If you’re ready to add on that deck you’ve always wanted, now’s your chance. But if you don’t have the time, tools or knees to do it yourself, you may need to look into hiring someone. The question is, how do you choose a reliable contractor? Use this list so you don’t hire a Cousin Eddie.

quality deck building tips

(Pixabay / igushi_a)

  • Clear communication 
    If the contractor you’re thinking about hiring looks like a Neanderthal and introduces themselves by saying, “Me Ugbug,” you may want to find someone that communicates a little more clearly. But even fully evolved humans should be held to certain standards of communication.
    A contractor should be able to tell you, at a level you understand, what they can or can’t do with a custom deck, the available space and what they’ll do while building it. If what they’re saying sounds like gibberish and they’re not capable of clarifying or simplifying their words, try looking elsewhere.
    Not everything is about the actual construction, though. The contractor should be willing to tell you if they’ve exceeded the expected cost estimate and why; and if they’re taking longer than they said they would, they need to tell you what’s going on. Ask how they would handle these scenarios should they come up.
  • Proven track record/Positive reviews
    Look at their website. See if they’ve posted pictures of their past projects. How do they look? If the decks online look like quality work, that’s a good sign. But what about the people that paid for that porch?
    Make sure you look at reviews. Try places like Yelp, their Facebook page and HomeAdvisor, among others. If they have good ratings, that actually say what was so great about their work, and a good number of them, it may be safe to give them a try.
    And if you’re comfortable with it, try contacting some of those clients. See what they have to say about the contractor in person. Ask them how it’s held up over the past few weeks, months or years. If they still have glowing words about their deck builder, you should be alright.
    And if there is a negative review floating around out there on the internet, see if the contractor took the time to respond to it. Misunderstandings happen, but if the contractor has replied in writing and conscientiously and courteously explained how they rectified the problem, they may still be worth considering.
  • Proof of license and insurance
    Do not hire a “Cousin Eddie.” I’m talking about the guy who isn’t licensed or insured and would just cause more damage than he’d fix, leaving your insurance (or you) to pay for the big hole in the wall.
    Make sure they have at least Workers Compensation and General Liability insurance. If someone falls off a ladder while working, or breaks their thumb while hammering in nails, you don’t want a lawsuit on your hands, just because it happened on your property. And if they do make a big hole in your house and it wasn’t part of the plans, their insurance will cover it, not yours.
    You also need to make sure they’re licensed. Feel free to ask about it. If they don’t show you their credentials, talk to someone else immediately. There is no reason you should put you or your family at risk because you hired someone that couldn’t legally do the work.
    Another point to consider is whether or not they know the laws of the area. A contractor needs to know what’s to code. They must have a building permit, and they should look for utility lines before they start putting in the posts. Talk to them about these details. Any good company will be willing and able to put you at ease by sharing their credentials.
  • Experience
    Some people are better with certain materials, landscapes and designs because of what they’ve done in the past. Make sure you get someone that knows how to work with what you want, whether it be a wraparound, covered, detached, or multi-tier deck…or anything else.
    The reason you want someone with experience is that they’ll be able to pinpoint and stop a problem before it occurs. They’ll also be a little more accurate in their bids and timeframes than someone who has only been building decks for a couple of months.
  • Knowledge of your project
    As stated earlier, get someone that can work with what you want. If you want a raised patio, a roof put over your porch or a deck with a fire pit and garden boxes, make sure you find a team that knows how to work it in.
    But if you only know the basics of what you want, not the whole picture, get someone that can help you fill it in. They should be able to give you suggestions and tell you how well different concepts would work in the context of your yard.

You should never skimp on quality. It’s costly, dangerous and will cause more problems than it’s worth. Don’t hire Cousin Eddie. If you’re in Colorado, hire a quality deck company like SRI Decks.

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