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DIY vs Professional Decking Fit

The eternal question when it comes to decking your garden - to handle it yourself or to hire professional help? As is often the case, the answer is based a lot on your preferences and your abilities. Each side has great things going for it, but problems too, and at the end of the day, it’s your decking and your decision to make, not one we can make for you. Perhaps the best option lies somewhere in the middle.

Doing It Yourself

There are two main reasons to handle your own decking at home: firstly, cost, and secondly, the joy of building it all yourself. However, both of these come with conditions you’ll have to consider, and there are potential problems with handling your own decking compared to hiring a professional.

The relatively low cost of DIY is one of its main draws. Hiring a professional means paying them for their time and experience, as well as the extra costs of materials. Contractors charge extra for materials, to cover the costs of transport and storage, and because they have to soak the cost upfront until they finish the job and get paid.

However, while it seems cheaper on paper to work on the decking yourself, there are hidden costs that can hike the price up and make the project more expensive than you expect. There’s the cost of tools, if you don’t already have them, and the cost of mistakes, which comes from having to replace materials if you do something wrong. The more mistakes you make, the more you’ll pay, and those costs add up. If you already have the tools, though, and know what you’re doing, then a DIY job will invariably be cheaper than a professional hire.

The main downside of making your own decking is time. No matter how good you are, a professional has the experience that allows them to work faster. On top of that, a professional spends all their work hours on your decking, while you only do it during your free time. Even if you have a lot of free time, the professional will be faster thanks to practice and experience.

Of course, the DIY aspect of handling your own decking is one of the main reasons not to hire someone else. Chances are that if you’re thinking about doing your own decking, you’re going to enjoy it. No matter what other problems there may be, if this is a hobby project, you’ll never get that experience from hiring a professional to work on it for you.

If time is no concern then there’s no reason not to handle the decking yourself, as long as you enjoy it. It’ll save you money and give you something fun to do with your time. Just be aware that there may be hidden costs, and you probably won’t create decking that looks as good as a professional job. At least not in the same timeframe.

Pros

  • Costs less
  • Is more fun
  • DIY practice

Cons

  • Takes more time
  • Hidden expenses
  • Safety may suffer
  • Quality may suffer

   

Hiring a Professional

As with any profession, hiring a professional is costly. Professionals charge based on years of experience, skills and knowledge. However, while those qualities do cost money, they also ensure that your decking is well made in a reasonable time frame.

When you’re hiring a professional, you’re mainly doing it to take advantage of their superior ability. Professionals have years of experience, and will meet a certain skill level to be able to call themselves professional. No matter your own DIY skills, a professional will do the job better.

Along with that ability comes a tendency to create higher quality, safer, decking, that will last longer. Even from the same materials, a professional is likely to create decking that lasts longer thanks to stronger supports, a more thorough weathering treatment and better practices overall.

Finally, in comparison to DIY work, a professional is going to be much faster at building decking than you will be in your spare time. Even if you can spend every day doing the work, a professional’s experience will allow them to work at a faster pace thanks to innate knowledge and confidence. If you’re working under a time limit, a professional might be necessary to complete your decking in time.

However, all this quality, experience and time comes at a cost, and that’s where the main downside of contractors comes in. Although they create a superior product, that product is going to cost you a lot more money than doing it yourself. If money is tight for you, then hiring a professional may not even be feasible, or might prevent you from working on some other aspect of your home or garden. Although it’s only one downside, it’s a very big one.

There’s also an issue with cowboy builders who offer professional services but don’t necessarily have any more experience than you do. This is only a downside if you’re unfortunate enough to hire one, but it does mean you have to be careful about who you hire. Don’t be afraid to ask for references and check accreditation before hiring someone. Any professional worth hiring will be able to provide the assurances you need, and will be only too happy to do so. If they make excuses or try to avoid it, chances are they don’t have the skills they claim to.

Pros

  • High quality work
  • Less time until completion
  • Safety

Cons

  • Significantly higher costs
  • Danger of cowboys

    

Mix and Match

Of course, it doesn’t have to be one way or the other. Hobbyists and professionals can work side by side to save on both time and money; to give you quality work while also letting you get in your practice. There are a few compromises you can make here which will give you the best of both worlds.

To save on the cost of a professional, talk to them about the materials they’ll need and then buy them yourself. Professionals mark up the price based on transportation, storage and the difficulties of having to put their own money on it. If you offer to buy the materials yourself they should be happy to work with what you get, and you’ll save some money.

To save on time, hire a professional to do most of the hard work, such as setting up the complex frame and handling the groundwork, then finish off the rest of the decking yourself. Letting a professional handle the complex parts will also increase the quality of your decking, while still giving you the DIY experience you crave. The more complicated parts will take longest when you’re inexperienced, but finishing it off yourself will give you some practice as well as a first-hand look at how professionals do it, which is also a learning experience.

As ever, consider your unique situation, your needs and your abilities, both in DIY and your ability to pay costs. Understand what you want from the project and what you can feasibly get from it, then make a decision from there.

There’s no ‘right’ answer here, only the answer that works best for your situation.

Ready to get to work? Take a look at our outdoor decking supplies and start planning your work.

We've even got a handy guide if you choose to DIY.

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