Many things go into a great deck but decking by default is the one eye-catching, feet touching material you will interact with the most. Decks are quickly defined and grouped by their decking material. Is it wood? Is it composite decking? Setting our expectations on design, look and maintenance. And to the point of this article, cost. The material and design selected for decking determine the cost of both the decking itself and the deck overall.
Decking material costs can range from $2 a square foot for 5/4” Treated wood to $17 for Azek PVC Vintage Collection. With decking installation costs ranging from $2 for face screwing’s up to $7 with concealed fasteners. Picture framing decking an additional 20% in cost, with diagonal decking adding another 20% in costs.
For some of us, decking costs will determine our selection. The all mighty dollar limiting or empowering your decking selection. You want the best possible decking that “your money can buy.” The best possible decking in your price range.
I always find it annoying when I walk into a store. This often happens in electronics stores. Where the salesperson comes up, and their first questions is, how much are you looking to spend? No, I am here to get the best, fill in the blank for me. But it is a valid question. There is no point bringing me over to and showing me the top of the line, just released, most amazing product ever, if I only have a hundred bucks to spend. No, my budget helps determine how to help me best.
The same is with decking.
You can spend hours on Pinterest, looking through books, magazines, wandering around home shows, but what the decking and deck will cost will determine what to finish your deck with. Either that wow, I didn’t know low maintenance decking was so affordable, its definitely a feature I can pay for. Or I can build a deck twice the size of just by running the decking parallel with the house.
Decking cost does not determine the deck’s value for you and your family. As how you use your deck will determine that. But the decking material cost will determine how much you pay for your outdoor living space. For your bridge between your houses controlled environment and the wilds of your yard. That’s being rough on nature and your yard, but a deck does bring you outdoors while still providing a floor to walk on and some controlling elements of nature.
Here we go. First, let’s compare the cost of the decking material itself. Giving us a sense of decking costs without complicating the issue. Then let’s complicate the issue a little by adding some additional items and cost that will enhance the decking. I will try to keep it simple with a singular decking size to communicate the idea, but it can be applied to any deck or design.
Decking Material Costs
Keeping this even more simple, we will only compare a few common softwood decking materials alongside Timber Tech composite and PVC decking costs. With synthetic decking, there are so many options available. With such an incredible range of decking prices. You could write a whole book just about synthetic decking costs but for here, we will stick with a brand I have installed the most. Trex is the number one supplier of synthetic decking and one of the oldest but for me, Timber Tech is my wheelhouse.
|Decking Material||Decking Material Cost, Lineal Foot||Decking Material Cost, Square Foot|
|5/4 Treated Decking||$0.91-$1.10||$2-2.40|
|5/4 Cedar Decking||$1.50-$1.80||$3.27-4.00|
|0.937 Terrain Collection||$2.99- $4.45||$6.55-$9.75|
|0.937 Legacy Collection||$5.49-$6.70||$12-$14.50|
|Azek PVC Natural Collection||$4.69-$5.70||$10.22-$12.25|
|Azek PVC Harvest Collection||$5.49-$6.70||$12-$14.50|
|Azek PVC Arbor Collection||$5.99-$7.20||$13.05-15.75|
|Azek PVC Vintage Collection||$6.29-7.70||$13.71-$16.50|
No surprise here. 5/4” treated decking is our starting price point with 100% virgin synthetic PVC decking being the most expensive. There are several reasons for this.
First the raw decking material costs
The U.S. has over 766 000 000 acres of forest, and over 42% of Canada, the second-largest country in the world, is covered by forest. Much of that forest of Canada is spruce, pine or Popular. Two out of three of the most common decking woods. With so many trees available, it comes at no surprise that it is the most affordable.
Cedar increases a little in cost with treated decking in that it’s more limited in range. Along with the whole debate about old-growth forest. Where pine can be harvested every 25-40 years, cedar takes much longer. Coupled with the desire not to harvest vast tracks of 100-year-old cedar forests for lumber. Many mills turn to cedar farms for trees but of course, they are more expensive and one of the appeals of cedar decking is its natural rot resistance which is only really found in old-growth trees. But for not quite twice as much as treated decking, you can have the natural beauty of cedar decking.
