All decked out

This is a picture of the corner of our massive back deck. In the last couple of months it has decided to spontaneously fall apart. Not only are all the boards popping up, but the support structure underneath seems to be disintegrating. To walk across it is a little like a walking across a trampoline for a small person and for a large person it’s like participating in some kind of Japanese TV show where you may be plunged through the boards to certain injury at any moment.

We had a guy come out to give us a quote for the replacement last week. He hummed and haahed and told us that it isn’t going to be cheap and hummed and haahed some more until we asked for a rough guesstimate to which he replied “well, a job like this can keep changing as we go, but I would say around $15,000.”


Hear the sounds of our jaws dropping, see our skin pale and start to perspire. Watch as we reel and gag.

When it was clear that Big-P and I are going to find it very difficult to spend $15,000 on a replacement deck, the builder started to jump up and down on the worse bits to demonstrate just how dangerous the existing deck is and just how dire a replacement is needed. He was not a small gentleman and I was seriously worried that he was going to go straight through and we would feel obligated to him to not only pay damages but hire him to build something close to a sea-going vessel all around the back of our house.

So he left promising to call us with an official quote. And he hasn’t – I guess we looked like a lost cause. And now? Of course we will get at least two other quotes. Presuming they all end up in the same realm, we are thinking it might be easier to remove the deck and reclaim the garden. This is a a daunting yet inspiring prospect. Actually it’s complete madness I’m sure, but surely cheaper than paying someone to replace the deck, and surely less harrowing than attempting to build a deck ourselves.


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39 Responses

  1. says:

    would you consider one of those composite products– trex is one brand here in the US– they can be cheaper, i’ve heard.
    good luck.

  2. well, if you’re up for a bit of an adventure it’s fairly fun and easy to build a deck on your own. We did one and while my friend had the struture underneath finished he then through a big “finish the deck” party and we all brought hammers, etc and worked on putting the deck on the deck and then drank ourselves silly 🙂

  3. We’ve been renovating on and off for a decade now, and those estimates…they can scare you away from doing anything! In the end hubby built our deck (multi-level, with lights built into the stairs). He enjoys the bragging rights when people comment on the lovely deck. Maybe Big-P has a couple of handy friends and they can work on it with him?

  4. It’s actually pretty easy to build a deck – just follow the steps like a sewing pattern. Maybe check out a few books about deck building before you make up your mind.

  5. Hahaha, that bit of the builderman jumping up and down on the deck made me laugh out loud. your description of the dangerous deck makes a humourous image. reclaiming the garden sounds fun. goodluck with more quotes.

  6. I love the idea of reclaiming the garden, Claire!Actually, I was wondering if you got a building inspection done, and who by? I know Archicentre guarantees any structural repairs for a certain amount of time up to about $10K. If they didn’t spot it and report it, then they have to pay.
    Good luck!From someone who knows the painful cost of getting a deck built:)

  7. Get another quote – $15,000 my a***!!!
    I can recommend someone if you want. Just let me know.

  8. My husband built our deck himself (well, he had alot of help from his Dad) and it cost us $1500! So I don’t see how this builder guy can quote 10x that much!?

  9. says:

    Those deck builders are complete sharks. We wanted a deck and obtained three quotes, each more ludicrous than the last. In the end, we built it ourselves. Me, an overweight hausfrau and my darling husband the programmer and the kids helped (they ran the nails through the bar of soap). Our deck is glorious. It took us a while, about 12 weeks all up. And we are proud. Proud. 🙂
    Good luck!

  10. YIKES! That sounds insanely expensive…
    (wait, is Australian currency valued differently? Must go check…)

    (OK – yes, is different, but still an enormous amount of money for a deck.)

    Good luck with the next estimates!

  11. 15K? Sounds like a big load of malarkey to me. It’s only wood after all. I hope you find a better builder who won’t try to soak you!

