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How to Budget for Your Deck Project with a Design-Build Firm

March 15th, 2024 | 5 min read

By Isabelle Braeutigam

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Are you eager to enhance your outdoor living space with a beautiful deck but feeling overwhelmed by the uncertainty of costs? Many homeowners face the challenge of budgeting for a deck build, unsure where to begin or how to ensure their project stays within financial goals.

Without proper planning and budgeting, you risk investing more than intended or compromising on the quality of your deck.

With over 15 years of experience designing and building custom decks, we understand the financial considerations a deck project requires.

In this article, you’ll learn more about how to budget for your deck project with a design-build firm:

  1. Begin Your Budget Journey
  2. Deciding on DIY vs. Professional Labor
  3. Researching Costs
  4. Getting Multiple Quotes
  5. Prioritizing Needs vs. Wants
  6. Planning for Contingencies
  7. Taking a Phased Approach
  8. Negotiating with Contractors
  9. Tracking Expenses

1. Begin Your Budget Journey

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The first step in building your deck is forming a realistic budget. Assess your finances to determine how much you can divide into the project. Consider your income, savings, and other financial obligations to establish a budget aligning with your goals.

Here are a few more ways to begin building your budget:

  1. Review your income, savings, and financial obligations. 
  2. Consider the quality of life boost building a deck will bring you and your family. What investment is appropriate for that?
  3. Talk to a financial advisor and explore strategies for maximizing your project investment.
  4. Account for potential fluctuations in material and labor costs by building a buffer.
  5. Consider home equity lines of credit (HELOCs) or government grants for energy-efficient upgrades.
  6. Research the potential return on investment (ROI) of adding a deck to your home to ensure it aligns with your financial objectives.

2. Deciding on DIY vs. Professional Labor

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Another factor to consider when budgeting for your deck build is whether to tackle any aspects of the project yourself or hire professionals for the entire build. Each approach has pros and cons. While opting for a DIY approach can save on labor costs, choosing a Design-Build firm will remove stress and lower your time investment.

When choosing your approach, be realistic about your skills and the project's complexity. For instance, if you want to install a multi-tiered deck with stairs, unless you’ve built one before, opting for a design-build approach will help ensure your project expectations are met safely.  

3. Researching Costs

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Once you have a budget in mind, it's time to research the actual costs associated with deck building in Michigan. This includes materials, labor, permits, and extra expenses such as landscaping or lighting. Contact local contractors and suppliers for quotes and information on pricing trends.

Explore more ways to research costs below:

  • Look for sustainable materials that may qualify for tax incentives or rebates, reducing costs.
  • Explore alternative materials/design options to find cost-effective solutions that meet your goals.
  • Research local building codes and permit requirements to avoid unexpected compliance expenses.
  • Factor in the cost of maintenance and upkeep for different decking materials to assess the long-term costs of your project.

4. Getting Multiple Quotes

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If you do not know a trustworthy contractor, either through experience or a strong referral, it’s wise to obtain multiple quotes from reputable contractors. What’s included in each quote will likely vary. So, don’t just compare the numbers, consider:

Don't hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification to ensure you understand what each quote includes. A great contractor will educate you, without bias, on the differences between their quote and another company's quote.

Here are a few more ways to gather quotes for your project:

  • Ask about contractor discounts or promotions for bundling services during off-season periods.
  • Request references from past clients and review online reviews to assess the reputation of each contractor.
  • Be wary of lower quotes. This indicates subpar materials or workmanship and could lead to costly repairs or replacements.
  • Ask for a breakdown of costs to understand better how the total estimate is calculated and identify areas where you can save money.
  • Consider hiring a contractor who offers a warranty or guarantee on their workmanship. This will protect your investment in the long run.

5. Prioritizing Needs vs. Wants

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As you review your quotes and build your budget, it's important to focus on your needs versus your wants for the deck. Identify essential non-negotiable features and elements, such as size, layout, and structural integrity. Differentiate these from optional upgrades or amenities you can consider adding later.

Here are more ways to rank your needs vs. wants:

  • Consult a design professional or your Design-Build firm to explore cost-saving strategies for your wish list items.
  • Look for versatile design elements such as built-in seating with hidden storage or multi-level decks.
  • Create a list of must-have features and amenities for your deck and focus on them based on your lifestyle and usage preferences.
  • Consider the functionality and practicality of each desired feature. This will ensure it enhances your enjoyment of the space without unnecessary expenses.

6. Planning for Contingencies

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No matter how well you plan, unexpected expenses can arise during deck-building. Set aside a contingency fund of 10-15% of your total budget to be prepared if a contingency does arise. This buffer will provide peace of mind and prepare you to handle any unforeseen challenges.

Here are a few more ways to plan for contingencies during your deck project:

  • Set aside extra funds for unexpected expenses like repairs, permit revisions, or design changes.
  • Communicate with your contractor about potential risks and challenges to develop contingency plans.
  • Keep a detailed log of all project-related expenses and transactions to track your spending. Then, identify areas where adjustments may be needed.
  • Stay flexible and adaptable throughout the deck build process, remaining prepared to adjust your plans and budget to address unforeseen circumstances and ensure a successful outcome.
  • Research local Michigan weather patterns and seasonal factors that could impact the timeline and budget of your deck build. These delay conditions can include inclement weather or supply chain disruptions. It’s best to plan for your deck in the winter so it can be built in the spring or summer.

7. Taking a Phased Approach

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If your budget is tight, consider breaking the deck build project into phases and completing it over time as finances allow. Start with the essential components of the deck, such as framing and decking, and add optional features or upgrades later on. This phased approach allows you to spread out costs and prioritize critical elements while still achieving your vision for the space.

If you choose a phased approach, ensure your contractor knows your plans! How your structure is built, the materials used, or how accessible your frame is could affect the feasibility of future upgrades.

8. Negotiating with Contractors

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In the construction industry, negotiating is often a common occurrence.

However, when you work with a Design-Build firm, they typically will not negotiate on price. Why? Over the years of being in business, the company has specific processes and certain overhead and profit requirements.

Adjusting your project is the best way to lower your costs with a Design-Build firm. Work with them to understand what could be removed to lower your expenses without removing the essentials you've dreamed of.

9. Tracking Expenses

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Throughout the deck-building process, knowing how to track your expenses is wise. One of the benefits of working with a Design-Build firm is that you typically receive a proposed budget range and a fixed price agreement. In our contracts, we include an estimated schedule for when payments are due (start of construction, etc.).

Once you have your fixed-price agreement, it's easy to keep track of the exact expenses going forward. You will not have to worry about tracking materials, labor, permits, etc. If a change order arises, the contractor will work with you on a solution and price, which is why a contingency fund is helpful!

Next Steps to Building Your New Deck

Planning and budgeting for your deck build is important to ensure the project meets your expectations. Without proper financial preparation and understanding of what it looks like to budget when working with a Design-Build firm, you risk encountering unexpected costs and misunderstanding the process.

By following the steps outlined in this guide and implementing practical budgeting strategies, you can confidently navigate the budgeting process for your deck build. 

At Custom Built, with over 15+ years of deck-building experience, we understand the importance of budgeting for your deck project. 

Ready to start planning your deck build? Contact our team today to schedule a consultation and explore your options. 

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Now that you know more about how to budget for your deck build with a Design-Build firm, let’s explore how Custom Built will approach your project, how much your new structure will cost, and how long it’ll take to build:

Isabelle Braeutigam

Isabelle has worked at Custom Built for over 7 years, learning the systems from all sides. She has become an industry advisor in the customer relations software HubSpot, has a keen talent for elements of design, and currently leads the marketing team under the innovative TAYA system.