Composite versus PVC decking Costs.
There are many elements to discuss when comparing Composite or PVC decking, but let’s just focus on the raw material costs. One of the major pushes when composite decking first came out was its environmental aspect of using recycled material. Composite decking being manufactured from milk bottle, used plastic and sawdust. We have come a long way from then with composite decking being about its own features as decking, but the fact still remains.
Composite decking is cheaper than PVC because of the readily available of its raw material and the second use nature of it. Composite is wisely made from material “waste” of manufacturing other products. In where PVC is a firsthand product. PVC is not made from reused materials, but polymer produced solely for decking. Being first in line has some added benefits but also increased costs.
Which brings us to our second point about decking costs.
Amount of Material Impacting Decking Costs
Only buy what you need. Decking has gone through many transformations attempting to meet price points. I am old enough to say when I first started building decks. The default decking material was treated 2×6. A decking not even on our list. 2×6 decking has been replaced by 5/4” decking, reducing the amount of material and cost. Switching from 1 ½” (38mm) decking to 5/4” (32mm) saving over 30% in decking cost and in my opinion, actually improving the look of your deck with the rounded edges. A double win, reduced costs, improved appearance.
Reducing Composite Material, Reducing Decking Costs.
Most composite decking has gone the next step, reducing depth down to just under 1” (25mm). Reducing the amount of material by 25% and also the price of composite decking. Bringing it closer in price to wood decking. With properly spaced joists, this reduction of material has little impact on the deck strength.
Timber Tech has gone one step further with Terrain collection. Reducing the material another 25% by scalloping the bottom of the decking. Not impacting the surface appearance of the decking but allowing you to have composite decking at almost half the price. Simply by removing some material from the underside of the decking.
Of course, there are other things impacting decking cost, but reducing the amount of material in Terrain collection has open the door for many deck owners. Leading us to the next element impacting decking cost.
Decking Composition Impacting Costs.
When comparing decking, the number one conversation is around aesthetics. Few things affect the look of your deck as the look of the decking. But few things impact the cost of decking as the finish material. True also with cedar decking with staining selection but much more with the finish material of synthetic decking.
The big leap forward in synthetic decking is capping. Capping has both improve the durability of the decking and its appearance. Timber Tech caps most of there decking on all four sides. Capping is entirely a synthetic material with no chance of moisture damage, both protecting the core material and appearance of the decking.
The quality of this wrap greatly impacting the decking costs. The more texture and “wood-like” colour and appearance the higher the costs. Isn’t it ironic, we pay more for decking to look like wood while not using wood decking which costs less? Yes, I know there are other things at play. But the look and feel of the cap will be a determining factoring in your enjoyment of your decking and its cost. Higher costing decking will have texture lines, and more imitating of wood decking cap.
As an aside, but impacting of decking quality and cost, is the adhesion of the wrap. I keep calling it wrap but for the capped to last it needs to be extruded with the decking in the manufacturing process. Not a thin layer of plastic stuck to the composite core as an afterthought but fused with the core, becoming one. Higher priced decking will often have a better fusion process. Hard to tell before purchasing but when cut the cap should remain with the core. With no frayed edges or peeling. It may be capping but it needs to be one with the decking.
Warranty of Decking to Consider with Decking Costs
Not a clear-cut line between cost and warranty. That the more you pay, the longer it will be guaranteed to last. None the less something to be considered. The longer the warranty the higher level of confidence that it will last.
With treated and cedar decking, it is very limited. Cedar being a natural product and treated wood largely coming down to maintenance. With regularly cleaning and stained as required, it will last for years. If not, well, the average wood deck lasts ten to fifteen years. The onus is on you. The warranty is as long as you properly take care of it.
Comparing composite to PVC decking, there is a difference in warranty. Yes, taking care of your decking is still require and should not be neglected. But with Terrain and Legacy collections, they come with 30 years. Azek increases the warranty to 50 years. A substantial difference in time.
I have replaced earlier versions of uncapped composite decking. So, you may outlive your decking. That the difference between 30 and 50 years will make a difference. But to me, it’s a safety factor. If testing shows longer, then you will have fewer intermediate problems with the decking, but that will come at a cost. Only higher costing decking comes with a 50-year warranty.
