The time has finally come for us to replace our rotting wood deck. After evaluating all the options and materials, we’ve decided to go with TREX composite decking. In this post we’ll take a look at the plans we considered as well as the final plan.
Handan just can’t stop yapping about getting a new big brown deck. Seriously, she’s been yammering about it all summer. Well, the time is here. She’s about to get her big brown deck. Maybe once she’s out there sitting on it, she can stop her incessant blathering, and I can stop correcting her English. You know she’s a Turk, and you know she mispronounces words from time to time. “Deck” is one of the words she mispronounces. There’s just something about the way she says it. It’s not quite right. It’s actually rather embarrassing, especially when she starts telling friends, family and strangers about her plans to have a big brown deck. Can you imagine? I mean, really, what will people think? What will they say?
You’re probably saying it in your head right now, right? Maybe you’re laughing, maybe you’re shocked. But you’re definitely thinking about Handan and her big brown duck.
What? you weren’t thinking that?? Good lord, madam.
The months of planning, designing, saving, borrowing, haggling and hiring are over. The contract is signed and the materials are sitting on our lawn. It’s time to build. Let’s take a look at how we got here and what we plan to do.
When we toured this house back in the summer of 2013, we thought the deck was the cat’s meow and the bee’s knees. It had a fresh coat of paint (yes paint, what the hell did we know?), and it overlooked the pool. It was pretty much perfect to our inexperienced eyes.
It remained perfect for a while. The paint stayed put, and the colors were true. Gray was gray and white was white.
Then came winter, and winter brought salt, and salt brought terror to the deck paint. (Paint!) Small peels of gray stuck to the dogs’ paws and to my boots. The same ghastly drama was playing out in the garage and in the basement. All the fresh coats of paint applied when the house went on the market (the lipstick on the pig, if you will…) were peeling, and the peels were being deposited all over the house. You can imagine Handan’s joy at seeing this.
Over the next few years, the state of the deck degraded further and further. It is made of pressure-treated pine, and without the protective layer of paint, the elements started to have their way. Pieces began to rot. The railings started to wobble. Mold turned the white step risers to a lovely tie-dye green.
And the worst part is that my dearest and lovely Handan stopped going out there this year. The deck became an abandoned, unloved thing, only suitable to hold planter boxes and flower pots.
Sure, I still put the table and chairs there, but we only sat a few times to scarf down hot dogs while taking a break from landscaping.
As the summer wore on, the deck became a repository for random crap that never made it into the landscape beds or back into the shed.
The dogs still liked it, though. Then again, they lick each others’ butts, so I’m not sure their opinions carry much weight.
Yep, our once-proud relaxatorium had become a peeling, festering eyesore.
Besides my mom and dad, we had no guests this summer.
Handan had been wanting a new deck for the last two summers, but we didn’t have the money for it. We saved and saved to be able to afford it, and this spring she declared it was time. My babes was going to have her new deck.
We explored our options, both in terms of material (pressure-treated wood or composite) and how we would get it built (a big box store like Lowe’s, a dedicated deck pro or a seasoned handyman). Handan also tested every free deck design software out there. I also dabbled with most of them. I found them all lacking, but Handan was able to get results that I could not, and she became proficient with the deck designer on the decks.com website.
Her first design was ambitious, to say the very least. I’ve outlined the original deck in red in the picture below.
We decided to give Lowe’s a call to see what they would charge to build this monster. Figuring that any composite would be out of our reach, we asked for a quote for pressure-treated.
They returned to us with an eye-popping $23,000. The light went out of Handan’s eyes. She thought her dream was lost for another year. We were figuring on a number in the $14,000-$15,000 range.
She went back to the drawing board and tried a smaller plan.
But Lowe’s couldn’t come up with a price we were comfortable with. We needed a new plan entirely.
There was a time when Handan gave up and declared that it couldn’t happen this year, but then her old fire returned, and she insisted that we would have it this summer. If we could buy the materials ourselves and get someone to build it, we should be able to have a new deck for under $20,000. By buying the materials ourselves from Home Depot, we could take advantage of their periodic no-interest promotions and spread the payments out over two years. This would also allow us to buy composite decking instead of pressure-treated.
We examined the pros and cons of pressure-treated and composite and decided that if we could afford either, the choice was clear: composite had more advantages for us over pressure-treated wood.
- Composite decking should last longer than pressure-treated (though nothing lasts forever, and anyway, if we’re still kicking around here in 20 years, I’m sure we’ll want another new deck).
- Composite decking is easier to care for than pressure-treated – it only needs to be scrubbed with soap and water, whereas pressure-treated needs to be re-sealed every year or two (depending on your climate) and periodically re-stained.
- A pressure-treated deck cannot be stained and sealed right away. The boards must dry first – a process that usually takes months. Around here, that means a whole season, which basically means a year. (Update – summer 2018: pressure-treated pine can be stained right away. The proof is right here.)
- It is easier to have a two-tone or multi-tone deck with composite than it is to do so by staining a pressure-treated deck with different shades of stain.
- Though the composite look isn’t perfectly natural, it is close enough for us.
Once we had settled on composite, we had to pick a brand. There are more composite/PVC deck board manufacturers than I care to list in this post. They vary greatly in price, though they are all considerably more expensive than pressure-treated pine. We looked at Timbertech, AZEK, Veranda, Fiberon and Trex, but there are many many more. It’s pointless for me to list the pros and cons of each. That information is plastered all over the internet. In the end, it’s a personal decision between price and quality. The company that suited our needs best was Trex. We settled on their Transcend line of products.
Handan returned to her deck design program and hammered out the final design.
Whereas her two previous designs ate into the patio space quite a bit, her new design preserved that space, and even expanded it between the two staircases. We discovered this summer that we also enjoy sitting on the patio, so keeping that space was important.
In order to get a handle on how much we would have to pay for labor, I called a whole slew of deck specialists and handymen in the area for quotes. Angie’s List is great place to start if you’re looking for companies or handymen in your area. You may have heard of Angie’s List, but maybe you never used it because they charged a membership fee. Those days are over. It’s free now for a basic membership, and that’s all you should ever need.
Some insisted that only they could provide the materials (so they could mark them up). I asked for a quote anyway, just for kicks.
Every quote I received, save for two, was obscene. One guy wanted $42,000 to build the deck! I noted that he wore high-end clothing brands and drove a shiny new $60,000 pickup. Business must be good.
In the end, we went with a local handyman who gave the lowest price for labor and allowed us to buy our own materials.
The next challenge we faced was picking a color for the deck. We didn’t want another gray deck, so we looked at some of the darker brown options. We settled on a two-tone deck. The perimeter and a line down the middle will be framed with Vintage Lantern, and the main deck will be Spiced Rum. The benches and stairs will be made from Spiced Rum and trimmed with white AZEK.
We signed a contract, and I plopped a wad of cash in the contractor’s hand (50% of the total). We were committed.
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