Sourcing And Buying Materials To Build A Deck

Our deck project kind of got back-burnered amidst all of the party/dollhouse/bedroom stuff, but we have made one decision in that time: much like both of our parents chose for our houses growing up, we’re going the pressure-treated wood route.

But making that call was no easy decision. We actually weighed a bunch of options, got a few quotes from a few different sources, and endured the all important “sleep on it” step. Then we second-guessed ourselves a few times because the right choice isn’t very obvious. Haha. There are so many ways to go, so it really is one of those it’s-different-for-everyone things. In the end it just came down to personal factors about look, price, effort, keeping in line with our neighborhood, etc – so we can definitely see why people come to different conclusions (and also develop some pretty strong opinions, if the message boards I’ve been reading are any indication).

So we thought we’d run through our thought process for anyone else facing a similar decision. For us it quickly came down to two materials: pressure-treated wood vs. composite. We eliminated cedar (wasn’t our favorite color/look), exotic woods (for their cost) and vinyl (looked too unnatural) early on, so I think that helped us focus. But we went back and forth between PT wood and composite options more than a few times.

Composite seemed like the obvious choice at first. Lots of friends had “heard it was really nice” and several of you even commented about liking it. We actually even put an offer on a house partially because of its awesome composite deck back when we were house hunting. The pros we kept hearing about were: low-maintenance (it doesn’t need to be resealed or stained) and that it looks good (some might say “upscale”). We personally have mixed feelings about the look and feel of it – sometimes it looks really great to us, but sometimes it also looks really plastic-y to us. It can also fade in the sun, which we hear can be frustrating. But the thing that put the specialty decking screw in the composite coffin was the cost. Various estimates that we got put it between $2,000 and $3,000 more than wood for the same sized deck built exactly the same way! Yup, it more than doubled the total cost of pressure-treated wood – and that was the lower-end composite stuff vs. premium pressure treated wood.

So it goes without saying that cost was a big factor in picking pressure-treated wood. We’re still working out final estimates, but using premium pressure treated wood (which is less prone to warping than the basic stuff) is likely to cost us around $1,000. We got estimates from Home Depot and a smaller specialty lumber place about a half-hour away called 84 Lumber, and 84 Lumber came in around $400 cheaper for the same amount of pressure treated wood so we’re happily going with them (like HD, they also came in 3K more for composite). It’s pine wood harvested down south, and is all treated to be safe for human contact, so we’re not worried about scary things like arsenic which used to be used in pressure treated wood years ago.

So 1K seems like a much more digestible figure for our “little deck project” over 3-4K. We realize that some of what we save now will be spent on future maintenance (it’s recommended that wood be sealed every 1 to 2 years) but that was a trade we were willing to make since we’re DIYers through and through – so we’re no strangers to sealing something. Plus, wood is a material that we’re comfortable with – both building and maintaining, so in some way it felt easier to have some staining or sealing projects in our future than the unknown of composite (what if we picked a color that looks “in” now but looks dated down the road? what if we eventually convert a window in our bedroom into a door out to the deck and damage a few boards of the composite stuff which might be harder to repair/replace/match than regular old wood? what if we over-improve our house for the area?).

The thing that ultimately secured the victory for wood was it’s look. Not only do we like the more natural appearance of it, but we also think it’s better suited for the character of our house and our neighborhood. Somehow sticking a swanky composite deck on our little brick ranch felt like wearing Prada loafers with my Sprite t-shirt. If we were in a newer construction home or a neighborhood where people were making these types of upgrades all around us, we definitely would rethink our choice, but we’re surrounding by homes with wood fences, decks, and porches – there’s nary a composite deck to be seen.

We both grew up with wood decks and remember our parents sealing them every few years (sometimes with our help) and also talked to close friends of ours (who bought a home with a giant wood deck a few years back) and they’ve said they really love it. Even right after spending a weekend resealing it they said they were really happy with it (it was at least 15 years old and hadn’t been sealed or maintained in years before they moved in, but afterwards it looked like new).