Decking Construction Costs
Now moving from things that affect decking planks cost to decking construction. Several designs and construction products affect decking costs. Starting with a quick comparison of decking material average cost per square foot installed, including the decking. With a few comparisons of decking design for a deck 16’ wide and 12’ deep. As the decking layout will greatly affect labour and material cost. One may improve the aesthetic appearance of the deck but also increase decking waste.
|Decking Material||Average Installed Decking Costs||16’x12’ Horizontal Decking||16’x12’ Picture & Horizontal Decking||16’x12’ Picture & Diagonal Decking|
|5/4 Treated Decking||$3.50-$4.50||$460-$864||$540-$1080||$648-1300|
|5/4 Cedar Decking||$5.50-$6.25||$1056-$1200||$1320-$1500||$1584-$1800|
|0.937 Terrain Collection||$12.50-$15.50||$2400-$2976||$3000-$3720||$3600-$4464|
|0.937 Legacy Collection||$17.75-$20.25||$3408-$3888||$4260-$4860||$5112-$5832|
|Azek PVC Natural Collection||$16.00-$18.00||$3072-$3456||$3840-$4320||$4608-$5184|
|Azek PVC Harvest Collection||$17.75-$20.25||$3408-$3888||$4260-$4860||$5112-$5832|
|Azek PVC Arbor Collection||$18.80-21.50||$3610-$4128||$4512-$5160||$5415-$6192|
|Azek PVC Vintage Collection||$19.25-$22.25||$3696-$4272||$4620-$5340||$5544-$6408|
Decking Labour Costs
The decking will often determine the method to fasten down the decking, but it does affect the decking cost. In short, the more steps it takes, the more time, the more it will cost. Three common fastening methods I use are.
- Face Screwing $1.50 a sq’
- Edge Screwing $2.00 a sq’
- Conceal Fastener $3.50 a sq’
As you can see, the cost spread is great. Face screw is the easiest, and fastest. Edge screwing takes more time but has some added advantages both in appearance of the decking and durability. Concealed fasteners take the most time but simply is the best way to fasten synthetic decking.
Face Screwing, only $1.50 a sq’.
Great for wood decking. One of the most popular, as it is the simplest and fastest way to attach decking. The only faster way is nails. Please don’t get me started why you should never nail down decking. If you must know click here, where I go into fuller details while not to nail down decking.
Face screwing is the most cost-effective method of fastening decking. Screw down the starter decking board. Layout all the decking behind it, tighten up with a wedge and screw them down. Either with an impact driver on your knees or upright with a quick drive extension. Like this one on Amazon. Yes, upright is fast and easier on the knees but your call.
Face screwing synthetic decking is not recommended. The decking movement does not respond well to face screwing. Plus, and this is important with the high-level finishing on the cap is destroyed with face screws. Face screwing is great for treated decking, but with synthetic decking, concealed fasteners look and work much better. The one exception is edge decking which will need to be face screwed and plugged to maintain its appearance.
Edge Screwing, $2’00 a sq’
Combining the advantages of concealed fastener with the convenience of face screwing. Still driven from above with a Camo guide and screws but placing the screws on the edge of the decking. Which is better for the decking and improves its appearance. The guide also has a built-in gapper for consistent gapping of deck boards. But the cost is it takes longer than face screwing, thus costing more money.
But of all the ways to fasten down wood decking, this is my favourite. I love the advantage of the clean look of the decking without screw heads. Also, the decking is held down better with the angle screws, hidden on the edge of the decking free from collecting water. If you like, here is a link to Amazon Camo guide. There are several gapping sizes so make sure you order the one best suited for your decking.
I go much more in-depth on wood deck fasteners and the selection process. If you want to know more not just the answer. Click on this link. Were I go into much more detail and discuss wood fastener options.
Concealed Fasteners, $3.50 a sq’
I think all fasteners for synthetic decking should be hidden. So much work and money has gone into making the decking beautiful. I hate to mark it all up with screw heads. That being said. Even with grooved edge decking, it will take more time to install. The process is lengthier but is worth it. A moment on your knees and lifetime of decking enjoyment.
