Author Topic: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!  (Read 3591 times)

Mgmny

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Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« on: April 10, 2019, 01:15:04 PM »
Hello!

We are putting a new deck on our house and need to use either cedar or composite due to HOA restrictions. I've reached out to 3 different contractors, and they all are charging around $100/sqft for a composite deck ($20,000 for a 200 sqft deck at 11' high with railing and stairs). How can this be?!

Lowe's sells a composite product for like $5/sqft. How can the railings, stairs, substructure, and labor cost an additional $95? Does anyone have any hacks or way around this? It seems crazy.

I would totally DIY but i'm worried about setting the footing and post level and flashing the ledger board so it doesn't leak into the house... Does anyone have any thoughts?

nereo

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2019, 06:06:27 PM »
well.... they charge that because thats' what the market can pay.  FWIW, the "railings, stairs, substructure" you cited make up the lion's share of the materials here, and an 11' deck needs considerably more than if it were, say, 5' off the back porch.

Labor, though, is the considerable part here.  From digging footers, pouring concrete and then building the deck it's a 3-4 day job for a 2 or 3 man team provided there's nothing really tricky (like a steep dropoff or underlying granite.

That said, builiding decks is among the easier projects if you are the least bit handy.  Check your local regulations on how deep you need to set your footers. You'll probably need a permit and inspection due to its height, but that's not a big obstacle.  Having built exactly two decks myself I'd spitball that you're talking about $3-4k in materials for a deck that size. My local HD even would draw up basic plans for square decks with a complete cut list in exchange for buying all the materials through them.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #2 on: April 11, 2019, 09:17:45 AM »
I may be able to add some insight.  I DIY built a composite 12'x16' deck about 2 years ago (about the same size as what you're proposing).  The actual decking was about $3-4/sqft, but the total project cost was about $3000.  It's a multitude of other things (besides labor) that drive up the cost.  It's not just railings, it's the spindles, the railing posts, the post sleeves, the support posts, the beams, the joists, the joist hangers, the rental of the auger to dig the holes, the sonotubes, the concrete, the anchor brackets, the hurricane ties, the post caps, the concrete for the pad at the bottom of the stairs, the cladding, the plastic we have to put down under the deck, the gravel to put under the deck, the permit, and all the hundreds of nails and thousands of screws (and don't forget driver bits for the screws!).  And a ton of labor.  On top of that, you can't forget the contractors' non-labor costs as well--the trucks, the time spent ordering and picking up the materials, payroll taxes, time spent putting together quotes, etc.

It wasn't a complex job, but it took a bunch of time, as I was soloing it.  The nice thing about DIY is that I was able to make sure it was perfectly flat, and that the posts are all perfectly plumb and rock solid.  I spent a bit extra to put my joists 12" on center instead of 16", and to put in extra blocking to make sure the deck stays nice and steady.

Mgmny

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #3 on: April 11, 2019, 11:37:29 AM »
Thanks for the help, both of you!

I think i'm going to see if I can just contract out the substructure and ledger board, and do the decking, railing, and stairs myself. We'll see if that is likely/possible.

One contractor literally said that his wooden decks start at 25/sqft and his composite starts at $85, and he quoted us at like $95, so WORST case scenario i just have them give me a wood deck, and i rip it all apart and put my own composite on top.... Seems like a waste, but the upcharge for composite is highway robbery.

DangleStash

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #4 on: April 16, 2019, 01:47:49 PM »
Thanks for the help, both of you!

I think i'm going to see if I can just contract out the substructure and ledger board, and do the decking, railing, and stairs myself. We'll see if that is likely/possible.

One contractor literally said that his wooden decks start at 25/sqft and his composite starts at $85, and he quoted us at like $95, so WORST case scenario i just have them give me a wood deck, and i rip it all apart and put my own composite on top.... Seems like a waste, but the upcharge for composite is highway robbery.

