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Not all decks are created equal, and neither are all deck builders. Adding a deck onto your home, or replacing your existing deck, can be a very costly project. The last thing most homeowners want to do is to add risk or chance into the equation. Choosing the right contractor for the job can be challenging, but with a little homework and diligence, it will add much-needed peace of mind to the entire undertaking.
There are online resources that can make the job of narrowing down the field easier, including the Deck Builder Locator. Still, lists of contractors can’t always weed out all of the potential trouble that you may encounter. In fact, there are many ways that a homeowner can go wrong in preparing to hire a contractor to build their deck. So instead, here are some things that you should make sure of as you work toward finding the right contractor for your decking project.
Not all contractors and deck builders have the same level of credentials. Regardless, prior to soliciting bids, make sure that the field of possible builders you are soliciting bids from are all thoroughly bonded, insured, and have stellar references.
Visit their offices if it’s possible; check their status with consumer groups, your local chamber of commerce, or the Better Business Bureau; and talk with their suppliers and former customers when you are able. Take every step you can to make sure that you are only bothering to get bids from qualified, reputable builders, regardless of the level of certification.
Make sure that you are soliciting bids for your deck installation from at least three vetted contractors. It is important that you double check to ensure that what you are receiving is a bid, rather than simply an estimate.
In the majority of communities throughout the U.S., a bid will contain certain legal protections for both you and the contractor in terms of covered costs and over-runs. An estimate, legally speaking, is simply an educated guess and may not have any legal protections in your community. Regarding bids, generally the mid-range bids are the safest bet for insuring good timely completion of the project without cost overruns and other issues.
Asking for a deposit is not a bad sign. Many contractors require deposits to insure that they can maintain their own schedules, and so that they aren’t underbid after the fact on projects they haven’t begun work on.
That said, asking for what seems to be a large deposit—typically over fifty percent of the bid—may be a sign that the contractor is struggling financially, and may also struggle to finish the job in a timely fashion. Many states regulate what a contractor is legally allowed to request as a deposit, so be sure to check with your local and state government for the rules in your area.
By “get it in writing,” we mean literally everything: the bid, the contract, the construction schedule. All of these elements should be put in writing before you begin the job. Verbal agreements may be legally binding where you live, but there’s nothing more legitimate than a contract to protect both you and the builder from miscommunication, misunderstandings, and the like.
Getting the right contractor for your new or updated deck project is far easier now than at any other time in history. Thanks to tools like Find a Deck Builder locator page, and the opportunity to vet references, certifications, and contractor reputation directly over the Internet, you have everything you need at your fingertips to ensure that you’ll have the right builder for the job.