What is the secret to creating the perfect deck of your dreams? The answer is hiring the right deck builder.
If you are ready to make a major investment in your home by building a deck, the first step must be making the contractor's list. Ask your friends and relatives for referrals, and search the internet for the best local deck builders. Do your homework and research the companies.
Here are essential factors to consider when making the contractor list and hiring decision.
1. Only consider specialized deck builders.
Modern construction technologies and innovative building materials evolve at an incredible speed, allowing us to create big, different-shaped, and multi-functional decks. Therefore, to be among the best, contractors must constantly study and work in their area. As a result, deck building has become a specialized trade and shouldn’t be left in the hands of a general contractor. Landscapers, roofers, siding installers, fencing contractors and others are capable of building decks, and they can do a few decks a year, but it's nothing compared to even small specialized deck-building businesses that build around 20 decks a season. Professional deck builders will always be more experienced and knowledgeable in deck building than other construction trades. That’s why opting for specialized deck builders is the best option.
2. Deck builders vs decking installers/contractors.
If you're looking for a new composite deck, most likely, you going to search composite decking brands and decking color/design online. You can visit the composite decking manufacturers' websites and order their product samples. Some composite decking manufacturers/brands have a list of their local installers/contractors. These independent contractors are salespersons and decking installers, their position/rating on the contractor's list depends on the dollar amount spent on decking products they have sold/installed during the previous calendar year. So if your deck only needs deck floor/decking replacement, you can choose a contractor from that list. But, not every decking contractor is a professional deck builder. And if you want to build a new deck or rebuild your old one, you have to hire an experienced deck builder. Professional deck builders are (first of all) knowledgeable and experienced structural carpenters, and yes, most deck builders have experience installing different types of decking products.
* Please note! The composite decking manufacturers/brands do not warrant against and are not responsible for any condition attributable to improper deck structure building, even if their recommended contractor built the deck.
3. Explore the contractor’s website and social media.
* Open the contractor's website to learn more about his business (home page, about page, reviews, BBB accreditation, etc). Don't forget to go over the completed projects in the website gallery with before & after photos, these photos can tell a lot about the contractor. The basic idea of before-and-after deck photos is not only to show a backyard transformation but also to show the process of creating a deck. A professional deck builder who is proud of the work he does, he likes to brag about his craftsmanship by showing deck structure/framing photos. Only the deck structure/framing can tell about a deck builder's professionalism and how much he will care about the construction of your deck. More than that, the before and middle of process photos prove that he built this deck and didn't find/steal pictures somewhere on the Internet.
4. Online Reviews & Better Business Bureau.
* Only consider reviews from verified clients. HomeStars and Houzz are online home improvement communities that publish reviews written by verified homeowners. The verification process is complicated. But in simple words, the client must prove that he owns the property on which this contractor performed this work, and only after that the client's review be approved and posted.
* Google and Yelp don't have a client review verification system. Anyone can post reviews for any business on Google and Yelp without any client verification process. It's your choice/decision to trust Google reviews or not.
* The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to focus on advancing marketplace trust. For more than 100 years, BBB has helped people find and recommend businesses, brands, and charities they trust. If the BBB accredits a business, it has met a specific set of BBB Accreditation Standards, which gives consumers confidence that they're dealing with an ethical and vetted business.
In short, if a business is BBB accredited, this business is fully insured and licensed, and all information on its website is verified and confirmed.
Once you've identified a few deck contractors to interview, contact them to schedule an estimate.
* Please remember that communication is essential to any home renovation project, especially deck building. So, when you meet a contractor face-to-face, try to explain to him your vision of your new deck in the slightest detail.
* Ask the contractor for suggestions. Ask what the contractor thinks of your deck project and what ideas he can offer to improve it or get more value for the money. For example, what would he do if it were his house? And please, don't get upset if you don't like his suggestions/ideas, professional deck builders may see a different deck based on their experience and construction regulations. You don't have to follow his suggestions unless they are based on building codes.
6. How The Business Structured.
Ask the person who came for an estimate who exactly you are dealing with and what is his relationship with the company? Companies are organized in different ways. You have to know if you are talking to a salesperson, the owner of the company or the guys who will actually be building the deck. Each position offers a unique perspective on how they deal with customers. It will be important that you are able to maintain responsive communication with this person throughout the different phases of the project.
* If it's a big company or corporation (two or more owners), they most likely hire subcontractors. Subcontracting is not necessarily a bad practice as it can speed up the building process, and many of the subcontractors are experienced carpenters. However, the desire of the business owner to earn more may lead to hiring cheaper and less experienced guys and it may increase the risk of misunderstanding and poorly/wrong performed work.