Things like the railings / other various parts are much more expensive in composite land than out of wood, so those will also all factor into the higher quotation.  The effective cost of just the decking (easiest part, just did 2 small decks this weekend) is pretty straightforward. 

bognish

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #5 on: April 24, 2019, 10:39:58 PM »
Before you put in a composite deck go and look at some that are a few years old. Mine is 7 years old and it is slowly dissolving. The color is fading and the dark brown railing now has white plastic flecks showing through. The main boards that had the nice wood pattern is all crumbling off. Any of the vertical board like the facing or the railing posts have water marks down the sides.

The upside of the deck crumbling is that you cant see the 7 years of spills and scratches on the surface anymore. With a wood deck if you scratch the board you can sand it out or flip the board. Not on composite with hidden fasteners. And even if I could flip or replace a damaged board the old ones are so faded and I can't stain them to match a new board. If you spill some wine on the deck or your grill drips you can stain the top of the deck or power wash it. Not on a composite deck. And the splinters suck. After the first year or two the top surface must have started to come apart. If you walk on the deck barefoot you get tiny plastic splinters in your feet. Can't sand it down like on a wood deck.


If you can't tell I hate my Trex deck and am just waiting for it to crumble a little bit more before I tear the whole thing down and go with wood.

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2019, 10:57:46 PM »
The good news is that the structure and foundation should still be good, so you'll only be replacing the railings and decking, right?

Mgmny

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2019, 08:05:32 AM »
Before you put in a composite deck go and look at some that are a few years old. Mine is 7 years old and it is slowly dissolving. The color is fading and the dark brown railing now has white plastic flecks showing through. The main boards that had the nice wood pattern is all crumbling off. Any of the vertical board like the facing or the railing posts have water marks down the sides.

The upside of the deck crumbling is that you cant see the 7 years of spills and scratches on the surface anymore. With a wood deck if you scratch the board you can sand it out or flip the board. Not on composite with hidden fasteners. And even if I could flip or replace a damaged board the old ones are so faded and I can't stain them to match a new board. If you spill some wine on the deck or your grill drips you can stain the top of the deck or power wash it. Not on a composite deck. And the splinters suck. After the first year or two the top surface must have started to come apart. If you walk on the deck barefoot you get tiny plastic splinters in your feet. Can't sand it down like on a wood deck.


If you can't tell I hate my Trex deck and am just waiting for it to crumble a little bit more before I tear the whole thing down and go with wood.

Interesting...

So, I can tell you hate it, which is fine, but do you think the 7 years saved you from absurd maintenance? I hear that cedar decks require yearly or every 2 year staining and sanding. You got 7 years with 0 maintenance. Sure it sounds like you will need to replace soon, but you didn't need to stain and sand your entire deck, and drip stain all over your otherwise white siding....

Thoughts?

soccerluvof4

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2019, 04:45:01 AM »
I still don't think composite decking is worth a hill of beans especially with railings and all if its gonna get a bunch of sun. Yea there is maintenance with a wood deck but for the up cost of composite which just fades, cracks, sags, shrinks and expands is just not worth it. And they still all do it. If in the shade not so bad.

lthenderson

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #9 on: April 30, 2019, 07:59:14 AM »
I hear that cedar decks require yearly or every 2 year staining and sanding.

For my wood deck, I stain it once every five years and I never have sanded it. That is all the maintenance I do to it. New stains have come a long ways in durability.

Mgmny

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #10 on: April 30, 2019, 09:32:50 AM »
I hear that cedar decks require yearly or every 2 year staining and sanding.

For my wood deck, I stain it once every five years and I never have sanded it. That is all the maintenance I do to it. New stains have come a long ways in durability.

Is your wood green-treated or a natural hardwood? Supposedly that matters?

Thanks!

nereo

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #11 on: April 30, 2019, 09:47:00 AM »
how much direct sunlight a deck gets seems to have an enormous impact on both the longevity of various decking materials, as well as the what maintenence is required.

Had a composite deck in a previous home that was perpetually in the shade (and in a rainy climate) and composite materials did far better than wood.  If you did have a wood deck you needed to pressure wash and stain it every few years.  OTOH decks in direct sunlight and in more southern latitudes seem less suitable to composite materials due to UV degredation over time.

Is that other's experiences as well?

Mgmny

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #12 on: April 30, 2019, 11:02:34 AM »
how much direct sunlight a deck gets seems to have an enormous impact on both the longevity of various decking materials, as well as the what maintenence is required.

