Dream Decks : 7 Things Homeowners Should Consider Before Contacting a Remodeling Contractor

For those lucky to have them, decks can be many things to a homeowner: an oasis, a retreat, that perfect at home vacation spot, the hang out spot, or all the above and more. Like many parts of your home, there comes a time where a homeowner ponders on how to create or re-invigorate that perfect little patio. Whether it be for comfort or to add value to your home, these are the 7 things every homeowner should consider before contacting a remodeling company about their deck.

#1 – Budget

Building a new deck or re-vitalizing your current deck is by no means an inexpensive process. Many homeowners suffer sticker shock when presented with a quote from a qualified remodeling company for their vision. This is a combination of two main factors:

  • Both material prices (especially lumber) and labor costs for deck installation have skyrocketed over the past 2 years (4 times in 2021 alone)
  • Public perception of deck costs have not risen in accordance to actual deck prices.

Having a strong sense of your budget prior to talking to a remodeling company regarding a deck will make your conversations with contractors significantly  more productive and time efficient, as well as cushion the blow of sticker shock.

#2 – Set Backs and Local Ordinances

A homeowner may have big deck dreams, but one of the most influential things on any planning of decks, especially new deck or decks expansions, are your local municipality’s set back ordinances.

A “set back” is a minimum distance that a structure or a building must be removed or “set back” from things such as

  • Streets
  • Roads
  • Rivers/Streams
  • Shores
  • Flood plains
  • Other houses / structures

Set backs exist and are enforced by municipalities to ensure visibility, safety, emergency access, and convenience. Before calling a remodeling company about your deck vision, check with your local municipality (whoever you pay your property taxes to) about their set back ordinances. Knowing your setbacks will have a major impact on your deck planning and on what a contractor can legally do for you.

#3 – Square Footage / Shape / Size / Access

Deck Drawing

Having a firm vision of what you would like your deck to look like is a huge help to many remodeling companies when the first meet with you to discuss your deck dreams. Many of the DIY sites out there suggest sketching it out, with reference points related to your home and/or yard. Your sketch doesn’t have to be exact, but measurements can be extremely helpful. Drawing out what you are looking for can save a lot of your time as well as a contractor’s time by knowing how you’re envisioning this endeavor.


A homeowner can also use pictures of decks they like to help solidify their vision for a contractor. A key factor in using inspiration from other decks that you see online is why you like them as well.


If you have an existing deck, are you just sprucing it up, changing its shape, or expanding? Knowing the answer to that question is crucial when dealing with a remodeling company regarding decks. Each different answer to that question brings on its own set of decisions to be made and work to be done (for example, bringing your substructure up to code). Having a clear and precise idea on the size of your new deck allows a remodeling company to give you a more accurate and precise estimate.

Access Points

One key question that you should ask yourself before you fill out that online form for an estimate is “How am I getting on and off this deck?” Will there be stairs involved? Do you need a new patio doorway made to get on and off? These are crucial concepts, and every homeowner will want to figure out their “flow” off and on the deck before contacting a contractor.

#4 – Substructure / Ledger Board

The substructure of the deck is the framework underneath that’s responsible for safety and support. Traditionally, a deck’s substructure is made of pressure treated lumber. This also means that it’s vulnerable to the elements and rot. During any deck remodeling process, a contractor will want to ensure that your substructure is safe, sound, and up to code.

Decisions about the substructure are crucial for deciding on your deck, regardless of your vision.

  • If you’re building a new one, the substructure will be the “footprint” that you deck makes based on your design
  • If you’re adding on to an existing deck, a new substructure will need to be constructed for the addition and merged into the current existing deck. This may add to the estimate a remodeling company gives you.
  • If you’re re-invigorating or refurbishing a current deck, you should prepare yourself for your substructure possibly needing repairs or replacement to bring it up to code before decking can be applied. This too can definitely add to your contractor costs. Obviously, having to remove and then rebuild the substructure is more labor and materials, and therefore costs more.

Homeowners should also be mindful of their ledger board. A ledger board is a lumber beam, placed horizontally, and attached to an existing wall use to tie in the deck. Your current ledger board might need to be replace or have additional work done to protect it from the elements.

#5 – Material and Color

Traditional, there are 3 types of decking available through your remodeling company. In order of cost from lowest to highest, they are

  • Pressure Treated Lumber
  • Cedar
  • Composite

Each of these materials have their pros and cons.

In addition to what type of material you select, you have your choice of colors as well. In terms of pressure treated lumber decks, contractors might do painting and staining of your deck project; others might either subcontract it or recommend someone for you to work with. Either way, the sky is the limit for color.

When it comes to composite decking color choices, many of the composite manufactures have a awesome array of color choices. However, definitely have a backup choice as availability of specific colors from manufacturers fluctuates quite often. Also, lead times for these materials have been quite long over the past year or so.

At the end of the day, a remodeling company can only suggest colors. The final decision is yours to make, so the more you decide in advance, the better.

#6 – Stairs/Railing

As we mentioned earlier, access points to your deck are a crucial factor to keep in mind. With that being said, there are several options regarding stairs and railings for a homeowner to be mindful of prior to contacting a remodeling company.

Traditionally, stairs are usually constructed with the same materials as the deck (substructure and decking). However, there are many options in terms of railing. They fall into the same categories as the decking, but you can mix and match (for example, having a pressure treated lumber deck with a composite railing).

There is also the option of wrapping lumber or cedar railings with PVC or aluminum, to add class and color to your deck.

Also like before, there may be some code ordinances from your local municipality that determine how much railing you need and how spaced out it is allowed to be.

#7 – Yard Obstacles and Challenges

Any homeowner considering deck remodeling should consider the local terrain and how that might affect the execution of their vision.

Some landscaping may be required to make your dream deck vision a reality.

Calling your local municipality or the diggers hotline to understand where any underground wiring or cabling is located might influence how your contractor completes your job.

Laying out a new or expanded deck footprint might require some landscaping prior to the deck work being done to allow up to code deck footing while building the substructure.

Homeowners should also keep in mind that any deck work will require space to do just that…work. This might mean having some landscaping removed, or additional landscaping put in after the work is completed.

We here at Sunset Ridge Exteriors are dedicated to not only helping transform your home into your dream home, but making sure that every customer goes through the process with a peace of mind.

If you’re interested in learning more about decks for your home, feel free to contact us at www.trysunset.com or 608.838.2500