Choose your material.
• Pressure-treated wood. Pressure-treated wood is the most affordable of your three choices of materials for your deck. Pressure-treated wood is long lasting and can be stained whatever color you want. Pressure-treated wood does need maintenance to keep up the look and durability. But there is a disclaimer that comes with pressure-treated wood: depending on the quality of the pressure-treated wood, it can warp.
• Cedar. Cedar is the middle of the road it terms of price, but it does have some advantages over pressure-treated wood. Cedar is soft, rot-resistant, and does not absorb water. Like pressure-treated wood, a cedar deck does require maintenance; the wood needs to be resealed continually throughout the life of your deck. Because of the softness of cedar, you are also more likely to get scratches and cuts in the wood in high traffic areas.
• Composite decking. Composite decking is the most expensive of the decking materials, primarily because it is maintenance-free. Composite decking comes in a variety of colors and does not rot or get water-damaged because it is not wood.
Decide how much deck (and cover) you need.
Once you’ve decided what kind of decking material you need, now it’s time to determine the square footage of your deck. Do you want a deck big enough for a couple of rocking chairs or lounge chairs? Do you need a deck with a grilling and eating area? Do you need stairs that can lead to your lawn? Use chalk or wood to map out your dream deck so you can see how big (or small) of a deck you need. Remember the sky is the limit, but it’s easier to make changes now instead of during construction.
Ask for advice.
Your contractor is a source for three valuable pieces of information for your decking project: a quote, information, and advice. Your contractor can let you know whether you need a building permit for your decking project. If you live in a neighborhood with a homeowner’s association, you may also need to contact your HOA to find out if they have any restrictions or guidelines you need to abide by. Once you’ve gathered all the information you need, ask your contractor to give you ideas based on decks they’ve done in the past—ideas that you can use to get your dream deck.