Had a composite deck in a previous home that was perpetually in the shade (and in a rainy climate) and composite materials did far better than wood.  If you did have a wood deck you needed to pressure wash and stain it every few years.  OTOH decks in direct sunlight and in more southern latitudes seem less suitable to composite materials due to UV degredation over time.

Is that other's experiences as well?

Interesting...This Deck will be south-southeastern facing with no tree coverage, so pretty much full day sun except for the late afternoon. I am in MN, so not southern latitude, but are we saying that wood would (wood-would, lol) be better because of all the UV exposure?

lthenderson

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #13 on: May 01, 2019, 07:20:35 AM »
I hear that cedar decks require yearly or every 2 year staining and sanding.

For my wood deck, I stain it once every five years and I never have sanded it. That is all the maintenance I do to it. New stains have come a long ways in durability.

Is your wood green-treated or a natural hardwood? Supposedly that matters?

Thanks!

It is original to the house (when I bought it anyway) so I can't say for sure but I'm guessing it started off as pressure treated wood. It is hard to distinguish between pressure treated wood and unpreserved wood after it had aged a long time unless one can see the markings on the ends which I can't. Sometimes you might see the color difference if you cross cut a piece but even that fades away with time. Regardless, you can very easily stain pressure treated wood but for best results, I let them weather at least a minimum of six months to a year before doing so. They often have a lot of moisture still in them and all that has to get out before you apply the stain or you end up with blistering.

Mgmny

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #14 on: May 01, 2019, 11:13:50 AM »
I hear that cedar decks require yearly or every 2 year staining and sanding.

For my wood deck, I stain it once every five years and I never have sanded it. That is all the maintenance I do to it. New stains have come a long ways in durability.

Is your wood green-treated or a natural hardwood? Supposedly that matters?

Thanks!

It is original to the house (when I bought it anyway) so I can't say for sure but I'm guessing it started off as pressure treated wood. It is hard to distinguish between pressure treated wood and unpreserved wood after it had aged a long time unless one can see the markings on the ends which I can't. Sometimes you might see the color difference if you cross cut a piece but even that fades away with time. Regardless, you can very easily stain pressure treated wood but for best results, I let them weather at least a minimum of six months to a year before doing so. They often have a lot of moisture still in them and all that has to get out before you apply the stain or you end up with blistering.

The reason i was asking is because i'm forbidden from using pressure treated lumber, so i wasn't sure how cedar would hold up as well as or better (or worse) than your (potentially) PT wood.

lthenderson

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #15 on: May 02, 2019, 06:42:54 AM »
The reason i was asking is because i'm forbidden from using pressure treated lumber, so i wasn't sure how cedar would hold up as well as or better (or worse) than your (potentially) PT wood.

Cedar though rot resistant, will not hold up as well as pressure treated by itself. But with protective stains, it can hold up just as long as PT woods. I would just be a little more diligent in monitoring the condition of the stain and probably reapplying more often. The thing I really like about cedar over PT is that it is a lot more stable and doesn't twist, cup and check as bad as pressure treated decks do.

Fishindude

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #16 on: May 03, 2019, 02:47:13 PM »
Just rebuilt out decks at the lake house.   We went with cedar which was about midway in price between composite and standard treated.
It also looks one heck of a lot nicer in my opinion.   With proper care there is no reason why it can't last 50 years or more.

BSL18

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #17 on: May 03, 2019, 04:39:07 PM »
I hear that cedar decks require yearly or every 2 year staining and sanding.

For my wood deck, I stain it once every five years and I never have sanded it. That is all the maintenance I do to it. New stains have come a long ways in durability.

Is your wood green-treated or a natural hardwood? Supposedly that matters?

Thanks!

It is original to the house (when I bought it anyway) so I can't say for sure but I'm guessing it started off as pressure treated wood. It is hard to distinguish between pressure treated wood and unpreserved wood after it had aged a long time unless one can see the markings on the ends which I can't. Sometimes you might see the color difference if you cross cut a piece but even that fades away with time. Regardless, you can very easily stain pressure treated wood but for best results, I let them weather at least a minimum of six months to a year before doing so. They often have a lot of moisture still in them and all that has to get out before you apply the stain or you end up with blistering.

