Lynn Darmetkoski, left, and her wife, Valerie Poletti, on their...

Lynn Darmetkoski, left, and her wife, Valerie Poletti, on their deck made of low-maintenance mineral composite at their East Northport home. Credit: Howard Simmons

Bo Tian, a 43-year-old banker and volunteer firefighter, decided to replace his old wood deck as part of a major home renovation of his house in Syosset. While he considered doing the work himself, Tian decided to hire a professional, who expanded the small deck by about 80%, bringing it to 20 feet by 8 feet.

Tian chose a composite Fiberon deck, which has lower maintenance than wood, at an estimated cost of $8,000 as part of the larger renovation. “My wood deck became weaker. I had to repaint. And parts broke,” he said. “This will last longer and save money for the long run.”

The new, irregularly shaped deck accessible via a sliding door off the living room that went up at Tian's 1928 Dutch Colonial was part of an extensive home renovation that added one-third more space to the home and cost about $340,000, he said.

Bo Tian chose to use a composite material for the...

Bo Tian chose to use a composite material for the expansion of his deck at his Syosset home. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Tian said he chose a composite for the deck because “you have more color options with composites, and you don’t have to paint the deck, which, at a minimum, is low-maintenance." He and his family added a pergola from Wayfair complete with light to provide some cover and privacy.

“We enjoy the outdoorsy life in the backyard on the deck," Tian said.

Eye on affordability

With costs and inflation on the rise, but with an urge to improve and enjoy their homes that took off at the start of the pandemic and seems to show no sign of letting up, Long Islanders are finding ways to build decks affordably. They are saving when they can on the front end on materials, labor and siting, and on the back end on maintenance.

Some are going with standard pressure-treated wood, while others use materials that might be more expensive, but are easier to maintain and are more durable. They are saving money by perhaps having one instead of two deck entrances, building a little smaller or reusing a foundation from an older, existing deck.

“People are thinking about how to use their money wisely," said Dave Politz, owner of Holtsville-based Dave’s Decks. "If they can save a little bit, they do.”

Dave Politz, owner of Dave's Decks, on the deck he...

Dave Politz, owner of Dave's Decks, on the deck he built at the Selden home of Linda Lee. “There are ways that you can save money when you’re building a deck,” he said. Credit: Newsday/Steve Pfost

Homeowners might ask for many bells and whistles and go high-end. "Then you give them the price, and they say, ‘Maybe not,' ” he said. For example, they may forgo adding built-in lighting to decks or decide on wood decks with a composite handrail instead of a complete job in composite.

“There are ways that you can save money when you’re building a deck,” he said. “You can go the high end, which can be $30,000 or more. For a comparable size deck, you can go with $15,000 with pressure-treated wood.”

Inflation has pushed material costs up about 50%, Politz said. The least expensive composites go for about $3.75 a linear foot while wood can be a dollar less, or even cheaper, although it’s been fluctuating.

Louis Pagnutti, owner of Commack-based Decks Unique, suggested other ways to keep costs as low as possible: "You can shrink it to make it smaller,” he said. “Or you can lower it. A ground-level deck doesn’t need rails.”

Having a deck built in the offseason would help save money, Pagnutti said, noting colder weather may be the cheapest time to launch a project. “If you’re willing to have it done in November, December or January, you would get a better price than if you called us in May,” he said.

Working with wood

Linda Lee, a hospital medical lab technologist, opted for a rustic wood deck at her Selden home for her own affordable al fresco experience.

“I was looking to be economical,” she said of the deck that cost her about $6,000 when she had it built a year and a half ago. “It’s not a house I plan on staying in for a lot more years.”

She hired Politz to do the job, going over materials and costs together first. Lee opted for pressure-treated wood over composites for its affordability, adding a rail and gate. She expects everything to last 15 years or more, and enjoys unwinding after work on the deck under an umbrella and an oak tree for shade.

Valerie Poletti, left, and her wife, Lynn Darmetkoski, relax on their...

