How to Bid a Deck Job Accurately without Losing Money
Maximizing Profits and Building Trust: A Simple Guide for Deck ContractorsBy Nelmie Jane Pardo | Updated April 3, 2023
Underbidding a deck job means losing money and wasting time, whereas overbidding can lower your chance of winning the project.
And you don’t want that! You want to ensure a reasonable bid that accurately reflects all costs and gives you a fair profit.
That’s why we created this guide to help you learn how to bid a deck job without losing money — or potential clients! Keep scrolling to discover insider tips and tricks to get ahead of the competition and impress every prospect.
How to bid a new deck job
1. Plan a quick walk-through.
The first step is to visit the job site to understand exactly what the client wants. You’ll be able to determine if the project suits your business and whether the client is easy to work with.
- Find out if the job demands getting bids from subcontractors. Hiring another deck builder to work with you could make the job faster and more efficient.
2. Calculate the hard costs.
Estimate the cost of all necessary materials and supplies.
- Calculate the deck’s square footage. Determine the planned structure’s height, width, and depth. Consider obstacles like uneven terrain when measuring the deck site.
- Evaluate the intricacy of the design. More elaborate designs will take longer hours to build, making them more expensive.
- Determine the type and amount of decking material you need. The cost of building a deck varies depending on the material you use. For example, exotic hardwoods like Ipe and Redwood cost $7 to $15, whereas pressure-treated wood costs $3 to $6.
- Call your suppliers to check the exact price range of every material. This is very important! You don’t want to second-guess your costs and end up losing profit.
Tip: Add around 10% to 15% of material costs to cover extra expenses, like waste, broken boards, and minor mistakes.
3. Calculate the labor and overhead costs.
Be liberal when estimating labor and materials to be on the safe side.
- For example, if you think it will take three days to complete the deck, charge for four. In reality, deck jobs take longer than initial estimates, especially if you’re a new contractor.
Consider the skill levels of your employees. Seasoned deck builders will complete jobs faster, although they charge a higher hourly rate.
For your overhead cost estimate, take into account all the costs involved with running your construction business, including taxes and transportation costs.
- For example, you may add $50 per day to your overall bid if your monthly overhead expenses total $1,000 and you work 20 days a month.
4. Add your markup for a profitable job.
Aim for a profit margin of at least 15% to make a reasonable profit. It’s up to you to decide your profit margin to run your construction business profitably.
Tip: When in doubt, prioritize having a fair profit over undercutting the competition. You don’t want to risk a slim profit margin and end up losing money.
Sample deck job estimate
Here’s a sample estimate for building a small starter deck measuring 12 feet wide by 12 feet long with 4-foot wide stairs. The project uses pressure-treated wood, the most cost-effective choice for a new deck.
Project: Building a new deck
- Designing and planning a new deck
- Excavating and installing footings
- New deck framing and construction using pressure-treated wood decking
- New railings and stairs installation
- Cleanup after project completion
Cost of materials
|Pressure-treated wood decking
|$3.50 per square foot
|144 square feet
|Pressure-treated wood framing
|$2 per linear foot
|48 linear feet
|Pressure-treated wood railings
|$25 per linear foot
|20 linear feet
|Pressure-treated wood stairs
|$75 per step
|Fasteners and hardware
Cost of labor (2 skilled workers)
|Design and planning
|$80 per hour
|Demolition and removal
|$60 per hour
|Excavation and footings
|Framing and construction
|Stairs and railings
- Permits: $150
- Disposal fees (if dumpster rental is necessary for cleanup): $250
Total estimated cost: $5,855 ($40.7 per square foot)
How to bid a deck replacement job
Homeowners typically request deck replacement when they worry about the worn condition of their old deck. They may also want an upgrade to higher-quality materials or require more space for entertaining.
You will either do the following:
- Deck board replacement or resurfacing: This involves replacing deck surface boards while keeping the existing substructure. You may have to do minor repairs or extra reinforcement.
- Full deck replacement: This involves completely tearing down and replacing the entire deck structure, including the deck surface, railing, and substructure.
The steps for estimating a deck replacement job are nearly the same as bidding on a new deck job.
Check the existing deck.
Evaluate the amount of work you need to do. Assess the condition of the decking, stairs, and railing, and watch out for any damage, rot, or decay.
Be sure to define the scope of the job, especially if the client wants additional features like built-in seating or a partial enclosure.
Calculate the materials, labor, and overhead costs.
Common materials for deck replacement jobs include:
- Pressure-treated lumber
- Composite decking
- Aluminum railing
Your hourly rate will depend on the deck size and job complexity. Determine how long it will take to remove damaged boards and install new decking.
Add your desired markup after estimating all costs.
How to bid a deck repair job
Unlike deck replacement, deck repair involves fixing certain parts without replacing entire deck surface boards or tearing down the deck structure.
Evaluate the deck’s condition.
Worn decks are fixable when the damage is not too severe. Here are typical examples of deck repairs:
- Small areas of rot, mildew, or mold on the deck surface
- A few rusty, protruding, or loose fasteners in the substructure or surface
- Minor debris buildup between the ledger and the house
- Discoloration that’s making the deck look old and outdated
- Broken boards
Tip: When repair costs are too high and almost the same as deck replacement, it’s best to advise your client to go the latter route.
Stand out with a professional, well-detailed bid
After tallying up all costs and ensuring a fair profit, the next step is to present your bid.
Remember, a professional and well-thought-out presentation goes a long way in gaining your client’s trust and confidence. It could even make a difference in winning the project!
Include these details in your proposal:
- A complete list of costs
- A clear payment schedule and payment requirements
- Suppliers (if necessary)
- Terms and conditions (for example, state what happens if the client requests additions and changes along the way)
Tip: Clearly explain the project scope and whether your bid provides fixed or estimated/changeable costs.
How do I present my bid?
Present your bid by personally visiting the client and explaining each item on your bid sheet. You want the client to understand all the necessary costs. Patiently respond to any question or request.
What’s the average cost of building a new deck?
The average cost of building a new deck is around $30 to $60 per square foot, depending on various factors from location to material and labor costs.
Now that you know how to bid building a deck, it’s time to impress your client and win that contract!
Whether your client is beautifying their home with a deck or patio, take time to accurately calculate every cost so both of you are happy with the final bid.