The reason i was asking is because i'm forbidden from using pressure treated lumber, so i wasn't sure how cedar would hold up as well as or better (or worse) than your (potentially) PT wood.

Building a deck here as well, 12' high. Went with cedar, it actually looks a lot better that PT cause the treatment color won't change over the years as there's none... Found a local sawmill and got the cedar at the big store's PT price, so it helped.

If you want to go the contractor structure, DIY composite decking route, don't forget that one reason composite decks are more expensive is because you often need 12'' OC joist instead of 16. So check the requirement for the actual decking that you will use (diagonal layouts require more joist too).

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #18 on: May 03, 2019, 06:45:29 PM »
For what it's worth, the composite decking I used required 16" OC if laid perpendicular, and 12" OC if diagonal. I went with 12" OC *and* perpendicular :)

BSL18

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #19 on: May 04, 2019, 07:15:46 AM »
For what it's worth, the composite decking I used required 16" OC if laid perpendicular, and 12" OC if diagonal. I went with 12" OC *and* perpendicular :)

Same thinking here, 12'' OC, no way I'm spending a big bag of cash and am left with a bouncy deck!

zolotiyeruki

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #20 on: May 04, 2019, 09:51:16 AM »
For what it's worth, the composite decking I used required 16" OC if laid perpendicular, and 12" OC if diagonal. I went with 12" OC *and* perpendicular :)

Same thinking here, 12'' OC, no way I'm spending a big bag of cash and am left with a bouncy deck!
Yeah, the incremental cost was negligible, and the deck is super solid as a result.

vand

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #21 on: December 06, 2021, 04:21:38 AM »
I'm just finishing laying in composite decking onto the deck/steps that I've built.

Absolute cheapest you can get the stuff here is about 50sqm (~$70sqm), but more realistically you are probably looking at 60sqm, then you throw in a couple of packs of the mounting kits and delivery cost, and you are not far off 100sqm as an all in cost.

It's a very expensive option compared to just going with traditional wood decking boards, which can be done at about 1/3rd the cost.

It's nice to have, but I think it's hard to justify the cost above traditional patio tiles or wooden decking.

HipGnosis

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #22 on: December 06, 2021, 06:26:43 AM »
My GF asked me to help her power-wash and re-stain her deck....
It's to far gone for that to be practical.
I'm (probably) going to rebuild the deck with treated wood and put on composite resurfacer as soon as it's feasible.

sonofsven

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #23 on: December 07, 2021, 09:38:28 AM »
I hear that cedar decks require yearly or every 2 year staining and sanding.

For my wood deck, I stain it once every five years and I never have sanded it. That is all the maintenance I do to it. New stains have come a long ways in durability.

Is your wood green-treated or a natural hardwood? Supposedly that matters?

Thanks!

It is original to the house (when I bought it anyway) so I can't say for sure but I'm guessing it started off as pressure treated wood. It is hard to distinguish between pressure treated wood and unpreserved wood after it had aged a long time unless one can see the markings on the ends which I can't. Sometimes you might see the color difference if you cross cut a piece but even that fades away with time. Regardless, you can very easily stain pressure treated wood but for best results, I let them weather at least a minimum of six months to a year before doing so. They often have a lot of moisture still in them and all that has to get out before you apply the stain or you end up with blistering.

The reason i was asking is because i'm forbidden from using pressure treated lumber, so i wasn't sure how cedar would hold up as well as or better (or worse) than your (potentially) PT wood.

PT lumber is generally used for the framing of a deck, not the surface. Cedar will hold up extremely well but will still need ongoing maintenance.
I always spec cedar or hardwood decking on my projects, but I have an ulterior motive: I burn the scraps.

boarder42

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Re: Composite deck $100 / sq ft?!
« Reply #24 on: December 07, 2021, 09:43:38 AM »
i paid about 6k for someone to build my substructure for 2 decks 15 ft high one was 25x16 and the other 14x16 with steps to the ground.  I sourced all materials myself.  Then my dad and i did the trex and the rail.