DIY the deck of your dreams
If you’re confident with a drill and know the hardware store like the back of your hand, it’s possible that you have the skills necessary to build your own pool deck or patio, which can save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars—the labor costs to build a pool deck typically run between $1,000 and $12,000. Read on for tips to design and build the perfect pool deck before the next heat wave rolls around.
1. Plan Your Deck
Think about any lighting, landscaping, or other details you want to incorporate into your pool deck plan. Most likely, you’ll have to do that type of work—or at least plan for it—before you start building your pool deck. For instance, you may wish to install an irrigation system for your plants, and you’ll likely need to place that before the decking.
2. Choose Your Material Wisely
Your pool deck needs to be safe for bare feet—choose building materials that offer excellent slip-resistance and can withstand excess sun and heat, so no one’s heels get scorched after doing some laps. In addition, some materials are more DIY-friendly than others. Here are popular deck materials and their pros and cons:
Concrete: Durable and moisture-resistant, concrete is a common choice. It’s affordable ($2 to $3 per square foot) but should only be installed by yourself if you’re trying to complete a small area—larger areas will be difficult without the help of a licensed deck contractor as concrete dries very fast, so if you don’t know what you’re doing, you may end up having to break it out and start from scratch. Make sure to have the concrete finished with a brushed surface so it won’t be slippery to swimmers.
Cement Pavers: Pavers can be bought in a variety of sizes and shapes, and are a good alternative to concrete, with an attractive price of $2 to $4 per square foot. Pavers are generally easy to install on your own, so long as you place them over sand or gravel so they don’t sink and create an uneven surface.
Brick: Brick is a DIY-friendly material from which you can build your pool deck, as it is laid the same way as cement pavers: over an even layer of sand or gravel. Brick costs $.50 to $5 per brick. Note that darker bricks will absorb more heat and might be too hot for bare skin.
Wood: To install a wood deck, choose an outdoor-friendly wood that offers superior moisture resistance, such as redwood, teak, or cedar. The price varies by type of wood you wish to use, but expect to pay between $3.50 to $5 per square foot. Wood comes in many shades, and can be painted or stained to further customize its look, but will require some stripping, sanding, and sealing every few years.
Composite: This material is a blend of wood and plastic, offering the look of wood without the maintenance and with some added durability. The cost ranges from $4 to $6 per square foot. The materials are considered easy to maintain, but they will only last as long as the pressure-treated foundation; any rot in the verticals or joists must be repaired. Unlike wood, you won’t have to worry about splinters, but like brick, darker composite can get very hot to the touch and would be uncomfortable on bare feet.
3. Consider a Pre-Made Deck Plan
If the thought of building a deck from scratch is making you dizzy and you want a head start, there are pre-made deck plans for sale (starting at $1,000) which come with construction plans, lumber, hardware, footings, and decking materials.
4. Consult a Building Inspector
Once you have decided on your material and overall plan, talk to a building inspector to understand any local codes that will affect your construction, including guidelines for building stairs, guards, and handrails. The inspector should also be able to tell you whether you need a building permit.
5. Factor in Surface Coatings
You can forgo a surface coating, but this material—a blend of polymer resins, sand, and cement—will create a non-slip surface on your decking that has higher moisture resistance and protects the area from UV rays. Surface coatings can also revive existing decks that simply need a little TLC. They come in clear and opaque colors for excellent customization, and go on by spraying or rolling onto the deck. The materials cost between $1.50 to $2 per square foot, with installation running an additional $2 to $4 per square foot.
6. Don’t Ignore the Slope
With concrete, brick, and paver decking, you need to factor in a slight slope in your design so dirty water and debris can drain away from your pool instead of washing back into it. The slope should be one-quarter inch per foot distance from the pool. You might also consider building and installing a channel drain, which will allow water to move away from your pool and home via a trench.