Adding a deck adds value to your property and provides you with outdoor living space that you can share with friends and family. From a simple platform for your grill, to multiple levels with built-in seating and custom features like a hot tub or fire pit, a deck makes your backyard ready for relaxing or entertaining.
Unless you hire a designer, you will have to plan the scope of your project. How large a deck do you want? How high off the ground? Do you want it made of wood or man-made composite? Single level or multiple levels? How will you access the deck from inside? Where do you want the stairs to the yard? What type of railing would you prefer? Do you want any special features such as a hot tub, firepit, or awning?
Once you’ve answered these questions you can come up with your budget for the project. Budget may in fact dictate what features you ultimately select, as you will be able to find prices for materials online and get a rough idea of materials costs that way.
Speaking of budget - it is a good idea to have 10-15% of your expected budget in reserve, in case unforeseen expenses arise.
Your next step is to hire a contractor. A good contractor will help you finalize the design and install your new deck with solid footings and structural support.
Before hiring a deck builder for your new deck you should do the following:
If any of your friends, family, or colleagues had a deck built recently, ask them:
- Did the contractor stay on budget? If not, why?
- Did the contractor apprise you of any additional costs when they arose?
- Did the contractor handle setbacks or glitches appropriately?
- Was the contractor easy to work with?
- Did the crew clean up every day? Were they respectful?
- Are you satisfied with the finished product?
- Would you hire that contractor again?
Interview more than one deck contractor. Ask each one:
- How long have you been in business?
- How many deck projects have you completed?
- Do you offer a warranty on your work?
- Who will obtain the permits?
- Who will contact the utilities to have them marked, if necessary?
- Do you have a current project that I could visit?
- What hours do you and your crew work, and what days of the week?
- Will you always have a supervisor on site?
- What is the payment schedule for my type of project?
- What insurance do you carry?
- When can you start on my deck, and how long do you think it will take?
Get an estimate before work begins.
This should be in writing and include detailed information of the work to be done, including a drawing of the deck, the materials that will be used and how much, time to completion, and of course, price.
DON’T hire a deck contractor if he or she:
- Demands that you commit to the project immediately
- Won’t take a check
- Requires payment in full up front
- Won’t give you a firm price for the project
- Won’t obtain the necessary permits for you
- Can’t give you proof of insurance and licensing
What Should Be in the Deck Construction Contract?
Once you’ve decided to hire a contractor, he or she should draft a contract including the following provisions:
- Price and payment terms
- The scope of work
- Details regarding permits and design approvals, if needed
- Cost for any changes, additions, subtractions once the project begins
- The anticipated date of start and of completion
- The financial consequences of unforeseen delays, like weather
- Details regarding final clean up
- Copies of insurance and contractor’s license
VERY IMPORTANT! Your contract must include a statement that the contractor is responsible for any damage done to your home or grounds during construction.
A good contractor will collaborate with you to make sure your dream deck project becomes a reality. While construction can be dusty and noisy and inconvenient, a professional deck contractor and crew will make it as painless as possible for you and your family. When you are all outside enjoying your new deck, we guarantee you will think to yourself, it was worth it!
About the author
Jennifer Bell is a freelance writer, blogger, dog-enthusiast and avid beachgoer operating out of Southern New Jersey. She writes for Superior Deck & Fence, an expert decking and fencing contractor located in Cherry Hill, NJ and serving homeowners and businesses throughout New Jersey, Southeastern PA, and Delaware.