You must know if your project will be subcontracted out to another contractor. If yes, the general contractor/company must provide you with all the necessary information about the subcontractor (licence, insurance, deck-building experience, etc). The more you know about how the company is organized, the easier it will be for you to communicate effectively with the right people throughout your project to get the deck you want.
* Here is some info about small businesses. A sole proprietorship is a simple business structure with only one business owner, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations/activities of the business. Most deck-building companies are small businesses (sole proprietors), it's usually a family-operated business or a 2-3-person crew where the business owner is the most experienced carpenter (lead carpenter) and the team leader. Like any small business, the busyness of sole proprietors directly depends on reputation, so most sole proprietors are honest and hardworking guys.
7. Manufacturer & Installation Warranties
Ask the contractor what warranties your new deck is getting. Your new deck is an investment in the value and beauty of your home. It makes sense for warranties to cover your investment.
Warranties in the deck-building industry typically come in two types: manufacturer and installation/labor warranty. It’s easy to differentiate between these two types of warranties.
* Manufacturer warranties. Manufacturers warrant that their products will perform their function for a specified time and that the product will be free from certain defects. Keep in mind that manufacturers' warranties don't cover product damage caused by the homeowner/user, misuse of the product, or acts of nature such as wind, hail, flood, or fire. All such information can be found on the manufacturer's website, in a manufacturer's warranty terms and conditions.
* Installation warranties. The contractor is liable for and may give a warranty for the installation of the product. The installation warranty provides that the contractor has installed the product correctly and that the product will be free from defects from incorrect installation for a specific timeframe.
* Installation warranty period. The installation warranty period varies based on the building methods and types of deck construction, which depends on the amount invested in the deck building. A limited budget, same as cheap contractors, can be the main problem in building a strong and long-lasting deck. Another factor affecting the installation warranty is the local weather conditions in winter and summer (seasonal movements). While a roof and siding protect your house structure, the deck structure is constantly subjected to strength tests by the weather outside. Weather extremes such as cold winters with frost heave which cause upward or outward ground surface movements, and the opposite effect in dry summer weather may cause the soil to shrink, crack and slope. So, your deck is always moving because of weather changes, and that's why if you get a floating ground-level deck, a 1-year installation warranty is a fair warranty period. And, if your new deck was built with poured concrete footings and framed following building codes, two seasonal change cycles will be enough to understand that you have a properly built strong deck, and a 3-5-year installation warranty is an entirely adequate and realistic timeframe. Some big companies and corporations offer deck installation warranty periods of 7 or even up to 10 years, which are commercial tricks to attract clients. It's a common practice when incorporated businesses disappear by changing their name and phone number to free themselves from any responsibility to customers, so their long-term guarantees may become worthless.
That's why the most significant advantage of hiring a sole proprietor is that he is personally liable for the debts, liabilities, and installation warranties, even if his business stops operating.
References are a thing of the past, and more people today prefer messages over live communication. Also, a telephone conversation does not guarantee that the person with whom you speak is who you think he is.
But still, you can ask the contractor to talk to some of the contractor's past clients and ask them about their experience with the contractor. Open the contractor's website, pick a deck project or two projects on his website gallery, and ask the contractor for the contact information of the homeowners to whom he built these decks. But, before you ask for references, you have to understand that most people don't like sharing their contact information these days, and there are many reasons why (scammers, pranksters, sale offers, etc). So, the contractor's past clients may not allow the contractor to share their contact information with you.
9. Written contract.
Ask the contractor if you get a written contract. If the answer is NO, stop the interview right here.
Always, always get it in writing. The contract sets out the agreement between you and the contractor in detail, from the work descriptions to the actual materials to be used to the price you will pay to the responsibilities of both you and the contractor. If it’s not in writing, you have no proof that you and the contractor have, in fact, agreed to the same thing.
Review this written document together and finalize the agreement with your signatures. The top copy is yours, and the bottom carbonless copy stays with the contractor.
10. Request Quote.
Be specific about your vision for the project when asking for a quote. The project cost can vary considerably depending on the deck type, shape, quality and brand of materials.
Quotes should include a step-by-step description of the work required to complete the deck-building project, including every step's price and specifics about products and brand names to be used.
* Old deck demolition and disposal (if required).
* Deck foundation/footing (if required).
* Deck structure/framing (product+fasteners).
* Decking (product+fasteners).
* Deck railings/guards (if required).
* Project price before taxes.
* Quotation validity period.
* Manufacturer's product warranties.
* Installation Warranties.
Make sure you hire someone with a good reputation, who you trust, who understands your needs, and who you think is experienced enough to complete the task appropriately.
Don’t hesitate to contact us to schedule a free consultation, and let us start the process of turning your dreams into realities. We will listen to your ideas, answer questions, show you samples and take measurements, discuss your options and follow up with you in a few days
with a detailed deck estimate.