When you’re looking to build a deck, there are many factors to take into consideration. One of the most important pieces to planning your deck is deciding what type of deck footings to use to support it. Can you imagine building your beautiful new deck, then having it collapse under the weight of your family and friends? That would be horrible and embarrassing, not to mention dangerous! Beyond this, the choice of footings you use on your deck will greatly impact the cost to build it, as well as the amount of work it will take.
What types of deck footings could we use to build our new deck? Poured concrete footings, buried post footings, precast cement footings, deck blocks, and screw/helical piles are all viable options for deck footings. Which one you choose will depend on the size and height of your deck and the building codes in your location.
Each type of footing has different requirements and is going to take different amounts of work to install. If you’re planning a larger deck or one that is above the first floor, you’re going to need stronger footers than a deck that is on the ground floor or is much smaller in size. If your deck is attached to the house, you may have different needs than a deck that is “floating” or not attached to anything else.
Types of Deck Footings
Poured Concrete Footings
Concrete footings are dug and poured directly into the ground. This type of footer requires a good deal of work as you have to dig below the frost line, which can be over 70” deep in some parts of the country.
Once the hole is dug to the appropriate depth, the concrete is poured in to form a strong pillar. The deck posts will be attached to the top of this pillar using metal brackets.
Although they take the most work to build, concrete footings are also very strong and provide plenty of support for your deck. If your deck is going to be very large, higher than the first floor, or if you’re going to have a lot of weight on it (such as a hot tub), then building your footings out of cement is going to be your best option.
For additional support in softer soils or for the heaviest decks, a wider footing can be poured at the bottom below the frost line. Rebar is used to connect this wider base footing to a thinner cement pillar that will extend up above the ground.
For most normal decks, the wider footing at the bottom is not necessary, and a standard concrete pillar poured into the ground will provide plenty of strength and support.
Concrete forms can be poured directly into the hole dug into the ground, or they can be poured into cardboard forms that are designed to shape and hold the concrete. The forms come in long cylinders that can be cut to the desired length. They are available in many different standard diameters to build footers of any size necessary for your deck.
By digging and pouring the footing yourself, you can save a substantial portion of the cost of hiring a professional. Since there aren’t many materials necessary, when you hire someone you’re mostly paying for labor.
The price of pouring concrete footings depends greatly on the length and diameter of the footing your deck needs. A 12” diameter footing will require two 60lb bags of concrete per foot of depth. Bags of concrete can vary in price but start at around $3.50 for a 60lb bag.
A cardboard tube form can be purchased for around $4 per linear foot, bringing our total to about $11 per foot to pour a 12” diameter concrete footing. Add to this approximately $10 per footing for the metal bracket to attach the deck post on top. Our total for a 4ft deep, 12” diameter concrete footing is about $54.
Using the cardboard forms saves you money by making sure no concrete is wasted. If your deck needed wider or thinner diameter footings than 12” the price would also rise or fall accordingly.
If you hire a professional to dig and pour your concrete footings, you can expect to spend $200-$400 per footer.
- Strong and stable
- Very labor-intensive
- If you hire a professional, it can be very expensive
- Waiting for concrete drying/curing times
Buried Post Footings
A buried post footing is a bit easier and less labor/time-intensive than a concrete footing, but is still very strong and stable. This type of footing consists of a cement footing poured below the frost line, with a pressure-treated wood post secured to it and then extending up above ground. The hole around the post will then be backfilled.
Buried post footings require far less concrete than the poured footings, cutting down on time and cost. You will, however, still need to dig down to below the frost line to pour the concrete footer.
Since this method still involves a concrete footing poured beneath the ground, it is also very strong and can support substantial weight. This is a permanent footing and is great for large or high decks that need very strong footings.
There is little material cost to a buried post footing. Depending on how heavy and high your deck is your concrete footing underground may take 1-4 bags of concrete. This is between $3 and $14 in concrete.
A 4×4 ground treated post is about $12 for 8ft where I’m located, and a bracket to attach it to the concrete footing underground is about $10, bringing our total to between $25 and $36 per footing for the materials.
- Low material cost
- Strong and stable
- Labor Intensive
- Waiting on concrete drying times
- Expensive if you pay for labor
Precast Stackable Cement Footings
Precast stackable cement footings are as strong as poured concrete footings, but they are dropped into place and don’t require any mixing or pouring. This eliminates some of the skill of getting the right consistency in your concrete, as well as waiting for drying times and worrying about messes. However, these pieces are very heavy and could be quite difficult to transport.
For this type of footing, you will still need to dig to the proper depth, as stated in your local building codes. Once your footing is dug, you place in the precast base and stack each piece on top. They are attached to a threaded anchor rod that extends up through the center of the stack.
Once your hole is ready, this type of footing installs very quickly, and there is no drying/curing time to worry about. This means you’re making a trade-off of quick completion time for a higher material cost.
The stackable footings will vary in price based on your location but are available from mainstream suppliers such as Home Depot. Where I am, the prices start at $125 for a stackable set that will make up one complete 4’ footing with a diameter of 11” and a wider base that is 22” in diameter. This price does not include shipping or installation.
- No mess
- Easy install
- No drying time
- Very strong and sturdy
- High material cost
- Very heavy and difficult to transport
- Have to dig a large hole
Deck blocks are one of the easiest types of deck footings to install, but they’re not very strong or permanent. Deck blocks are precast cement blocks that are buried just below the surface of the ground. Ground treated lumber will fit into notches in the tops of the deck blocks.
Since they are not set deep into the ground like other types of deck footings, deck blocks have to be spaced much closer together, requiring many more deck blocks than footers for a deck of the same size.
Deck blocks are most appropriate for ground-level decks that are not attached to a house. In some areas, these may not meet code due to high winds that can cause issues like lifting the deck off of the blocks.
Although prices may vary somewhat based on your location, in general, deck blocks cost $8-$10 each. Although this is much cheaper than the other types of footings, you are going to need quite a few more of them, which over the course of the whole deck build will cause the cost difference to even out some.
- Easy Install
- Less labor than other footings
- Not permanent
- Not as strong and stable
- Doesn’t meet code everywhere
- Good only for ground-level decks that aren’t attached
Screw piles or helical piles are manufactured steel footings that screw down into the ground, all the way below the frost line. They require hydraulic machinery to install, but there is no drying time, no settling, and they can all be installed in a single day with no digging.
Since they require machinery to be installed, it’s unlikely that you’ll be installing helical piles yourself. If you’re the type of person that wants to do every bit of the work yourself, this may not be the method for you!
Helical piles are very strong and can be used to support any size or weight of deck. They can be the least work-intensive method, but also the most expensive.
The price can vary greatly depending on where you’re located and what company you choose to install your helical piles. The typical price per helical pile, fully installed, and ready to build your deck on, is about $150-$250.
This is quite a bit more expensive than the other deck footings we’ve discussed, but it will be ready for your deck immediately and will require no work on your part since you’ll have to have them installed.
- Easy and fast installation
- No drying time
- Not much disturbance of the soil
- Very strong and permanent
- You can’t install them yourself
- Expensive compared to other footings
Like most things in life, building a deck starts from the ground up. Making sure you pick the right type of footing for your budget and build right from the beginning will help you alleviate potential problems in the future.
Be sure to reach out to me in the comments section to let me know what you think of this article, or if you have any questions or comments on anything we discussed. If you enjoyed reading this, or if you learned something helpful, please be sure to give it a share to help it find others who may also benefit from the information contained within.
Eugene has been a DIY enthusiast for most of his life and loves being creative while inspiring creativity in others. He is passionately interested in home improvement, renovation and woodworking.