There are several factors that affect the total cost of building a deck, including materials, customized deck shapes or patterns, and extra accessories such as railings, benches and storage. In this post, we will take a closer look at the elements that factor into the building costs of a deck to help you when budgeting for a deck project.

Decking Materials

Above everything else, the materials that you choose for your deck building project affects the overall costs. You would want to look beyond the initial cost, because the longevity of the product is the major factor that delineates high-end and low-end materials.

Here’s a short list of the most common deck building materials:


  • Tropical hardwoodsKayu, Cumaru, Tigerwood and Ipe are the most popular high-end options mainly because of their longevity. These hardwoods can last more than 50 years with proper care, even when used in harsh coastal conditions. The wood, however, is so dense that special tools are required, making them labor-extensive and costly. These woods also require regular and upscale maintenance—not unless you want the wood to weather to a silver gray color—which means that you would need to oil your deck annually. Tropical hardwoods decks can set you back $25 to $30 per square foot.


  • Composite—traditional composite decking uses materials that are made up of a blend of plastic and wood fiber, with a matte or brushed surface. Though it requires regular cleaning to maintain its original look, it costs less than the new capped composite products that require minimal maintenance. Most composite products come with a warranty against fading and defects for at least 25 years. Capped composite and some traditional composite products can cost $20 to $28 per square foot.
  • Pressure-treated Wood—while there is a wide variety of pressure-treated wood quality to choose from, this is an ideal option for homeowners who want to enjoy outdoor living in their own homes while sticking to a budget. Although the longevity is greatly reduced and maintenance is increased, a pressure-treated wood deck can still last more than a decade and costs right about $15 to $18 per square foot.

Railing Systems

There are a few options for railings such as composite, wood, cable rail, aluminum/steel, and tempered glass panels. The most important factor to consider before using any of these systems in your deck project is the building authority codes. Here are some options for your consideration:

  • No railing—of course this is the cheapest option, however, again, you must consider the local codes. Usually, local building authorities require that decks that are 30 inches or more off the ground should have rails for safety.
  • Wood railing—there is a lot of building supply stores that carry pre-cut wooden pickets that you can use to create a railing system that won’t hurt your budget. To maximize the use of your wooden rail, you can add a drinks rail with a flat top so that you or your guests can set drinks down when socializing.


  • Metal—there are pre-manufactured railings, pickets and other elements that are made from steel, iron or aluminum, many of which are available in building supply stores. You can also choose customized finials or panels made out of metal. The costs depend on the type of metal you use and the intricacy of the design, but aluminum railings can cost a bit less than composite.
  • Compositecapped composite railings are the mid-range option for those who have a little bit more room on their budget. They are easy to clean and can last long, requiring minimal maintenance. Composite railings cost approximately $15 to $30 per linear foot, excluding installation costs.
  • Cable railing systems—cable rail is an excellent option for homeowners who want to showcase (and really enjoy) the view surrounding their decks. The metal cables run horizontally and trick the eye when not in focus, so it takes up minimal visual space and allows you to see the view beyond. Excluding installation costs, cable railing systems can run up to $60 per linear foot.
  • Glass railing systems—this is the BEST option for properties with a view, such as seafront homes. Glass rails like the Invisirail is usually paired with Invisposts, making the glass railing system practically invisible. Because the panels are made of tempered glass, the rail system can last a really long time, the view is uninterrupted, and the spaces are minimal so potential risks such as climbing accidents are eliminated. Glass rail systems are highly recommended for deck owners who have small children and pets. In terms of costs, glass railing systems  are similar to cable rail systems.


 Final Thoughts

There are many other factors that affect the costs of building a deck including the deck size, shape, design details and luxury accessories such as spas, fire pits and shade structures. It is best to consult with a deck building professional to know more about the differences and to help you determine just what’s right for your budget.