  12. says:

    There’s always the Montreal option of pouring concrete and painting it green…

  13. I would suggest getting a quote for repairing the damaged area as well as the whole deck. Also, if they still want your first born in payment, I would suggest trying to rebuild yourself. In fact, places like Lowes, HomeDepot, any building/hardware store, ussually carry kits to do just that. Plans, materials, etc. You provide the labor. It takes longer, but is much cheaper in the long run.
    We are actually in the process of repairing my front porch, so I have a bit of experience. And we’re doing it in cold, so at least you don’t have to worry about that! 😀

  14. I agree it sounds way to pricey but I do know labour and material costs are sky high. Last summer we built a log house. We did lots of the work ourselves but we still came in way over budget. If you have any friends who are at all handy with carpentry tools you might want to try enlisting their help with dinner bribes.

  15. Agreeing with everyone else – 15k for a simple little deck! My partner’s uncle built her family a deck – going up to the second floor of their house – for only a few thousand dollars. This deck doesn’t even seem very high off the ground!
    If your estimates stay very high, though, I think a garden might be nice. Alternately, I’ve heard of people making spaces out of terra cotta tiles… Maybe something to look into?

    Either way, good luck with it!

  16. Decks are overrated anyway. Tear it up and create your own special space. Start collecting interesting pavers and when you’re ready, you can lay out a nice patio in just the right spot. As creative as the two of you are, you’ll come up with something amazing!

  17. Claire,I feel very silly for leaving a comment, since I have dropped by your blog for a number of years and have never introduced myself or written to you, but have selfishly enjoyed your posts and links (and passed them on to friends) (thank you, by the way!). Anyway, there was an article in Sunset magazine awhile ago that might be of some assistance to you:,20633,1201892,00.html I saved it thinking I could possibly handle a home improvement job like that (and I’m not exactly handy), and one that would look so nice with minimum effort. So maybe an idea like that (they have others on their site) might help…

  18. I can promise you that a garden will be a better option. My husband and I had a “mature” home … cough cough … and we re-did the deck which cost an arm and a leg. Several months later a board moved, then a board popped up and on and on it went. Most Saturdays were spent banging nails into the deck. It is all to do with this dry land we live on. As the timber dries out the boards change and the nails pop up.
    I’d build some nice steps down to a lovely garden.

  19. says:

    Hubby is a carpenter and is going to replace our deck when we can afford it. It will be about $5,000 for materials only for a deck 8m * 4m.
    So if yours is bigger than that I can see how it could add up to that once you start charging labour… 🙁

    Sarahs must have been a small deck or got bargain priced timber!! 🙂

  20. says:

    Oh and building it yourself if you are not confident is a huge job. THe reason ours is falling down and needs to be replaced is that the last owners did a pretty dodgy ‘owner build’ job. 🙂

  21. anyone who hems and haws and won’t put it in writing and says it can “keep changing as you go” IS NOT to be trusted.
    I wouldn’t feel downhearted on the opinion of THAT fellow. Get someone reputable who will put it in writing!

    now, i’m in the US, but our deck last year (and it’s pretty big, with 4-5 stairs) cost us around $8k.

    Good luck! Hope the next contractor you have by isn’t a weasel!

  22. says:

    Last month we had a man around to give a quote for airconditioning and upgrading the heating for our not enormous house. HIS quote was $10,000! For a job which he said would take a day!When I think what my husband and I (both university educated)get paid daily – these people make me want to throw up. Needless to say, instead, we had our lovely local electrician install ceiling fans and downlights in the bedrooms,(for less than a tenth of the quote) in the living area we’ll make do with upright portable fans…..

  23. Honestly, a desk isn’t that scary of a project. And it need not be as huge as your current deck… you can have a more modest desk and a larger gardern… it’s win-win!

  24. $15,000 is getting us a fully covered insulated patio that is about 40m sqauare (HUGE)and a carport attached. (I’m in QLD) I think he is trying on e on. Get more then two others and state to them I have quotes already the best one will have the job. That makes them sweat. Especially if you just raise an eyebrow when they give you their ‘guestimate’ and say you need to do better then that.

  25. says:

    Yeah – go the indigenous garden option! Can I come shopping with you??! You could get the ramp or steps down to the beautiful local natives surrounding your house and providing a haven for the pretty bug-eating birds! Then you can get really creative and totally explore your options! Look at this as a positive!!(Can you tell I’m enthusiastic?)

