Adding a deck to your home can provide you with a space to socialize, relax and eat with friends and family. But before you can enjoy your deck, you'll need to hire a contractor to build it. Learn the basics of hiring a contractor to build a deck so that the project goes smoothly and efficiently, and so you end up with the deck of your dreams.
What to Consider Before Hiring a Deck Contractor
Unless you want to hire a designer, you'll need to come up with a reasonable idea of what you want to be included in your project. Above all, you'll want to set a budget so you know precisely how much you can afford. Some things you'll want to consider when planning a deck:
Rough dimensions will clue you into what's possible and impossible to include in your deck. It will also give the contractor a clear idea of the scope of the project from the start.
Do you want a single expanse or multiple levels? Are you considering two deck areas connected by a passageway deck or stairs? Will the deck lead down to a pool or garden? Extra deck levels will increase the cost of the deck.
Deck Flooring Materials
Pressure-treated wood used to be the only choice for flooring for an outdoor deck. But the wide variety of materials available today gives you enormous latitude in composition as well as appearance.
Pressure-treated wood is still a very popular choice, but wood-composite decking is becoming increasingly popular. Some are made completely of plastic, while others blend wood fibers with polymer bonding agents.
Extra Deck Features
Would you like a fire pit? A water feature? Built-in seating or planting areas? Metal, wood, or composite railings?
Make a list of what you can and cannot live without in a deck, and work it out with your contractor.
How to Find a Contractor to Build a Deck
With the budget and your ideas in place, it's time to find a contractor. The best way to find a decking contractor—in fact, any contractor—is to ask friends, neighbors, and colleagues for recommendations because a contractor's reputation among former clients is the best gauge of his work.
HomeAdvisor is another good source for decking contractors. HomeAdvisor's real-world Cost Guides help you see what other homeowners have paid for their decks. Angi (formerly Angie's List) is another source for information about decking contractors. Plus, you'll be able to connect with the contractors online before meeting them.
Questions to Ask a Contractor
- How many deck projects have you built?
- Who will handle any required permits?
- Who will contact the public utilities and have underground lines marked?
- May I visit a site you're currently working on or have worked on previously?
- How early and late in the day will workers be here?
- What would the payment schedule be like?
- What type of insurance do you carry?
- What happens if you discover something unforeseen? Will a change order cover this?
- What is the amount of the deposit?
Getting an Estimate from a Deck Contractor
- Deck estimates should be given to you in writing.
- The work to be done should be written in detail.
- A rendering of the deck project should be included.
- The specific materials to be used for the deck and quantities should be inventoried.
- A time frame should be given for the work to be completed.
- An estimate of the price should be written down.
Speaking With Former Clients
It's also a good idea to look at the work a contractor has done for previous clients. It's not always possible to talk to clients, but some may be interested in speaking.
- Did your contractor finish the job within the budget? If not, what caused the overage?
- Were you informed of the costs as they came up?
- How did the contractor handle setbacks or glitches?
- Did those setbacks or glitches seem inevitable? Or did they come completely out of nowhere?
- Was the deck contractor easy to work with?
- What was the contractor's crew like? Were they respectful? Did they clean up after themselves each day?
- If plans changed while the work was in progress, were the changes accommodated, or was the contractor inflexible?
- Would you hire that contractor again?
Deck Contractor Red Flags
Steer clear of any deck contractor who:
- Requires that you pay all of the money upfront
- Pressures you for an immediate commitment
- Doesn't have or cannot provide proof of insurance
- Is not licensed
- Requires you to get the necessary permits
- Has no portfolio of other decks built