Helpful Tips & Consumer Information
A deck is a great way to enjoy the great outdoors with family and friends without leaving home. Even better, this outdoor space can be personalized in so many ways, in style as well as choice of products.
Wood, primarily pressure–treated Southern yellow pine coated with chemicals and relatively low-cost, is still a popular option. However, synthetic materials made from recycled or reclaimed plastic are also available. Another environmentally friendly lumber alternative that combines plastic and wood fiber – composite decking – is growing more popular. Aluminum, which resists weather and insects, is yet another option.
Be Aware Of Common Deck Problems
- Your deck should be attached to your home with the proper bolts or screws. If you see your deck attached to your house with nails or screws that are too small, this is a problem.
- There should always be flashing installed above the piece of wood that connects the deck to the house. If flashing is not installed at all or is installed improperly, you will have a higher chance of water seepage, causing your wood to rot.
- Another common problem with deck installation is improper joist hanger nails or missing nails. Joist hangers are the metal brackets that attach the deck joist to the beams and the house. All holes should have a nail. Screws should not be used instead of nails unless it is a specific joist hanger screw. Also, your joist hangers should not be cut or bent.
- Be sure that the proper metal bracket is used to attach the stairway.
- Also, be sure the guard rails are sturdy. If you can push on the guard rail and it moves, this is a problem. The guard rails should also be spaced properly so that a small child’s head cannot become entrapped.
How to Hire the Right Deck Building Contractor
We have all seen in the news recently the life threatening effects of not having a properly installed deck. Don’t risk your family or friends. Hire a well-qualified, reliable deck building professional. Get the answer to these questions before hiring your next deck builder:
- Who will contact the utility companies and/or have underground lines marked?
- Are the workers “subs” or full- or part-time employees, and what hours and days will they work? Who keeps track of daily progress?
- What is the payment schedule? A deposit to defray the cost of materials is fairly common, but be cautious if the contractor asks for 50 percent or more.
- Will you receive a written bid? A bid is what you pay for the job; an estimate is only an educated guess at the cost.
- Ask to see a current copy of general liability insurance to ensure their limits cover the scope of your project.
- Ask if their workers will be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. If any sub-contractors will be involved, ask if they are required to carry workers’ comp.
- Who will pull any required permits? If they tell you that you need to get them, consider finding somebody else.
- Do they have references from former clients? Be sure to get names and phone numbers. Then make the calls.
- Find out from references if the job was finished within budget. If not, why? For example, were design changes made after the project started or was the project underestimated either in terms of materials or labor?
- If plans change while the work is in progress, the contractor should be flexible and incorporate the changes.
- They should keep you informed of all costs as they occur and inform you if any changes will cost extra.
- They should clean up after themselves each day. Make sure the crew is respectful of your property and your family.
- Don’t forget to include in the contract an attached “Scope of Work” document that explains the project clearly. Construction drawings (if they are required for the project) that are clearly reference by date and the number of pages should also be part of this document. Also include an explanation of how all extra work and/or change orders will be handled and the total price plus start and completion dates for the project.
- Next review the written bids, which should include costs for materials and labor, and compare qualifications and references. Be open to the reality that the lowest price may not be the best deal.
- Check with the state attorney general’s office to learn if there are complaints against the business.
Deck Building Contractor Associations/Accreditations
Trade associations keep members informed about new products, construction techniques, business practices and industry issues. Participation demonstrates a commitment to professionalism.
- National Association of Home Builders (NHBA)
- Home Builders Association in your local area (HBA)
- Associated Builders & Contractors, Inc. (ABC)