Building Decks

Build a deck or hire a pro

So you've decided that you're going to get a deck. You have a particular deck design in mind along with the necessary deck plans and you've even got all the legalities covered – now it's just a matter of getting it built. The choice you face is whether to hire a professional deck builder or learn how to build a deck yourself.

Building Your Own Deck

Unless you've been building decks for a living, you'll want to start out with building a deck that isn't overly complex. The simplest deck to build is an on-grade deck. This type of deck doesn't require steps, railings or posts but does have universal structural elements like joists, beams and piers. The bonus is that since there are fewer elements involved in making an on-grade deck, you'll need less deck materials and will therefore save a significant amount of money.

Keep in mind, however, that if you choose a design that sits flush with the ground, you'll need materials that won't decay, such as PVC vinyl or pressure-treated lumber. Most designs are slightly elevated to allow for proper drainage, air circulation and to compensate in case of unlevel ground.

Hiring a Deck Builder

If you have more ambitious deck construction plans and don't have the time, tools or talent to build it yourself, you'll want to hire a deck contractor instead. The first step is to make sure you have solid ideas and a definite budget. If you don't know of any contractors, check with co-workers, clients, neighbors and friends to see if they know anyone who is affordable and does great work. Make sure that you speak to actual clients, and ask questions such as:

  • Was the work completed on time and at the originally quoted price?
  • Were you notified of the costs as they came up?
  • Was the contractor easy to deal with?
  • Was the crew respectful and did they clean up the mess each day?
  • Would you consider hiring the contractor again in the future?

With these questions answered, you can then contact the contractors you feel are best for the job, and ask them some questions, such as:

  • How many deck projects have you completed?
  • How long have you been in business?
  • Will you obtain any necessary permits?
  • What will be the start and finish time for the typical workday?
  • Are you fully insured? Do you offer any warranty on the quality of your work?
  • How soon can you start work on the project?

If the contractor answers these questions to your satisfaction, make sure you get a written estimate for both the cost and time of the project. If at any time you feel pressured or the contractor suddenly insists on being paid by cash only, then it's best to find a more trustworthy contractor instead.

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