Once we get our plans finalized and our permit secured (next week if all goes well!) we’ll be good to place an order for all that lumber and finally get this ball rolling. Of course we’ll share all of the delivery/building details as we go. Oh and when it comes to the actual wood slat pattern, we’re debating something cool like mitering the corners of all the border pieces so it looks like it’s framed out (sort of like how the right edge of this deck looks). We’re also thinking about placing the boards in a modern way, like this shot that we took at the Virginia Museum Of Fine Art:

See how there are these really cool zipper-looking seams?

We’ll share more on the actual design plans as we go (permit permitting, haha). Oh, and if you’re looking for more details about decking materials – here are some of the resources I relied on (in addition to talking to my local Home Depot and lumber yard): The Family Handyman, This Old House, TreeHugger and Better Homes & Garden (<— warning: the lady in this video is very chipper). Anyone else building a wood deck, fence, or porch these days? Or sealing something they’ve had for a while?


  1. says

    I can’t believe how expensive the Composite was – yikes! Staining the wood should be nice because you can sort of customize it and keep things looking fresh.

    PS – I love the shot of the VA Museum of Fine Art. Definitely try to lay the deck that way (it looks so cool!)!

  2. Elaine says

    After many rained out days off, the hubby finally got our deck sealed. It looks beautiful!

    We considered composite when we built 6 yrs ago but the cost pushed us away. We did opt for vinyl railings to save some maintenance aggravation in that department.

    • says

      This is a really good idea ^^ My husband was a professional painter and he says that railings fail significantly faster than decking. After watching him come out to reseal/repaint dozens of customers railings each year vs the multiple years between for the decks I have to agree with this train of thought!

    • mp says

      Elaine, that’s exactly my experience. I had a wheelchair ramp built for my husband in 2008, and at that time Trex wasn’t making railings. So what I got was a Trex ramp and pressure-treated railings. They started warping after about a year, despite treating. Trex now makes railing, so when I have some home improvement pennies I’m going to replace them and top the new railing with the copper end caps/solar lights.

  3. Lynn says

    I thought pressure treated wood was considered a big no-no these days, especially with kids around. It leaches arsenic, doesn’t it?

  4. says

    We love our wood deck. When we moved into the Little House, it hadn’t been treated in years. We’re waiting to work on it until we start our big backyard project (after we tear down some unwanted “structures” in our backyard and build a gravel patio), so I can’t wait to see your finished product!

  5. says

    Oh I feel your pain. The house we just bought has a 900 square foot deck (insane, right? You can see it here if you’re interested: and it’s in okay condition. We’ll have to replace a few boards, pressure wash it, and stain it down the road, but wood is good if you take care of it. We briefly talked about upgrading to Brazilian Walnut down the line, but at $5 a square foot, it’s not in the budget. And composite can fade severely in the sun, so that’s not an option. I’m excited to see your deck and how everything goes!

  6. Hannah Deutsch says

    My parents have a wood deck, and my dad refinishes it every other year or so. It’s always fun to go with him to the store to pick out a new stain. Some times he goes lighter, other times darker, and I think they even tried a gray-ish shade before. Such an easy change since you know it’ll only last a few years before it has to be done again, so you’re not stuck permanently hating it forever.

    Also, their deck is in a cheveron pattern, with all the boards meeting up at like a 45* angle. Just something different from the straight-across that most decks have.

  7. Rachel says

    Yay!! We just bought our first house and inherited a great (pressure-treated) wood deck. It has never been stained or sealed so that’s definitely a project we plan to tackle fairly soon. Can’t wait to see the how-to from you guys!

  8. Kim says

    I agree about the plastic-y look of composite. Maybe it depends on how you use it, or maybe there are different grades of composite? We wanted to like it, we really did, but the cost kept us from choosing that as well as the look. Wood is renewable, so it’s all good, I think. I figure we go greener lots of other ways, so it’s ok.

    • says

      Yes, everything we read said that wood and composite were similarly eco since wood is renewable and composite doesn’t break down in landfills (although it is made of recycled material), so there are pros and cons to both. They did say that wood harvested here (ex: the wood we’d get is from here in the south) is more eco than carting over exotics just because it’s a lot of fuel to get them here. Hope it helps!


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