Decks are a booming business in Utah and it's only expected to get bigger in the next couple of years. However, most homeowners are left feeling overwhelmed or confused on what to look for in selecting their contractor.
It happens several times per year that we are asked to come estimate a deck repair on a project we bid on months/year before only to find the client went with the wrong choice in selecting a contractor. While we will often give some recommendations of other companies to go with or at least become educated with, we only recommend licensed & insured deck builders with a great reputation.
We've compiled this educational guide to assist homebuilders on how to select their contractor for their next deck build. And as you'll notice, a lot of these recommendations applies to other projects you hire out as well.
Pick a DECK BUILDER!
A very common complaint among homeowners is when they picked a "contractor" to do a deck, come to find out they complete 1-2 decks a year. That is not a deck builder.
Would you hire a Doctor that only practiced medicine 1-2 weeks a year?
A deck builder builds 1-2 decks per WEEK, ALL year long... It takes a deck builder 1-2 months to typically do more decks than some contractors will their entire career.
Typically what we find with these contractors is they use the wrong material, do not install professionally, are not certified on the decking. This leads to problems the products fail, final product does not look good, or the customer is left without a warranty because the contractor wasn't certified.
See below for more about certifications, licenses, and warranties.
Verify a contractors license and insurance
Finding if a Contractor is licensed is easy visit the State Website
Type in the Name of the Company, in our case: "Ogden Decks"
And you should see something like this:
Check for insurance, BOTH liability and workers compensation.
In an unofficial study by Ogden Decks posted a job ad for licensed & insured contractors to build a deck. We had 13 companies offer to build the deck in 3 days of posting.
Of those 13 companies, 4 had the proper license and insurance. This means70% of the companies would have opened the homeowner to liability if damage/injury occurred on the property.
A common tactic is the contractor purchases a cheaper liability policy but does not purchase the more expensive workers compensation. This leaves you on the hook for injuries, talk to an insurance professional for more information.
Please be advised this website is for informational purposes only, the picture represents the information present on DOPL's website at the time of making this website. If expired, please run a proper search on us or ANY contractor before hiring as we do not plan to update this page every time our license renews.
Do NOT pay 100% up front to any contractor
Occasionally we hear of clients say they won't pay anything to a contractor up front, only after the work is complete. Good luck with that!
A little unknown fact is that by sheer number homeowners damage contractors at a significantly higher rate than contractors damaging homeowners.
See a couple of real life examples:
Example 1: "Yes, I know we owe you that money but we spent the money on a roof instead can we pay you in a couple of months?"
Example 2: "Sorry, I splurged and went on a cruise instead Ill pay you when I get the money"
Example 3: "I know that wasn't in the scope of work, but I want you to do that stuff and I'm not paying you until you do it"
Fact is people are taken advantage of on both sides of the coin when contracting. While some people would never dream of walking into a store like Walmart or Target and taking something without paying, they will steal from a contractor in a heart beat justifying it as "I paid them enough" or " That should be included with what I paid".
All this and contractors typically profit 10-20% on good jobs let alone jobs they ran into hiccups during the project for.
That is why most contracting companies that don't take some kind of payment up front, typically aren't in business long.
It's most common with licensed reputable companies to arrange a draw system similar to what banks do during home builds. A payment schedule outlined to protect both the customer and the contractor.
Small percent down, a draw when material is delivered, payment when framing is done, etc. etc. etc.
Beware of any contractor that won't start work until large draws or all of the payment is made ahead of time, beware of the customer that won't pay anything until the job is done.
What is a certification and why does it matter?
Simply put, it helps the customer separate the professionals from the amateur's. Typically to be a certified installer the manufacturer will verify license, insurance, AND here is the important part inspect several decks built by the builder. This ensures:
1. The Deck is Built Safe
2. The Deck will pass warranty standards
3. They aren't putting their name to a sub-par or shady contractor.
What does being a certified pro do?
Gives the contractor back end access to register the warranty, lets the company know what product was used on the deck, and that it was installed by a certified pro.
Why would you risk having a non-certified installer install a deck leaving you vulnerable to warranty or safety issues?
These processes are free for the contractor to sign up for they simply need to supply the license/insurance, federal IRS tax ID number, and schedule inspections on their builds. You should ask yourself, why would a deck builder NOT do this?
To verify an installer is certified is easy, most of the main manufacturers have a button that says find a builder right on their home page, see below:
Ask if your contractor has an office you can visit to sign paperwork or view product/material. Typically only the larger more professional contractors have reached the level in which they can support overhead in the form of offices / showrooms.
Please note: Every contractor started in a truck, and there are some really good deck builders that do not have an office. However, those that do you'll know they've been doing it a long time and are good at what they do.
Reviews of contractors are difficult. As a contractor we know that most of our customers regardless of how impressed and happy with the work don't think about leaving reviews.
Upset a client regardless of fault will get back at you anyway they can, IE reviews. Interestingly you also have some review platforms that discreetly let companies know, "Pay for ad's and we'll let bad reviews slip off your profile". In other words they are selective on what reviews are allowed and push those that pay them verse those that don't.
A contractor in the business long enough will have reviews, but its also impossible to please everyone so do your due diligence but the biggest concern we would say is no reviews.. That is a sign a company is new or changed their name to escape something.
Deck Warranty, everyone knows what they are but very few know what they include.
Let's start on the ground:
Your footings are they installed using concrete or pylons? Pylons often times are warrantied where concrete hardly ever are.
Framing, is your frame warrantied? Pro-wood pressured treated is, but often times other lumber is not. This leaves under lumber unwarranted.
Decking - See the deck manufacturer, does it include labor? removal? or only material? It matters.
Railing - Vinyl? Usually not, metal/aluminum? usually. Major Brand railing typically is, but at a cost.
Ask what is covered and what is not so your aware of how your protected and where you are not.