By adding a deck or porch to your home you can provide your family an outdoor space to have fun and socialize as well as increase the livability and value of your home. A good sturdy deck or porch can provide refuge, shelter and dividends. If you’re looking to add a deck to your home you’ll need to hire a qualified and competent contractor to ensure that your deck is built securely and skillfully. A number of factors need to be taken into consideration when searching for your ideal deck and porch contractor. Below are 8 tips toward finding a good, honest contractor.
1. Consider what you want- Once you’ve decided to add a deck or patio to your home there are many factors to consider. Unless you want to hire a designer in addition to a contractor, it’s important to come up with a general idea of what you want. It’s also a good idea to set a budget, that way you know what you’re working with and don’t end up spending out of your means. Here are a few questions to ask yourself with planning for your deck. How big do I want it? Dimensions give you a better idea of what is possible and what ideas fit. Do I want multiple levels? Where will the deck lead? Do I want stairs or ramps? What kind of wood do I want? There is a wide array of decking materials and finishes from synthetic to pressure-treated to plastic and wood fibers. Do I want any extra features included like a fire pit a planter, railings or built-in seating? By getting a thorough and accurate picture in your head of what you want you’ll be able to better explain your vision to your contractor and end up with your ideal deck or porch.
2. Find a Contractor- Once you have armed yourself with a good plan and a set budget it’s time to find a contractor. Websites like goodhonestcontractor.com are devoted to matching people like you with their ideal contractor. It's a good idea to look at the work a contractor has done for previous clients. If they have a website where you can look at projects they have completed, even better. You may also ask friends and other homeowners if they have any suggestions. A contractor's reputation among former clients is the best gauge of his or her work. Here are a few questions that you may want to ask former clients:
- Did your contractor finish the job within the budget? If not, what caused the overage? Were you informed of the costs as they came up?
- How did the contractor handle setbacks or glitches? Was he or she easy to work with?
- What was the contractor's crew like? Were they respectful? Did they clean up after themselves each day?
- If plans changed while the work was in progress, were the changes accommodated, or was the contractor inflexible?
- Would you hire that contractor again?
3. Set Appointments - Set up appointments with at least three contractors in order to find the best contractor for you. Here are a few ideas of questions to ask a prospective deck and porch contractor. Once you’ve narrowed it down to one or two, check their references thoroughly.
- How long has the company been in business?
- May I visit a site you're currently working on?
- How early will work start in the mornings, and what time will workers leave each day?
- Who will be the contact person if I hire this company?
- What kind of payment schedule will you expect?
4. Conduct a thorough prospect check- Once you have narrowed down the list of potential candidates, it’s up to you to do the legwork. Your contractor is going to be in your home and involved in a large financial investment so make sure to check them out thoroughly. Gather References- A professional will easily give you a list of references and volunteer this information from the beginning of the process. If certification is a requirement in your area, make sure to see their credentials. If they are unwillingly to supply any of this information it may be a red flag.
Call References- Call references directly and ask them questions on topics including: satisfaction with workmanship, communication with the contractor, complications, if the job came in on budget and if they would use the contractor again.
5. Licensing and certification- The first thing to keep in mind with a potential contractor is if they have the appropriate certification. They should have licensing and certifications that they can show you as well as verify through the regulation boards. When they give you their resume and list of qualifications, it’s up to you to check each of these sources to see if they’re legitimate. You’ll also want to check with the BBB. Search the Better Business Bureau website at "http://www.bbb.org" to locate your local bureau. Enter the company’s name on the website to see if they are BBB accredited and if they have any complaints against them. Your contractor should also have the insurance to cover any problems that might come up. In the unlikely situation that something should occur on the jobsite, they need to be covered for the damages and losses. Ask if they are insured and if they have ever had to make any claims during a job assignment. Double check on their insurance policy before you agree to their services in order to know what is covered and what is not.
6. Get an estimate- Estimates should be free. Estimates should be given to you in writing and include these details:
- The work to be done in detail
- The specific materials to be used
- A time frame for the work to be completed
- A firm price
7. Details- Establish a payment schedule before the work begins and put everything in writing. This includes the original estimate, the final contract with project details, design plans and payment schedule. You’ll want to make sure and save all of this info until the project is completed and all payments have been made.
8. Watch out- Take heed if a contractor requires cash or pressures you for an immediate commitment, if they can’t provide proof of insurance or if they require you to get the necessary permits.