. Synthetic materials such as vinyl and composite cost more because they can last longer with less maintenance.
- Maintenance: All decks should be maintained to protect them from damage and aging. Synthetic materials usually don’t require as much maintenance, but these composite decks may not allow homeowners to change the paint or stain color.
- Moisture: Vinyl and composite decking can resist humidity and moisture over plain wood. This isn’t as much of a problem if you live in an arid climate, but in the Midwest, resistance to moisture can be a greater consideration.
- Appearance: It’s hard to beat the natural appearance of pressure-treated wood and cedar, but composite decking has made strides with texture and available colors. Vinyl decking, however, can appear poor quality when you’re up close even though it’s a resilient material.
|What to Consider||Pressure-treated wood||Cedar||Vinyl||Composite|
|Maintenance||every 2 years||every 3 years||minimal||minimal|
|Vulnerable to Moisture||Yes||Yes||No||No|
Remember, a deck built on a dry, dusty hill will encounter different conditions than a deck that’s frequently shaded and damp. Think about where you’re building your deck because it can influence what materials make the most financial sense. If you’d like an even more in-depth look at the different types of lumber, take a look at our lumber buying guide.
Now that you have a better understanding of the types of decking Spahn & Rose can offer, you can start making the other preparations for your new deck. You’ll want a contractor who can ensure a durable, beautiful final product. The process can go more smoothly if you have a better understanding of what you want with your deck, so let’s cover that next.
Part 2: Prepare for Your New Decking Project
Unless you have a few years of experience in woodworking or construction, you probably want to hire a contractor to help you build a new deck. They have the tools, training and other resources you need to make steady progress toward a beautiful, finished product. It’s important to choose someone you feel comfortable with, as you can trust their opinions about the best way to build the deck you want. It’s also nice to know they have experience building that type of deck, especially if you have anything special in mind. Here are a few basic tips about finding a good decking contractor:
- Get recommendations from friends and family – A deck is a common home improvement project, and it’s likely someone you know has built one or knows someone who does. You can see for yourself the quality of work and learn about how the project went.
- Find proof of experience and finished projects – Websites with project portfolios can offer even more information about how much experience a given builder or contractor has. Any trustworthy contractor can show photos of completed projects.
- Secure several estimates – Even if you find a contractor you like, it’s a good idea to secure cost estimates from multiple people. A new deck is an investment, and someone offering suspiciously low prices might result in shoddy workmanship.
- Ask previous clients for references – You can ask a potential client to provide contact info for previous clients. They can give you their personal experience dealing with this contractor throughout every step of the process.
If you still don’t know where to start, Spahn & Rose can help you find a contractor with our directory. Through our extensive knowledge of regional construction and building markets, we have worked with top professionals in the area. Once you’ve found a contractor, you’ll want to make sure they have all the information they need about your deck project.
5 Essential Questions to Determine the Best Deck for Your Backyard Need
Without a better sense of the deck you want, even experienced contractors may not be able to make much progress. They can offer suggestions, but it’s more efficient to do some research ahead of time. You’ll want to think about every aspect of what you want from your deck before the contractor can suggest materials, accessories and more. Ask yourself the following questions:
What do I want to use this deck for? Hosting parties and barbecues, or catching up on your tan? Your favorite outdoor activities can influence the size of the deck as well as the addition of accessories like built-in seating. And if you live in a dense neighborhood, putting up privacy walls can help this outdoor space feel less exposed to the neighbors.
How much maintenance am I willing to do? All decks require some maintenance, but there’s a big difference depending on the material of the deck. Wood should be regularly stained and sealed, while synthetic vinyl and composite decking often needs just a cleaning.
Will the terrain around my home affect the building process? Can your property flood during heavy rain? Is there a steep hill behind your home? Things like this can change what materials and style of deck are best suited for your property. For example, a sloped yard might make a multilevel deck more attractive, while a deck with full sun exposure could use shade features like a pergola.
