How to Hire a Deck Contractor

How to Hire a Deck Contractor

Understand the scope of your project so you can make an informed choice

By Stevie Donald

Man Putting Nails in Deck
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Building a deck is not a simple project. It entails planning, rough framing, finish trim and, depending on the size and location, obtaining a building permit. The right deck contractor can make building a deck addition to your home a relatively swift, clean project. Whether you need to hire a contractor for a wood or composite deck, find a trusted local builder and avoid scams.

  • What You Need to Know
  • Besides a working knowledge of building practices, you will need plans for your deck, a copy of your city or county building codes and a list of reputable contractors if you're not experienced enough to tackle the project.

Step 1:

Sketch rough plans of your deck. If you're planning a large or complex deck, consider hiring an architect or designer to help you with the plans. Alternatively, look only for deck builders who have the expertise to design your deck so it meets building codes.

Step 2:

Call your city or county building department and ask what you need to know before you build a deck. Every city and state has different rules that cover such things as stair width, deck height and post load limits.

Step 3:

Ask for referrals to reputable deck contractors. Local lumber yards also may be able to give you the name of someone they've supplied with lumber on an ongoing basis. To protect their own reputation, vendors will be careful to only refer builders they know are reputable.

Step 4:

Get at least three estimates, making sure each contractor has the same plans and criteria not only for the deck design, but for such details as the type of lumber, railing design and extras like planters and benches. Interview each contractor in person, ask questions and listen to his ideas. Take notes to help you make a better-informed decision.

Step 5:

Make sure the contractor you choose has insurance and the required licenses to obtain permits. Verify all the information he gives you. If he is not licensed, be prepared to do all the legwork involved in pulling the permits yourself before work begins.

Step 6:

Agree on such details as where the lumber will be delivered and where the deck contractor will set up his saws and equipment. It's your responsibility to let him know where the utility and sprinkler lines are buried, and it should be the contractor's responsibility to keep a safe, clean work environment to prevent accidents or damage to your landscaping and property.

Step 7:

Set up a payment schedule. It is reasonable for a deck contractor to require a good faith down payment when he starts work but avoid giving him more than 50 percent.

  • Tips & Warnings
  • If outdoor building is seasonal where you live, start your search early in the spring. Reputable deck contractors will be in high demand and may have a waiting list.
  • If you build a deck that does not conform to local building codes, or build without necessary permits, you may be required to remedy the infractions. This may mean ripping up the entire deck, so make sure you're legal in the first place.
  • Get a survey of your property lines if you're building the deck close to the edge of your property.

About the Author

Stevie Donald is a regular contributor to DexKnows. She has been a painting contractor since 1979.

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