Choosing your deck contractor can be a daunting task for even the most knowledgeable homeowner. We recommend that you go through this list of recommended questions for your contractor interviews. The answers to these questions will give you a better idea of how reliable the contractor is and how well of a job they will perform.
1. How many years has your company been in business? Not only should you be concerned with the individual contractor(s) that will be performing the job, but you should also be concerned with how well the company is doing. You can usually tell how well the company is doing by finding out how many years the contractor has been building decks. If he doesn’t have at least three years of experience then he may not be able to perform the job to a professional level. This also indirectly clues you in on how well the business is doing. You want to feel comfortable with the integrity of the company because your warranty will be useless if your contractor goes out of business.
2. Do they have a business license? For liability reasons, it is important for your contractor to have a business license. If they don’t have one, then their business is illegitimate. The license validates the legitimacy of the business.
3. Do they have proper insurance? Proper insurance is very important for your protection as a homeowner. It includes general liability and workman's compensation insurance. Basically, if the contractor does not have proper insurance then you may be liable for property damage and worker injury on your property. This could get really ugly, really fast, so be sure to check for this. If the company is small and carries workman’s compensation insurance instead, then just be sure to ask to have a certificate sent to you by the insurance company.
4. Do they have references? References are important because they offer you proof of the quality of work that the contractor performs and the relationship they have formed with other clients. You should ask for a list of at least 20 people that the contractor has worked for and plan on calling about 10 of them. Below are few important questions to ask their past customers.
- When did they last work for you?
- Would you hire them again?
- Were they respectful toward your property?
- Did they maintain an efficient daily schedule?
- Was the quality of their work good?
- Would it be possible to see the work that they performed?
5. Lastly, you need to ask if you will get a written detailed quote. A written detailed quote is one of the most important elements defining the relationship you have with your contractor. It provides a solid figure, not an estimate, which the contractor will commit to regarding his finishing the work. Asking for a detailed quote will quickly show you the level of profession your contractor processes. If the contractor isn't willing to put in the time to provide a detailed quote, then they lack the professionalism that you are looking for in a contractor. The detailed quote should contain the following specifics:
Specifics of Construction: This is the part of the quote that describes the grade of materials, the size of materials, the type or species of materials; as well as the joist and beam spans, screws, nails, bolts, foundation sizes, and specified construction for railings, benches and stairs.
Payment Agenda: Most contractors will ask for a deposit when they first begin their work. Something isn’t right if they ask for more than half the amount of the project up front before starting the job. Your job as the customer is to pay your contractor within 24-48 hours of the contract completion. You must be respectful of the fact that many companies rely on money to come in from jobs on a dependable basis.
Project Layout: Your detailed quote should include a two dimensional drawing of the planned deck to scale. This will confirm that the contractor is on the same page as you with what you want to have built. The last thing you want is to arrive at your new deck with a look of surprise because it isn’t what you wanted.
Parking & Deliveries: Very specific agreements need to be made regarding the parking of construction vehicles, the placement of materials, and the method of deliveries. Below are some of the important understandings that need to be agreed upon and stated in your detailed quote.
- Where should the contractors park?
- Where do you want the material deliveries to be placed?
- Are you ok with lumber being placed on your lawn for more than 4-5 days?
- Which side of the house do you want the contractors to carry the materials around to the project?
- Can the contractor park or drive on the lawn if this type of access is needed to get to the project?
Permits: You will be saving yourself a ton of potential problems by obtaining any and all permits from the local municipalities. You could risk huge fines and even the possibility of having your deck taken down if you neglect to obtain a permit. This permit(s) should be included in the detailed quote.
Utility Concerns: Make sure that there is a mutual understanding between the contractor and yourself over what utilities run inside the house and behind the deck connection. By doing so, you will be avoiding some serious problems that could happen such as water lines, gas, sewer drain, and electrical damage. The detailed quote should state who will be responsible for the utilities if they are cut or broken during construction.
Clean Up: Make sure the detailed quote states that the contractor includes in his contract the cleanup of all scraps and excess materials when the job is finished. The last thing you want is a new deck accompanied by a messy destroyed yard.
Contact Information: Always have the contact information of the person in charge of the job. Preferably his/her phone number. This person should be keeping you updated daily on the progress of the job and also the person you will need to speak with regarding any changes or concerns.
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