By Gene and Katie Hamilton
Decks are typically built with cement footings buried into the ground. An alternative system designed for DIYers is to use a pier deck system of solid concrete blocks that float on top of the soil and distribute the weight evenly. This elimiates the need to dig holes and pour and mix cement for the footings. And while a conventional deck is attached to the house, a floating deck stands free from it and therefore is easier to build. The foundation for a ground level deck is made of cement piers that sit directly on the ground. They have slots in their tops and, depending on the height of the deck, hold either vertical posts or horizontal support boards. The decking is then secured to this framework.
If you're budgeting for a new deck, here's the numbers: A deck contractor will charge $2,060 to build a basic rectangular 10-by-12-foot ground level floating deck using a pier system of blocks and composite surface decking. That includes labor and material. You can do it yourself for $680, the cost of the material, and save 67 percent. The material includes concrete piers, 4-by-4 posts, 2-by-6 joists, decking and deck screws.
Deck building is labor-intensive, using heavy material and it requires working outdoors, so plan your time accordingly. You'll need a carpenter's level, circular saw, and power screw gun.
In the planning phase, make sure to contact your local building department to find out if a permit is required. Most likely, it is. If your deck will be near your property line, take a look at your survey so you know where your property ends and your neighbor's begins. Looking to hire out the job? Go to Home Advisor, a free online referral service that matches local contractors to homeowners.
Here's a link to a video with directions from Home Depot How to Build a Ground-Level Deck.
The average price to build a floating deck noted above is cost data to compare a contractor's estimate with doing it yourself. Tweak the data by adding your ZIP Code to find a local cost.