Hiring the right deck builder or contractor for your project is an important decision. You should start by doing some research to qualify some builders in your area. Check references on the better business bureau and read reviews of local deck builders on decks.com. Visit their websites and check out photos of their work. Try to narrow down your search to about 3 good contractors and call to set up sales appointments. Most appointments will take about 1-2 hours.
During the sales appointment verify that they have all the required licenses and insurance to perform work in your area. Never hire an unlicensed contractor even if the price is attractive. Observe their presentation and don't be afraid to ask questions. Do they have samples of materials and a portfolio of their work? Most deck builders will be able to draw a design of the project and give you a quote on the spot. You should find out if they are a sales person or the owner of the company and if they will have direct supervision of the project. How long has the company been in business? Who will be building the deck? Who do you contact if something goes wrong? These are all important things to know. It will also be important to find out when they can start the project and how long it will take to complete.
After you have interviewed a few contractors you should compare their overall knowledge, professionalism, design skills, price, schedule, and presentation. With at least 3 bids you should be able to get a good sense of the strengths and weaknesses of each contractor and about how much the project will cost. Remember that communication is the most important factor in having a good experience with a contractor. Find out why any bid is significantly higher or lower than the others. Neither case is a good sign. Hopefully you can find confidence in one builder that looks prepared to handle your project.
The next step is to sign a contract. This legal document will make sure that the work is completed to the terms of your agreement. Make sure that the scope of work is laid out in detail. A drawing should be included that indicates the size and shape of the deck. Notes should be included that list all materials that will be used on the project. The total cost and terms of payment should be clearly laid out. Most builders break down the total cost into incremental payments based on the work completed. As an example: The down payment will be made when the contract is signed to allow them to obtain permits and order materials, the second payment will be made upon completion of the footings, the third payment will be made when the framing is complete, and the final payment will be made when the final inspection is completed. If you do not pay, the contractor may be able to put a lien on your property.
The start and completion dates for the project should also be stated on the contract. Read the contract carefully for any other conditions that may apply such as yard or house damage. Where will the materials be stored? Do you need to provide electricity or bathroom access? What kind of warranty is included for the work? If the scope of work changes during the project make certain that everything is put into writing on a change order. Most disputes are the consequence of an incomplete contract or verbal change orders.
When the start date arrives it is a good idea to introduce yourself to the crew building your deck. Ask any questions you have before they get started. This is a good idea to make sure everyone is on the same page. Try to be patient, weather and other factors can slow down a project. You should also understand that