How to Hire a Pro to Build it For You
A well-built deck is a solid investment in your home. Your new deck will provide a relaxing space to entertain and enjoy the outdoors with family and friends. The addition of a deck can also increase the resale value of your property.
Even if you consider yourself a handy person, having a professional build a deck for you will ensure you are satisfied with your project and have a safe and enjoyable outdoor living space for years to come. Here are some tips to get the best outcome on your deck project with a professional builder.
Plan and Prepare for Your Search
Hold your horses! Before you contact potential builders, it’s important to gather some preliminary information to make the selection process go smoothly.
Establishing a budget will help you narrow down the vast array of choices available for your new deck. This is a good time to give DecksDirect a call. One of our experts can help you evaluate the options of different decking and railing materials.
When you meet with a builder to design your deck, you should have an idea of the rough layout. Decide how many levels and sets of stairs there will be, as well as any premium features you may have in mind. A built-in fireplace, an outdoor kitchen, or a pizza oven are increasingly popular upgrades.
Here are some helpful places to find design inspiration for your new deck:
- Pinterest is the world’s catalog of ideas. We’ve created a huge library of inspiring deck pins to help organize your ideas and share them with your builder.
- Houzz is another popular online resource dedicated to helping people design their dream home. It’s also a great resource for searching for a qualified builder.
- DecksDirect - We’ve put together several galleries that show off the projects of our customers, as well as galleries dedicated to different product categories and manufacturers.
- Manufacturer Inspiration Galleries - Here is a list of links to some of the best deck inspiration galleries on the web.
Finding Builders to Contact
Now that you have an idea of your budget and design direction, you’re ready to gather a list of builders to screen for your project. It’s worth investing time here. Regardless of your project's size, you’ll be working with them for several weeks. Make sure it's someone you don't mind - and preferably appreciate - having on your property. More importantly, you’ll notice the quality of their work for years to come and will want to be happy with it.
To get the most candid perspective, start with builder referrals from friends and family. We recommend contacting 7-10 builders for an initial phone interview.
Here are some online resources to help compile a list of prospective builders:
- The Better Business Bureau
- Angie’s List
- Manufacturer Websites - Several decking and railing manufacturers operate recommended builder programs.
Not sure how to screen potential builders? Here are some discussion topics:
- Licensing, bonding, and insurance - The importance of this conversation and these documents can’t be understated. Take some time to research these topics. Only work with legitimate businesses.
- Do they provide design services? Architectural drawings are valuable for permitting, cost estimating, and ensuring you are on the same page when you sign a contract.
- What kind of experience do they have? How long have they been in business? If you have a material or manufacturer preference at this point, have they worked with this product before?
- Do they have a portfolio of photos from previous projects? Ask specifically for them to point out previous projects that are similar to yours.
- Do they offer a warranty on their work? Ask about warranties on materials as well.
- Will they handle the permitting and inspection process? There is no shortage of paperwork, scheduling and project management that is best left to a professional.
- What is their availability? It's common for a reputable builder to be booked several months in advance. Try to start planning your project early to simplify scheduling.
- How will they manage the jobsite and labor? Do they use subcontractors or have workers' comp insured employees? Is there a jobsite supervisor? Do they do background checks? Remember that you are inviting them onto your property.
- Ask for references - Especially for recent projects, nearby projects, and ones that resemble your specific project.
Advice from a Pro
We asked one of our favorite local builders, Tim from PHI Decks, for some advice on searching for a builder. Here is what he had to say:
What general advice would you give a family member looking for a builder living in another part of the country?
Meet with several builders and get a feel for who they are as a person as well as a builder. Your project will go much smoother if you are comfortable with the person building it.
Should a homeowner select a general contractor or a builder who specializes in decks? Why?
Deck specialist for sure. There are thousands of available products and more often than not general contractors either don't know about them or don't know how to use them.
What if a specialist isn’t available locally?
Do research on your own and don't rely too much on a general contractor for deck specific needs. Contact someone like DecksDirect to help walk you through products and bring that knowledge to the builder you eventually choose.
Are there any red flags a homeowner should look for when selecting a builder?
Lack of product knowledge. There are thousands of products available for decks and not every product is suitable for all applications.
What initial questions should a homeowner ask a potential builder?
Examples of work and design ideas. It's pretty easy to tell who knows what they are talking about and who doesn't.
What questions do you ask a homeowner in an initial interview?
What is their end vision for the project? What will the space be used for? What is your budget?
What time of year should the deck planning stages begin?
It's never too early to start planning a deck project. All reputable deck contractors will be booked solid for two or more months out so beginning the conversation in April for a summer project probably won't be early enough. The best time would be the end of the season (Fall) for a project to start the beginning of next season (Spring).
Narrow Down Your List and Get Estimates
Time to clear your calendar and clean off the kitchen table! After completing your initial phone interviews, narrow your list down to the top three builders and invite them to your home for a consultation. Be prepared to spend about an hour with each builder. They will walk around the jobsite and take measurements, as well as sit down with you to discuss the value they can deliver to your project.
This is a step that sometimes gets skipped, but can prevent a negative and costly experience for yourself and your family. Make sure you call the contacts each builder provided and inquire if they’d be open to you visiting their location to see the builder’s quality of work. Most importantly, ask them if they enjoy their deck and the experience they had working with the builder.
Making the Final Decision
You’re in the final stretch! After receiving estimates and meeting with your short-list of potential builders, the choice should feel obvious. We recommend that you sign a contract when hiring a builder. If you need specific advice, consult an attorney.
Here is a short list of items that should be included in your contract:
- Copy of the contractor's insurance policy
- Copy of the contractor’s business license
- A clear deadline for project completion
- Explanation of fees and costs for changes
- Complete breakdown of pricing for materials and labor
- Payment terms - never pay 100% up front
- Warranty and Accidental Damage policies
We’re Here to Help
Give yourself a high five! You’ve done the hard work to ensure you enjoy the deck of your dreams by hiring a competent, professional builder.
The builder you select will typically work with a local lumberyard to source materials. This is a great option for decking and framing. You may find that the builder’s supplier carries a limited variety of deck railing, lighting, drainage and other deck accessories. This is a common problem since local lumberyards don’t always have space or in-depth knowledge on a wide selection of deck-related products.
Whether you refer your builder to us or pick up the phone yourself, DecksDirect is here to help you get what you need for your deck project. Don’t worry about searching for parts across multiple retailers; we have what you need and our website is designed to guide you through the ordering process.
Our team strives to exceed your expectations by providing honest, accurate, and friendly service that you can trust. Because we are the nation’s largest stocking online retailer of deck accessories, you can trust that nearly all items will ship the same business day if the order is placed by 3:30pm CST, Monday-Friday (excluding special order items).
At any point in your project, even if you have just a few simple questions, feel free to give our deck experts a call at 1-888-824-5316 or send us an e-mail at email@example.com.