The challenge and time are setting all the clips correctly. Both providing a consistent gap and holding down the lip of the groove down correctly. They are well designed but you need to stay on your toes, while on your knees that everything is done correctly. As each individual clip needs to be screwed along with tapping the decking correctly into the fasten clip. More costly but worth it in appearance.
Decking direction Increasing Decking Costs
Another factor in decking costs is the decking direction. There are an infinite amount of decking patterns but let’s discuss three to understand complexity affecting decking costs. Each level of complexity adds intrigue to the decking appearance. But with every level of complexity increasing, the cost of labour and decking material also increases.
Horizontal Decking Layout
The most basic of design but serving millions of people over the years. Did you know there are over thirty million decks in the U.S. alone? Yes, decking is popular, and many have horizontal decking running either parallel or perpendicular with the house. A great choice for simplicity and the most effective use of material with minimal waste. Designing the deck to match the decking size of even lengths between 8’ and 16’ will have almost no waste and maximum size deck.
Picture Framing Decking Layout
Often required for composite decking with its unsightly end cuts but will enhance the appearance of any deck. Installing decking on the edge of the deck perpendicular to the main decking covering the ends and adding definition to the deck. Or simply, picture frame the deck.
Sounding simple enough but a 16’ wide deck picture framed will increase material and labour costs by around 25%. Maintaining the deck width at 16’ requires all the deck boards to be trimmed roughly a 1’ for the picture frame decking. Then replacing the off-cut material with a new decking board running perpendicular. Adding to material and labour cost.
But if you simply cut the decking without adjusting the framing is going to cause some problems. Adding the additional joist and blocking to support the decking will increase the joist framing material roughly another 25%. Going from 13 joist, to needing 17. Two additional joists plus two more for directional blocks to support the border decking. Slightly more in cost but a better-looking deck.
Picture Framing with Diagonal Decking
Taking the decking to the next level. Run the decking at a 45° angle to the joist, while picture framing the decking. One more eye-catching feature of your deck. As an added bonus, decking running diagonal increases the deck stability. All this increasing decking cost roughly 50% over horizontal decking.
Diagonal decking can be used with a wide deck removing butt joints. You are limited how deep the deck can be with 20’ (6m) composite decking works for a deck less than 14’ (4.2m). But 16’ (4.8m) decking boards can only span a deck less than 11’ (3.3m) deep. As the decking can run at an angle the entire distance from the house to the picture frame. Unfortunately cutting all the decking boards with an angle will increase material waste between 10-20%.
Along with increasing decking waste, the framing will need to be adjusted for the angle decking. All the decking we discuss can only span 16” (400mm) on centre joist. Running at a 45° angle increases the span by 1.414. Meaning joist spacing at 12” (300mm) actually is a little over 16” (400mm) decking span. Changing joist spacing from 16” (400mm) to 12” (300mm) will increase framing material cost by roughly 25% again.
Misc. Decking Items that Increase Decking Costs
Decking with a long-life expectancy deserves joist that will last as long. One of the most effective ways to protect joists is joist membrane. Providing a cap protecting the top of the joist from water damage and the underside of the decking. While also sealing around the screw’s holes preventing water from penetrating into the joist below the treated coating. Brand and retailers affect the price but 4″X75′ JOIST GUARD add $0.10 per sqft to extend the joist life. Here is a link to Amazon if you wish to compare brands and prices.
Hidden fasteners are great for composite decking and are worth the cost with improved appearance and function of synthetic decking, but it comes at a cost. Hidden Fasteners Add $2.15 a square foot to decking costs. Compared to face screwing, which only costs roughly $0.15 a square foot. A significant increase but you are buying a longer-lasting, more expensive decking. Compromising on fasteners will devalue the entire deck. Spend the extra money and do it right. A little heads up, most decking has a propriety hidden fastener designed for the specific decking. Buy the correct brand and fastener for your decking.
I hope that this has helped, helping you determine what decking will fit your budget. There are many options and things to consider beyond costs. If you would like to read some more about composite decking StarCraft has a good article evaluating different composite decking brands. Here is the link if you wish to read.