Valerie Poletti, left, and her wife, Lynn Darmetkoski, relax on their composite deck, one of two decks they had built of different materials at their East Northport home. Credit: Howard Simmons

The long view

Valerie Poletti and her wife, Lynn Darmetkoski, chose a low-maintenance Deckorators-brand mineral composite made of plastic polymers and minerals to replace a patio at their home in East Northport.

“There’s a texture on it,” said Poletti. “It’s flush to the ground. You can’t put wood that close to the ground. The mineral-based composite can be submerged in water. It doesn’t warp.”

The couple — Poletti is a senior manager of product services at Northwell Health and Darmetkoski is a retired information technology officer — paid about $12,000 in the spring for the composite deck materials, including hidden fasteners, the frame and low posts, Poletti said. With installation, the total for the 14-by-25-foot deck came to $14,000, she said.

Their house has a second deck the couple had installed about a decade ago made of high-end ipe, a wood typically imported from Brazil that is often used for boardwalks and that can easily last 50 years.

Poletti and Darmetkoski used high-end tropical ipe wood for a second deck,...

Poletti and Darmetkoski used high-end tropical ipe wood for a second deck, and added wire rail cables for an unobstructed view. Credit: Howard Simmons

They opted for a railing made of marine-grade stainless steel cable called RailEasy “that doesn’t block our view,” which they bought at Kleet Lumber in Huntington and cost $1,800, Poletti said. 

That deck, outside the couple’s living room, has a retractable awning for summer shade and a wall on one side with lighting. The materials cost about $11,000, Poletti said.

“If I’m going to eat dinner outside, I go to the wood deck,” she said. “If I’m going to sit and have a conversation and read a book, I go to the new deck.”

Cristina and Tom Cataldo recently replaced a worn, wood deck at...

Cristina and Tom Cataldo recently replaced a worn, wood deck at their East Setauket home with a Trex deck. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Something old, something new

Cristina Cataldo and her husband, Tom, mixed old and new when they recently replaced a worn, wood deck at their East Setauket home with a Trex deck that leads to and surrounds their above-ground pool.

“It’s more modern; it’s not slippery,” said Cristina, 44, the bookkeeper for Dirty Taco and Tequila, with locations in Woodbury, Patchogue, Rockville Centre and Wantagh that her husband owns. “It adds some value to the property.”

The dark brown deck with black aluminum railings and a gate is furnished with lounge chairs and love seats, and a table with chairs and grill designed for dining out.

Instead of rebuilding the base entirely, the couple were able to retain more than half of it. “We used most of the foundation, but still had to add and reinforce,” Tom said. They also chose to have one gate on the deck instead of two, a decision that Cristina estimates saved the family $1,000.

“The deck is so crisp and clean,” said Tom, 33. “My wife and I love hanging out on the deck, relaxing and listening to music.”

Sisters Angelina Pace, 10, left, and Sofia Pace, 13, and...

Sisters Angelina Pace, 10, left, and Sofia Pace, 13, and their dog, Keela, enjoy the deck at their East Setauket home. Credit: Morgan Campbell

Materials matter

When building a deck, which material to use is a major choice, with categories ranging from wood to composite, although within the various composite brands, there are typically more and less expensive versions. Dave Politz, owner of Dave’s Decks, gives a basic rundown on differences, noting that prices do fluctuate.

Pressure-treated wood: Inexpensive, must be maintained and can splinter. $1 a linear foot; lasts about 15 years.

Ipe and mahogany: Two comparable weather-resistant woods from tropical climates often used in boardwalks. Labor-intensive to install. $4.50 a linear foot; lasts 50 years or longer.

Basic composite: A mixture of plastic and wood; needs little to no maintenance. Expands and contracts in heat and cold. $3 a linear foot; lasts 20 years or more.

Mineral-based composite: Contains no wood; needs little to no maintenance. $6.50 a linear foot; can last 50 years or longer.

— CLAUDE SOLNIK

Latest Videos