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Anyone build decks solo??

7102 Views 59 Replies 29 Participants Last post by  Calidecks
Hello all!

From those who have read some of my other threads, you know I'm trying to start a deck business in the Kansas City area.

I am curious if any of you guys build decks alone? I don't really want the added expenses in the beginning of having employees. I also will have enough to worry about, without having to worry how my helper is going to pay his bills if I don't get business for a few weeks.

For those who have built a deck alone, what is a good guess on what the company could bring in in the first year. I would be be doing everything myself. 8+ hour labor in field, then a few hours after that doing bids or paperwork. Also going to do paperwork, bids, etc. on Saturdays. Is 150k my first year too high/low? I'm trying to figure out a % for markup based on my overhead.

I cannot find ANY market research for deck companies and don't know where to start. My current company isn't as nice as you guys. Boss man will take everything he's learned to his grave and company will die with him.

Thanks guys!!
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no one can answer this there are too many things to consider....
I've built decks solo. I wouldn't really recommend it. There's too much grunt work in deck building. If you want part time help then find a local temp agency and find out who their top workers are in the price/skill range you're looking for. You will only pay an extra dollar an hour, or so, for a temp vs. a person you hire direct and you just use them when you want them. Find a couple decent guys so you can ask for them when jobs come up.

I think I could build $150k of deck in a year by myself but that's in my market and my weather zone. I have no idea what your area is like. I won't do PT decks and you aren't going to be able to tackle many 2k square foot decks with pergolas working alone. Nobody wants you in their back yard for two months.

Whether you can get $150k worth of deck sales in a year depends entirely on you and your area. I can't help you guess there.
It's easy enough to build decks solo, though more efficient with two guys doing the work.

Pretty hard to predict what your income might be--we don't know your abilities in construction, or sales, or even what sorts of decks you'll be doing.
I don't know what you can bring in, but I did a few decks myself and one thing I will tell you... it is boring as hell. I would pay anything to just have a guy stand there and BS with me :laughing:
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Sorry guys, the question seemed better in my head. The way I was looking at it was if I could average about $3,000 a week I could make 150k in 50 weeks. That is assuming that because I would take longer on a deck I wouldn't have much down time. I've been trying to read up and study sales, so that will be the biggest test.

I may try the temp idea. Do I have to carry work comp for a temp? If so, I may as well try and find someone more permanent.
Brand new business doing $3,000 a week , $150,000 a year, building only decks, wow! That s a lot of decks.

I would suggest picking up a friend or family member that works nights or might have a couple of days during the week off, or might be retired and get them to help you the days you need help. Good luck.
Can you build decks 50 weeks a year where you are? Are people shopping for decks all year long there? Those are pretty important factors.

I just started getting calls for decks for this spring and the calls will probably dry up by June or early July. I then get a couple in the fall from people that are just dreaming about next year. If a customer isn't a referral and they call me in February, they aren't likely to wait until September for me.

$3k a week seems really low unless you're doing PT decks. Decks are very material intensive so your looking at over 50% COGS that would mean you would have less than $1500 for pay, profit and overhead each week.
What Ethan says plus a couple of things.
You may want to charge only for yourself but your price gets high if you charge carpenter pricing for the grunt work. You will quickly over price yourself. I do now work alone most of the time and that is the biggest hurdle. I get away with it because I am well established and all my work is referral. Much harder for someone starting out.
Two - That composite decking gets very heavy after a while. Even the wet PT get heavy. After a day of hat you will not want to go do estimates. Post holes and concrete take their toll as well.
Three - Like said above - The jobs will take a lot longer by your self. Not twice as long as two men - more like three times. It is a piece of cake and minutes work to set and level a raised header with two guys. One man can do it but you will need to make up a holding device or clamp temp bracing ....than set to wood. Than take down the temp....Much longer than two guys can do it.

I don't know the weather out there but around here you don't get 50 weeks to work. Rain days, snow days, sick days, material pick up days, inspect/ service the truck days, wife has to go someplace days..... You are lucky if you get 40 "Work" weeks. Now how much do you need to charge per week to make what you want.?

I am not trying to put down what you are proposing. I am trying to be realistic
I wish you the best.
Bill T
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I'm not like the big deck builders here, but for low decks, I feel most efficient working alone. It is nice to have some grunt for the footings though.
Thanks for all the fast responses guys! I love the honesty and no sugar coated BS on this site.

Working alone would only be something I'd consider during my start up years until I know I can keep someone else busy. The winters here are hit and miss, so maybe 50 weeks isn't possible. However I figured 3k/week was VERY conservative (most decks out here are at least cedar if not composite or pvc) and I thought that would make up for rain days. For big labor things like digging piers I will be renting a mini skid to make the job quicker and cut down labor costs.

I used the 3k/week to get my 150k/year. I am trying to figure out what my markup should be. I'll use a lower number and figure out a % and run it by you guys tomorrow to see if it seems outrageous.
I used the 3k/week to get my 150k/year. I am trying to figure out what my markup should be. I'll use a lower number and figure out a % and run it by you guys tomorrow to see if it seems outrageous.
I think its good that your breaking things down to how much a week you need to shows your thinking in detail(more than most who go on their own)

im not a deck builder, but my markup on rough materials is 35% + 5% fudge factor and I typically make 10-35% profit on my labor
Ive been building decks solo for at least 20 years or more. I was also a lot younger back then too.
You are young you can do it. You will quickly find out what works and what doesn't.

Next deck I build will have Heli posts. I almost always do dropped girders so it's all easily fond by myself. But like someone said earlier, just to have company is nice, if they have great stories even better.

When I started I worked at building decks, steps in mobile home parks I would encourage you do the same- small jobs can be more profitable especially if you are working alone.
I've done it for 2 years now, going into my third. I do a lot of other work also, but I do as many decks as I can because I love doing them. As someone else stated, I go out of my mind sometimes because I am so bored mentally. I wish I had someone just to talk to. I have never tried hiring from a temp agency, didn't even consider the option. Your biggest problem will be getting the work. I had to move and when I did I lost all my connections and had to start from scratch. In the two years I have been doing it, I have averaged maybe 30 weeks of work each year. $150k gross is very ambitious unless you already have GCs that will sub to you. If you can do it, congrats. You also have to count in bad weather days, sick, vacation, family emergencies, etc. Just make sure you have enough in savings to carry you for a while in case you don't get work. Jumping in with both feet to find out there is no water is very painful
Been down that trail before. Exhausting, even at 37 or 38 years of age. I would advise some'll last longer
wife has to go someplace days
You too? :laughing:

The last deck I built by myself was an easy dig two post 6x8 composite for a customers mom in a retirement mobile home park. I second

1. boring doing it alone
2. even easy digging sucks

Bring a radio at least Hahaha
There are a couple of ways to look at having a helper. One is it motivates you to keep getting work, if you want to keep them busy. Two is if you run out of work, lay them off. If they get another job find someone else. Everyone is replaceable.
I have found that just having a helper just to roll out and roll up everyday is worth every penny....maybe I'm just getting lazy!
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