You have your premium decking type, material, style and budget together. You’ve also decided you’re going to rely on a decking contractor to build your deck—preferably one with a stellar résumé and reputation. So now it's time to choose one. Use this guide to hiring a decking contractor to inform this all-important decision—whether you're a seasoned decking consumer or finally delving into enhancing your outdoor environment after mulling it over for years.
Consult Friends and Neighbors
This is the most important of all considerations, because only contractors with good to great reputations should get to talk to you. A particularly valuable source for insights into a contractor’s character and talent: friends and neighbors who have had premium decks installed that are similar to the one you’re about to build. Also don’t overlook the reviews in the virtual community—places like Angie’s List and online home renovation forums.
Once you’ve compiled leads, it’s time to call them. Make sure to put a list of questions together beforehand to keep the conversation focused. Your time—and that of your prospective contractor—is very valuable. Review the list of questions we’ve compiled below to help you navigate the conversation.
You want to be on the same wavelength with your potential contractor, so consider this a check for chemistry. Here’s where you’ll discover whether you share the same sense of design and degree of enthusiasm. You’ll be spending a lot of time around each other so communication should feel easy, natural and comfortable.
Investigating work histories and complaint records is far less pleasant than choosing decking material, but nevertheless it is a crucial step to take. So remember to research this with consumer agencies such as the Better Business Bureau.
Some people put this under “logistics.” Others classify it as “odds and ends.” Either way, it’s very important. If your state, county or city government requires permits to build your deck, it’s common and much easier for your contractor to handle that. If it’s an issue, then add it to all the other pros and cons you’re considering on your journey to the right contractor.
Labor costs. Material costs. Size of contractor. The word “variable” was created for deck-building cost-estimating situations like these, so review and compare carefully and don’t assume the lowest bid is always the best one. Take into account all the other things on this page, like reputation and the mutual comfort level between you and the prospective contractor.
Do you have a lot of experience with this decking material?
This is not an insulting question. It’s every bit as important as every penny you’re laying down for this major home renovation project. “I’m not terribly familiar with this material, but I’m sure I can learn” is not an ideal answer.
Are you licensed?
Never too obvious a question to ask, especially if your state requires licensing to install a deck.
Do you handle liability insurance and workers’ compensation?
Accidents and injuries may happen, so make it your responsibility to not be responsible for them. That’s the contractor’s job.
Will you be taking care of permits and homeowner association approvals?
In most instances this is the case. But always ask just to be sure.
Are you available? How much time will you need?
Your premium decking endeavor is the most important project in the world to you and it should be the most important to your contractor too. Excitement, mutual respect and realistic (and unrushed) timelines are noble goals to attain.