Materials, Costs, and other Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much should I expect to spend on a deck?
Deck prices can vary greatly depending on a number of factors. Size, materials used, features, shape, and even the terrain you are building on will impact the price. Here are some general guidelines for your budget:
• If you are building with Pressure Treated Pine, you should figure $13.00-20.00 per square foot.
• If you are building with Cedar, you should figure $18.00-27.00 per square foot.
• If you are building with Composite materials or Ipe, you should figure $30.00-40.00 per square foot.
I have been hearing a lot about composite materials. What are they, and should I use them to build my deck?
Every decking product that is man-made tends to be called composite, but there are actually three main types or man-made materials: Wood-plastic composites, cellular PVC, and PVC coated composites. The first generation of products was the true wood plastic composite materials, or WPC. WPCs perform better than wood products because they don’t split splinter, or crack, and they don’t need to be sealed or stained. They do have a few issues though. They will fade significantly in the first several months of exposure to UV light. This is because the wood fibers do not hold their color well. The wood fibers can also be stained by foreign substances too. So if you drop a barbecue chicken wing on your composite decking it can stain. The biggest issue is the tendency of WPCs to mold. They mold because they hold moisture in the wood fibers. WPC manufacturers recommend cleaning your WPC deck twice a year with bleach mixture or some other mold-killing solution to prevent the growth of mold.
The second generation of man-made decking was the cellular PVC products. Since they do not contain wood fibers, they perform much better than WPCs. They hold their color much better, they are stain resistant, and most importantly they are mold resistant. The only issue with cellular PVC is that it is not as strong as wood or WPCs. While the manufacturers say they can span 16” like wood and WPCs do, and the building codes allow them to span 16”, I think they are too soft for 16” spans. We always frame our decks at 12” centers when we are using cellular PVC products.
The latest decking product is what I refer to as a hybrid product. It is a WPC with a PVC outer shell. It performs just like the cellular PVC board, but it has the strength of a WPC.
Personally, I would not use a WPC on my own deck. The cellular PVC and the hybrid decking products both perform very well, and I am completely comfortable recommending them. These products typically have warranties that range from 25 years to a lifetime warranty. Just as important, these products look great, and they come in some very nice colors and textures.
I have an existing deck. Can I just have the flooring and railing replaced, or should the whole deck be torn out?
The answer is…it depends. If you have a well built deck that appears to be straight and level, often the frame can remain with just a few minor adjustments. For example, additional anchors are usually required where the deck attaches to the home. This is a common problem among existing decks. If, however, the floor joists are 24” apart or the deck shows evidence of settling, it is frequently cost effective to remove the entire frame and start over. This is especially true if you are using a composite material that is expected to last for more than 25 years.
Composite materials are significantly more expensive than wood. What am I really getting for my money?
First of all, you will never again need to stain or seal your deck. That alone is significant, especially for today’s busy homeowners. Additionally, these products just look great. They are scratch resistant, slip resistant, and they come in colors to complement your home’s exterior. Also, concerns about splinters are a thing of the past with composite materials. This is especially important around pools and children. With most wood, your deck will continue to look worse and worse every year. With composite materials, they stay looking great year after year, and all you need to do is clean them periodically.
Everyone I talk to has a different brand of composite material to recommend. How can I figure out which one is best for me?
Most people, including contractors, have no idea just how many choices there are on the market today. You really need to see the products side by side, in a big enough area to really get a feel for how they will look on your home. I would recommend a visit our retail store, The Deck Store — www.indydeckstore.com. The Deck Store is located at 4322 W 96th Street, near Michigan Road. There are 20 different colors and brands of decking on display. There are wood, plastic, PVC, composite and PVC coated materials on display. It really makes the selection process more informative when you can compare all of your choices side by side. We will take the time to teach you about the different products, so you will know much more about deck materials when you leave.
Decks increase the resale value of your home. How much they increase your home’s value depends on the materials you use. Composite decks give you a much higher rate of return than a wood deck because of the perceived value of a care free deck versus a deck that requires a lot of maintenance. Homes that have nice outdoor scenery benefit the most from a high quality deck because a deck will emphasize your beautiful yard, which will be one of the main selling points of your home.
Can I build my own deck?
Today’s decks are not as simple as decks used to be, and many of us do not have the time it requires to build a deck. But, if you have some free time and love a good challenge, then roll up your sleeves and get started! You can buy deck materials directly from our retail store, The Deck Store.
I am attracted to the low maintenance features of the composite products, but I really wanted to use real wood. Is there a wood that does not require so much maintenance?
There is a wood called Ipe (pronounced ee-pay) that is far different from most regular woods. It is an exotic hardwood that grows throughout South America. Our source buys from managed forests, primarily from Brazil. This is an extremely dense wood that has a 40+ year life expectancy (the highest rating possible), as rated by the U.S. Forest Service. It is so dense that it does not even float. It is 4 times harder than White Oak, so it wears unbelievably well. It does not crack near as much as Pressure Treated Pine and it weathers to a beautiful silver, similar to Teak. It is more difficult to work with than any other decking material, so it costs more than building with a composite material. If you have an appreciation for the warmth of wood, Ipe can be a great choice.
Many people don’t know where to start the design process. I have been designing decks for 16 years, and I can help. Start by considering how you might use the deck. Will you have large parties or small gatherings? What views are important from inside your house? How should the deck and yard flow together? What will be the focal point while you are on the deck? Do you like railings, or do you prefer an open deck? Once we develop a feel for what you want, we will show you a 3D picture of your future deck. It is a great way to visualize your deck, and it really makes people comfortable with the deck design process.
I have seen Decks of Distinction referred to as a “composite decking expert”. What makes you an expert on composite decking?
Decks of Distinction is one of the leading composite decking installers in the Indianapolis area. Nationally, about 12% of all decks built are built using composite materials. In 2010 about 82% of our decks will be built using alternative materials (composites, plastics, granite decking). We have been certified by Trex as a Trex Pro Gold installer, and by Timbertech as a Timbertech Premier Contractor. These are the two largest composite manufacturers in America, and each designation is the highest level of distinction each company has for installers.
What kind of warranty do you offer on your decks?
We offer a five year written warranty on the framework of our decks, plus we offer a one year warranty on all of our workmanship. Additionally, we pass along the manufacturer’s warranty on the decking and railing products we use. These, when applicable, range from 20 year to as long as lifetime warranties.
I founded Decks of Distinction in 1991. Today we have 2-3 installation crews all year around, and we build 50-60 decks per year.