Am I interested in any accessories? Decks can be built to accommodate seating, railing, lighting and many other specialized extras. These add-ons can help transform even a simple square deck into a beautiful and multipurpose outdoor space.
What legal hurdles do I need to account for? Local building codes can restrict construction projects including decks. While an experienced contractor is likely familiar with important local codes, it doesn’t hurt to make sure before you’re ready to break ground. In recent years, additional codes have made decks safe by requiring a larger number of fasteners and requiring posts to sit on concrete pads.
If all you have is a rough idea of the square footage you want, Spahn & Rose can offer estimating support. But the more you know what you want in your future deck, the more accurate we can estimate the project’s costs.
Decking Styles, Patterns and Colors
Once the contractor is familiar with everything you want from your new deck, they can help you brainstorm more of the details, such as the type of deck, the pattern of the planking and color. These decking style elements should complement the aesthetic of your home to make the deck feel like a natural extension of it. There are lots of options to choose from, so let’s stick with some of the most popular styles.
- Square and rectangular decks are the most common type of decks. They’re simple to build and can be adapted to just about any space. Spahn & Rose has worked with many homeowners to build stunning and resilient decks in this simple style.
- Wraparound decks make the most of available space and can create a seamless transition between indoor and outdoor living areas. Many wraparound decks are paired with French doors or large windows.
- Multilevel decks are great for homes with uneven terrain or those who want to make the most of a small outdoor space. By adding levels, you can create different areas for lounging, dining and more.
There are also lots of different deck patterns to choose from. Parallel and perpendicular designs are the most common and straightforward, but they’re still an attractive look. One of the most popular is the herringbone pattern, which creates a diagonal design that’s both eye-catching and easy to install. If you’re looking for something a little different, checkerboard or basket weave patterns offer visual interest. You can even work with a contractor to create a custom design unique to your sense of style.
Finally, you can decide on the color and finish of your deck. Normally you wouldn’t have to decide these finishing touches so early, but some decking materials can’t be painted, so it helps to consider paint and stain a little earlier. Some of the most popular colors are light browns, reds and grays. With decks made from pressure-treated wood or cedar, you can choose to highlight its natural color or paint/stain it something more eclectic. Vinyl and composite decking aren’t always compatible with outdoor stain, so you’ll need to consider the color more carefully because it can’t be changed.
Keep in mind that darker colors will absorb more heat, so the position of the deck is exposed to sun, it might be best to stick with lighter colors. But this also means that to maintain the color, you’ll want to stain and paint your deck more often since lighter shades show dirt and wear more easily. Because the Midwest features large temperature shifts and powerful storms, it’s a good idea to invest in paint and stain that are resistant to fading and damage.
Part 3: Repair vs. Replacement – Getting the Most Out of Your Deck
Over time, even the best-built decks will eventually need some repair and maintenance. No matter what materials or style you choose, think about maintenance and repairs early so you can make the smartest choices about how to get the most from your new deck.
Whether your deck is made of natural wood or composite materials, it’s important to know how to spot signs of wear and tear, and when it’s time for a repair or replacement. Making the right choices here can be the difference between a deck lasting fewer than 10 years to more than 50. So, how do you know when it’s time to repair or replace your deck? Here are some key factors to consider:
Age: Even with regular care, decks will only last so long. The average life span of a natural wood deck is 15 years, while many composite decks can last (maybe 50 or more with maintenance). If your deck is approaching or surpassing this age range, it may be time to start thinking about a replacement.
Condition: Take a close look at your deck’s surface. Are there any cracked, split or rotting boards? Is the railing loose or unstable in any way? Have you noticed creaking or rattling noises? These are signs of damage or wear and tear. Many of these problems can be repaired, but if they’re widespread, it may be more cost-effective to replace the entire deck.
Usage: If you use your deck often for entertaining or other activities, it will show wear and tear earlier than a deck that’s only used occasionally. Years of bearing weight can put more strain on the deck, particularly in the supports of raised or multilevel decks.
