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Decking

How to Choose a Deck Builder That’s Right for You

Find a qualified deck builder who’s easy to work with and understands your project.

September 20 2019
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Deciding to add on, rebuild, or replace your deck is a big step. Even if you’re still in the research phase, getting the entire picture from your deck’s design to decking material choice is important. However, finding the right person to do the job is critical.

To make building your ideal outdoor living space easier, we’ve assembled an all-encompassing guide to finding, vetting, and hiring a deck builder. Or, if you want to skip all the legwork, use the TimberTech Contractor Locator tool to find local, qualified deck builders. We’ve even made it possible for you to simply request a quote and receive proposals from three deck builders in your area.

If you’re more of a planner, keep reading to get a to-do list and start checking off boxes.

Before You Hire a Deck Builder

1. Do your research.

Whether you like to start home improvement projects by designing your future space or calculating your budget, the TimberTech site is structured to make sure you’re aware of every angle of your project. Start gathering the facts by visiting our Decking and Railing 101 page; you’ll learn decking lingo, the anatomy of the deck, and the degrees of variegation a deck board can have. All of these are things that a qualified deck builder could teach you as you go.

2. Plan your project.

Once you’ve gotten the 411, you can switch from left to right brain and start designing your future outdoor living space. Be inspired by real deck plans, real deck builds, and real design suggestions from sought-after designers. Whatever you want to get out of your space, there’s a perfect deck and railing pair for you.

Look through the TimberTech inspiration gallery at your leisure and see what styles speak to you. Choose a color of decking. Explore real deck plans from other homeowners. Now’s the time to start forming an idea of what size, scale, and special features you may want to add. Do you want to add levels or staircases? Does your home have a second-story deck where you want to use the space underneath as a second outdoor living space? Get a rough idea of what your ideal outdoor living space would look like so you can articulate that to your deck builder.

3. Bring your project to (3D) life.

Use the TimberTech Deck Designer tool (available via desktop browser or on your iPad) to bring your deck to life. You can save your design and download a material list you can take to your deck builder.

Or, you can work with a skilled deck builder to make your decking daydream into reality. Many deck builders have their own methods to bring their clients’ vision to life. They know inspiration starts in the backyard and most are willing to walk through the space while talking through the design.

4. Get an idea of the cost.

Tap into the TimberTech Cost Calculator tool to help make sure you’re on budget and have accounted for everything you need for your ideal outdoor space. Specifically, did you remember to include the cost of labor, deck boards, railing, the decking framework, and any lighting or add-ons you have in mind?

While a deck builder may do this for you, it’s always smart to know what the cost of materials may be before labor is factored in. Sometimes, labor can account for half of the total cost to build a new deck.

5. Order decking samples.

Congrats! You’ve selected your color, style, and deck design, it’s now time to get your hands on the real thing. Order free samples of the deck boards in the colors and widths you’re planning on using to make sure they look good in the sun, shade, against your home’s exterior color, and in the surrounding environment. Or, have your deck builder bring decking options that they recommend – or, visit a local showroom to help narrow down on the color(s) you want in your space.

What to Ask and How to Hire a Qualified Deck Builder

1. Ask around for recommendations.

Finding a local deck builder who is qualified doesn’t have to be a drain on your time and energy. Start the old fashion way by asking around for recommendations from family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors.

2. Check out their site and read reviews.

Getting a feeling for how a potential deck builder has treated and serviced previous customers can be telling. While it’s important to keep in mind that every online review should be taken with a grain of salt — most happy customers keep their gratitude contained to offline conversations. It’s typically only those who want to do damage that bring their opinions to the internet.

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Are there reviews of their service and previous work online?
  • Can you scroll through a gallery of their previous work?

3. Chat with them over the phone or via email.

Getting a good feel for someone over the phone and via email will help reinforce your “gut instinct” about a potential deck builder. Consider asking them these telling questions:

  • Can you help with the design aspect of my deck project and/or provide an architectural plan?
  • Have you worked with synthetic decking or capped composite boards before? What about narrow and wide width boards?
  • Are you able to secure all necessary permits and ensure that my deck will be up to code?
  • Who will contact public utility companies and have underground lines marked?

4. Meet in-person to discuss the project.

Just like getting a “gut feeling” when you chat on the phone, meeting in person can provide clarity into if this might be the right person for your deck build. While the builder may be qualified, don’t choose someone whose work and communication style doesn’t align with yours.

  • If something were to go wrong during the build, how do you handle the stress, schedule change, or any unforeseen costs?
  • What’s your preferred method of communication?
  • Do you have a regular crew you work with? Are there a pre-designated start and stop times?
  • Are any of your previous builds online for me to view?
  • Have you built a deck like mine (square footage, shape, second-story, design with an inlay or overall design)? Specifically, can you build advanced designs like a herringbone pattern or incorporate heat bending into the project for a curved deck?
  • What’s the expected timeline for the project?

5. Get estimates from your favorite deck builder(s).

At this stage, you probably have one or two deck builder(s) that you think could complete the build well. Feel free to ask for a detailed contract to capture all the nuances of your deck project that you’ve previously discussed. In order to ensure they’re legit, ask them:

  • Can I see proof of licensing and insurance?
  • May I see a list of references from past projects that I may contact?
  • What is your preferred payment method? Can I use a payment plan or schedule?
  • Will you please send me a firm price for my deck project?

6. Sign the contract!

You’ve done the legwork and now can rest easy knowing that your deck is scheduled to be built and that you’ll soon be relaxing under the great blue sky this summer.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

If your deck builder gives you bad vibes or any of these red flags, think twice about hiring them.

  • Insists you obtain all the necessary permits and contact the public utilities companies to find buried lines.
  • Can’t provide proof of insurance and all necessary licensing.
  • Requires cash payments or insists on an upfront commitment before providing answers to questions.
  • It feels like they’re not telling you everything.

Or, skip all the legwork and use the TimberTech Contractor Locator tool to find a local deck builder and request a quote from three deck builders in your area.