How to Start a Deck-Building Business: A Complete Guide

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated September 24, 2021
A carpenter installing a new wooden deck
archigram/E+ via Getty Images

If you’re ready to start a deck-building company, there are a few essentials you’re going to need first

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Nothing beats a good deck: it's the perfect place to set up a grill or enjoy a glass of lemonade on a sunny day. If you’re thinking of becoming the person who delivers that happiness to homeowners, you’ve come to the right place.

 It’s lucrative to build decks and patios. According to surveys of real Angi professionals, the average new deck installation costs $7,631, or about $30 to $60 per square foot. Larger decks that use premium materials will fetch much more than that. 

While your results will vary depending on how successful your business is, there's lots of money to be made in this market. In fact, one recent report predicted that U.S. demand for decking would rise to $7.1 billion by 2023.

If you've been thinking about starting your own deck-building business, this guide will break it all down, from paperwork and permits to licenses and supplies.

Do I Need to Start My Own Deck Building Business?

First, determine whether you have the proper experience or financial support to launch a deck-building company.

 If you think you lack the skills or knowledge, apply for a job at a local deck and patio business and learn the trade. Or find a mentor who owns a deck-building business who can provide advice and help you plan out financial backing, like small business loans.

If you’re ready to start your own deck business, here are the steps you must take to get all of your ducks in a row and draw up a business plan.

Get the Paperwork in Order

Like any construction project, building a deck requires paperwork, paperwork, and more paperwork. Here’s everything you should have in place before starting your business.

Permits

Anytime you do remodeling work on a home, you'll need a construction permit. Exactly what type of permit a deck-builder will need depends on the rules and regulations of the state and region where you live.

For example, cities often have zoning laws that place restrictions on the size of the deck. In New York City, a deck may only extend 8 feet beyond the face of a building. In California, deck-builders will need a building permit for any deck that's at least 30 inches off the ground.

 It may surprise some homeowners to find out they need a permit for a deck, since it seems like a simple structure. But your local jurisdiction must approve the project, and it must meet specifications laid out in the International Residential Code.

 Check with government agencies on their permit filing process, as it will differ depending on your location. Expect to file a permitting fee, which generally ranges from $225 to $500 for a deck, based on surveys of real Angi professionals.

If you’ve spoken to local government agencies but are unsure if you’re doing everything right, reach out to a local lawyer specializing in construction for guidance.

Contractor’s License

Before you can even get a permit, you’ll need to get the proper licensing. Contact your local contractor licensing department to determine what steps you must take to become a licensed contractor.

To get licensed, you'll probably need to be bonded and insured. An insurance company or specialty surety bond company will offer this coverage. The cost varies widely, but you can generally calculate this as a percentage of the coverage sum. It may cost as much as 1 percent of that amount.

You must provide a financial statement to the company, and pay a monthly premium, which again, varies widely depending on the size of your company, the work you do, and the materials you use.

Business Filing

Create a limited liability company (LLC) or a corporation to protect you from being held personally liable if a customer sues you for breach of contract or a failure in the deck that causes injury.

Contact your state to file for an LLC or corporation. Generally, you can do it through the website, and the filing fee is usually negligible. For example, in Virginia, it costs $100 to file the Certificate of Formation.

You must pay taxes as a business, so register for an employer identification number (EIN) for free through the IRS website.

Once you have filed your LLC or corporation paperwork, open a business bank account so you can make and receive payments. Contact a banker to help you through the process.

Invest in Supplies

How much you'll pay for lumber for each job depends on the type of deck you're building, what materials you want to use, how big it is, and so on. 

But you’ll need to prepare for the following costs as well:

  • A work vehicle capable of transporting supplies and equipment

  • Warehousing space to store supplies and equipment

  • Construction equipment

  • Tools

  • Labor

  • Business insurance

  • Contractor's license

Keep Overhead Low

Making a profit is about more than revenue—it’s also about keeping your expenses in check. Sometimes, figuring out a way to cut costs will make you more money than finding a new customer. 

Here are a few ways to keep your overhead low:

  • Use affordable materials. Rather than only using the most premium wood available, consider offering less-expensive materials like pressure-treated pine wood, which has a long lifespan if cared for. It'll require more work to maintain, but the upfront cost will be lower. You might even offer a regular maintenance plan as an upsell to your customers. 

  • Go with a straightforward design. It might be tempting to wow your customers with expensive multilevel designs, but it might not give them much value in return. Aim for a simple, high-quality deck job that will keep you on time and budget. 

  • Have all your paperwork in order. Not having the proper licenses and permits adds unnecessary delays and, therefore, cost overruns for your project. By ensuring you've done your homework and have the correct paperwork in place, you'll avoid these common expenses. 

  • Do it yourself. Consider doing the planning and hammering yourself rather than hiring subcontractor help. While this won’t work down the road as you seek to grow your business, early on when money is tight, it can keep you afloat. Labor gets expensive fast, so the more you can avoid hiring help at the outset, the more you'll save.  

  • Take advantage of technology. Use construction management software and applications such as Procore, Raken, or Fieldwire to simplify and automate the organization of your business. 

Focus on Marketing With Positive ROI

With a deck-building business, an excellent local reputation and regular networking will be essential to your success. Use business cards and social media to get the word out. Perform quality work each time, so your customers will refer you.

As your reputation grows, neighbors dropping by for a cookout will ask who made that beautiful deck, and you’ll get a phone call. There's nothing like word-of-mouth marketing in the deck-building business, so focus on building your brand this way.

If you want to grow your deck business beyond the neighborhood, you’ll need some online help. Advertise your business on Angi to homeowners searching for local deck and patio builders. Get more qualified leads and showcase your photos and ratings to grow your business year-round.

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