Wood deck, composite deck, or patio. Which is better for resale? Which is easier on the pocketbook?
Here in the Pacific Northwest the addition of an outdoor deck has always provided one of the highest rates of return on your home improvement investment at about 70%. That being said, because of our climate here in Western Washington, outdoor decks create a fair amount of maintenance burden. And, an outdoor deck looking shabby or, worse yet, dangerous will hurt your bottom line in the sale of your home. With the price of wood skyrocketing these days, a contractor might charge upwards of $56 per square foot to build a new deck complete with pressure treated wood, railings, bench, planter box and a few steps to the ground.
You could consider composite decking instead of treated wood or cedar. This might add about $15 per square foot to your project costs. Composite boards eliminate the need to continually stain and reseal your deck surface. However, what many don't consider is that the structure underneath the deck surface is still the same -- wood. So it will eventually rot.
An elevated deck, one high enough to walk under, might be a better candidate for composite deck boards than one that lies low to the ground because it is accessible enough to replace parts of the support structure when necessary without having to tear up all of the decking to get to it. Because of the higher cost while the structure remains susceptible to rot and pest infestation, we're not completely sold on the value of composite decking.
Though traditional concrete finishes like broom or exposed aggregate may not "pop" like a freshly stained wood deck, there are the benefits of longevity and easy maintenance. Yes, over time concrete might crack and settle in places. However, it will not rot and requires nothing but a little mildew remover and pressure washing to keep it looking new. And, there are many more concrete finish options these days like stamps to look like flagstone or cobblestone and dyes that give your patio some color.
The biggest costs in adding a patio are site prep and labor. Concrete itself is inexpensive. However, the location of your prospective patio including accessibility for a concrete truck and the current condition or grade of the earth on which you wish to pour, can cause your costs to vary dramatically. Unlike a deck which can be elevated evenly over almost any terrain, you need to have a well-prepared site for your concrete. And, the more expertise needed to give you the finish you are looking for, the more you will pay. For a basic 4 inch thick patio in broom finish costs start at about $15 per square foot and can be 2 to 3 times that depending on your desired finish and site circumstances.
Decks can be a beautiful addition to any home, and they give that wow factor that pays off in a sale as long as you keep it looking new, which takes a lot of work. Composite boards are easier to maintain on the surface, but are much more expensive and the structure itself will still degrade. Concrete has the lasting power and much easier maintenance in our damp, moss-growing climate, so your investment in concrete will probably last twice as long as a wood deck. But the costs depend greatly on the location you wish to pour and unless you invest in custom finishes, it may not give the "pop" you are looking for. No matter which direction you take, an investment in an outdoor living surface is a good one.
By Matthew Plummer, CEO of MVP Realty Group
Matthew has been helping people buy, sell and build wealth through real estate since 2004.