  26. says:

    Aaaahhh!! the old deck dilemma! We moved into an old house that had an old deck But the back of the house is so high off the ground we had to have it fixed. We rang so many tradesmen and most just said they didnt want to do maybe he doesnt want to do it, so by putting the price up he knows you wont call him. My husband decided to do it himself, got as much advice from people in the know and BOUGHT THE RIGHT TOOLS! No mucking around with a hand saw etc. But pavers and a garden could be just as nice if you arent confident to do it yourselves. Good luck!!

  27. It’s the dry winter we’ve just had. Our kitchen floor has suddenly developed huge cracks between the twenty-year-old cork tiles as the moisture in the atmosphere drops.
    You might find it’s a sellers market at the moment for work of this sort in Melbourne.

  28. says:

    I realize this is US$, but a great deal of your cost will be in materials.

    It may not be rocket science, but it is a certain set of skills that not everyone has. If you feel you do, go for it.

  29. It’s this fantabulous drought that is killing your deck. Any moisture that was there has been sucked out by the savage sun.
    You and Big P could probably knock a deck together yourselves. Go to a Bunnings DIY course – they have them free on the weekends.

    It would cost you HEAPS less – just some time 🙂

  30. says:

    Maybe you could get a working bee together with some friends and offer them lunch and/or a case of beer in return?

  31. we had a man come out and quote us an outrageous amount to build 2 patios…one in front and one in back and in reality when I told the 2nd and 3rd man who came to give us a quote they said he probably didnt want the job and overbid it because it wasnt worth his time or he didnt want to do it……just a thought and I would keep looking for someone who could use the money and be grateful for the opportunity to work! We ended up spending Half the original quote and was quite happy with it!

  32. says:

    I don’t know what materials are worth in your neck of the woods but that sounds incredibly high. But I live in Canada. If there’s one thing we have a lot of, it’s trees.
    I have built my own deck myself (3.5m x 8m) and it’s not that hard… you get rid of the old one, properly set your posts, build a frame as a base and then put on your top layer. You’d want to read up on it but unless you have some crazy-pants slope out there, I honestly think it’s well within the realm of lmost anyones ability.

  33. I would suggest getting an apprentice carpenter to do it. They usually work for cash on weekends and don’t charge much for labour, but can still get the materials cheaper than we can. Aparantly builder people can charge what they like in Melbourne at the moment, there is so much work – I know as I’m trying to find someone for my reno and they all charge way too much. I got an apprentice carpenter to build my front fence though, did an ace job and charged half of the cheapest quote I got. Even turned up on time!

  34. says:

    You can get an entire new BATHROOM for $15,000. Or go around the world. Or buy a nice shiny new car! You should be able to get your deck done for under $2K. Look in your local yellow pages – we had tradies come in who were all local and they were all fabulous and not too expensive. Offering to chuck in a slab of beer on completion usually goes down well too. This guy is a whole pod of sharks. Get his card so you can tell everyone you meet NEVER to get any work done by him.

  35. $15k is pretty standard for a deck price unfortunately. Even Archicentre will concede.
    We’re putting off a $8k rewire, despite dangerous electricity that can supposedly kill us at any minute now … yeouwch !

    Good luck !

  36. hi claire, we had our small backyard re-landscaped a few months ago. this guy really worked hard for his money and i think did a great job. let me know if you’re interested and i can give you his number. he lives in donvale.

  37. We had a large part of our deck rebuilt in Mitcham last year and paid about $1000-1500 (my husband had done some of the work but lost energy and enthusiasm). ANyway, I am sure my partner still has the contact details if you want tehm. They weren’t builders, just v.v. clever handypeople recommended by our real estate agent. They were quick too.

  38. Def. sounds like someone is trying to do a scam. No where in heck does it cost 15k for some lumbar and some labor!

  39. We put our deck on last year. We were quoted around the $25 000 mark by three different builders and we were going to have to wait at *least* three months to get them to come do it. We did it ourselves for $6000 with a roof! I’m glad my boy is handy!