How to Make Deck Repairs
The possibility of making repairs to your deck should be considered before you buy. Frequent repairs can quickly add up in time and money. When a deck needs repairs, the first step is to assess the damage. Once you know how severe or widespread it is, you can determine the best way to move forward. For smaller cosmetic damage like scratches or stains, sanding and refinishing may be all that’s needed.
But for more significant damage like cracked or rotted boards, you’ll need to replace the affected boards. This usually involves removing the damaged board completely and cutting a new one to fit in its place. In some cases, you may also need to replace the fasteners holding the board in place. Synthetic materials require special fasteners, which can lengthen the repair process. And if your deck railing is damaged, it’s important to repair it as soon as possible for safety reasons. Loose or bent railing can make using the deck unsafe.
Know When to Replace Your Deck
When the damage to your deck is significant, you may need to replace it entirely. Replacing a deck can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor, but if your deck is in poor condition, it will still likely be your best option. For example, tearing the whole deck down and starting over will likely be faster than trying to gradually repair a rotted, unsafe deck.
The cost of replacing your deck will depend on the size of your deck and the materials you use. Pressure-treated lumber is generally the most affordable option, while composite decking is typically the most expensive. This cost is arguably offset by the fact that with cleaning and good maintenance, composite decks can last a maximum of 50 years or even more.
Part 4 – Frequently Asked Questions
What types of decking supplies do you offer? Spahn & Rose offers pressure-treated wood, cedar, vinyl and composite decking materials. Non-natural wood decking requires a special order, but we work with some of the best vendors and suppliers throughout the Midwest who can deliver beautiful and durable decking.
What types of decks can you build? Our experts can assist with building all types of decks. More complex shapes and styles like a multilevel or two-story deck may require special building methods or experience from someone like an engineer.
What type of deck is most popular? Square and rectangular decks are the most common shape and style. While simple, these decks can still be stunning with the right color and accessories.
What kind of decking is best? This will depend on your priorities. Cedar wood decks offer a nice compromise between the look of natural hardwood and the weather resistance of composite. If low maintenance is your priority, vinyl or other synthetic decking is ideal.
How much does a new deck cost? Common price points can vary based on size, material and accessories. Simpler decks with pressure-treated wood will cost less than multilevel decks built from composite decking. Roughly, you can expect to spend anywhere from $3,000 to more than $20,000 for large, custom decks.
How do you maintain a deck? While specifics can vary between the different decking materials, there are some guidelines for maintenance.
- Keep the deck free of leaves, dirt and other debris with a broom or hose. Too much yard waste can attract pests and make your deck moldy and slippery.
- A pressure washer is a great tool for removing grime and other buildup. This powerful cleaner can etch into natural wood decks, so it’s important to keep the washer at the right distance and pressure.
- Natural wood decks should be stained and sealed every couple of years to maintain peak condition and color. Composite and vinyl decking can often make do with just a cleaning one to three times a year.
What accessories do you offer? Spahn & Rose offers Fortress railing in both iron and aluminum, and we can order other rail options including composite as needed. We also offer LED lighting.
What brand of decking is best? Modern manufacturing has made it difficult to choose any one brand as higher quality than the others, which is great news for your deck project. You can decide based on what looks best. Spahn & Rose decking experts can walk you through the benefits of each brand to help you decide which material is best for your decking project.
Ready to Build the Deck of Your Dreams? Call Spahn & Rose
There’s nothing like the first time you use your new deck to lay in the sun or host a barbecue. This outdoor space has lots to offer, just like Spahn & Rose offers tons of options for every step of the process. Whether you want to compare decking materials or need help finding a contractor, our friendly and experienced staff can help. We’ll help make sure that your new deck is truly built to last.
Why not get started with a free estimate? To contact our staff, call or visit your nearest location. You can also fill out our contact form online.
Spahn & Rose would love to hear from you!
If you are interested in building a home or starting a new project, contact your nearest location and we will guide you in the right direction!