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A deck is more than an extended area of your house. It’s also a place where the family hangs out and it offers a great spot for relaxation—making your home even livelier. Decks are also a great place to throw summer parties and barbeques, as well as host family get-togethers.

For these reasons, your deck shouldn’t just be an afterthought when it comes to design and construction. Many homeowners often neglect their outdoor living space until after their new home is built. They usually focus on the interior of the home, which is why we see so many renovations and upgrades done to decks.

It will be in your best interest as a homeowner to build your deck the right way now to avoid costly repairs and renovations in the future. However, doing it right the first time can be tricky. The first step that you should take is to find a reliable deck builder to handle your project. Then, all the right pieces will come into place. Here are some key aspects of what to look for in a deck builder:

1. Experience

An experienced deck builder has a portfolio of completed projects. This gives them a significant advantage over others who are just starting because they already know some of the common problems encountered on site, thereby giving them ample amount of time to prepare.

An experienced deck builder will not be a drain on your time and energy. They ask the right questions and guide you on how to proceed with the deck building process. They will offer you the pros and cons of each option, and they will cater to your best interests.

Along with their excellent customer service, an experienced deck builder has the technical expertise and resources to build a sturdy and aesthetically pleasing deck. They can work around constraints and come up with a practical and cost-effective solution to any problems commonly encountered during deck building.

Lastly, they should insist on a site visit first instead of giving “guess” quotations through phone or email. This process usually begins with a trip to the site and an interview with the homeowner to know their needs and wants.

2. Credentials and Requirements

A good deck builder should have the legal requirements to perform deck building services in your city. These include a license for deck building work, insurance, and permits. These crucial prerequisites are what separates the good from the mediocre deck builders.

As a homeowner, it’s in your best interest to seek such prerequisites to protect yourself from any serious liability in an event of an accident, force majeure, or breach of contact. Similarly, if licensing and bonding is required by your city, expect the good deck builders to have one.

All legitimate deck builders are aware of the local building codes, regulations, and laws, and they are more than willing to help put your concerns to ease. Most legitimate deck builders market their services using their license number to eliminate doubts from potential clients, so try to look for those as well.

3. Scope of Services

Some deck builders specialize in design and build services using only a specific material they are familiar with. Others are much more versatile and offer a variety of design and build choices and specifications. Unless you already know exactly what you want, having a number of options to choose from can be very convenient.

However, some options can be riddled with problems while others are more seamless. With that in mind, a good deck builder will be able to explain to you in layman’s terms the pros and cons of each option and share knowledge to help you come up with an informed decision.

Seek out deck builders that offer a number of extras as well. These may include custom cabinets and planters, outdoor benches, or lighting that can help your deck increase your home’s appeal. Maximizing the scope of work for your deck builder is ideal for you to reduce the stress of having to deal with many people.

4. References from other Homeowners

Most deck builders will show you a portfolio with remarkable pictures featuring their past work. However, that might not tell you the whole story. After all, pictures say a thousand words. In order to be sure, you should do your own research by asking for references in your area. You can do so by visiting a few of that deck builder’s past customers.

Asking for references will allow you to gain invaluable information on how the project went and see first-hand the final look of the finished product. If you’re satisfied with your neighbor’s deck, then there’s a good chance that it will be the same for you.

Similarly, find out when the deck was built and see how it holds up with time. Specifically ask if there were any problems dealing with their deck builder or if the project was finished on time and within budget. If your neighbors unanimously give positive feedback about that specific deck builder, then chances are it will be the same for you.

5. Company Organization

Deck builder companies are organized in many different ways. It will be beneficial for you in the long run to know who you’re talking to. Talking to a sales person, the guys who will actually build your deck, or the owner offers a unique perspective on how they deal with their customers.

Because most deck building companies are relatively small, the more you know about their organization, the easier it would be for you to communicate with the right people throughout the project.

More importantly, you should find out whether that deck builder subcontracts the project to another party. Though subcontracting is not necessarily a bad practice, the risk of employing unskilled personnel that will actually build your deck is high, along with miscommunication.

6. Guess Quotations are a Major Turn-Off

A good deck builder will never give a quote unless they already understand their scope of work and have already assessed the project site. In the case that they provide a quotation via phone call or email, you should proceed with caution. More often than not, guess quotations are merely a marketing tool to lure in unsuspecting customers.

If the quotation is too good to be true, then there’s something that the deck builder isn’t telling you. An unusually cheap quotation will only tell you one thing, that there will be additional costs if their guess is incorrect. A good quotation can only be made after initial talks with the customer, once the scope of work is identified, the project site is assessed, and the deck builder accounts for all material and labor expenses.