Finding local deck builders–A Fishing Expedition?
You want a deck.
So, you go online and type in decks and where you live.
You find 10 local deck builders… you call them all.
3 deck builders call you back.
When you speak to them on the phone you assume they are a good deck builder, only 3 called you back or answered the phone–these must be the good deck companies, right? Stop. Think. If it is a warm sunny spring day or the peak of the season, the good guys are all busy building! Any builder that can drop everything and answer your call, may just be a desperate one. They may be great!! But you don’t know because you didn’t even look at their website.
Let’s start again–Google has changed.
Did you know that most of the first page listings on Google are ads?
Homestars is a pay for inclusion site specializing in connecting small contractors with small jobs.
Kijiji is a free site that handymen advertise on–if the price is your prime concern you should go there.
The local listings above that can easily be manipulated by creating multiple Google accounts and giving yourself reviews–or simply hiring another company to do that for you. In the busy season, there are 3 or so ads above this box by advertisers.
Reviews and testimonials were a great idea but these days they are just too easy to fake.
Invest the time and see the deck builder’s work!
Go online and go to the websites rather than just grabbing phone numbers. This time, you look at all the sites, you look at their work and decide which of the 10 appeal to you. Some feature really basic builder’s style decks. Others are middle of the road and some are beautiful decks with stunning designs and only the most modern materials.
Are you looking for a basic wood deck? 5 of those companies do very little wood. You should not be calling those deck builders.
Are you looking for a competitively priced composite deck company? You should not be calling 8 of the 10
Will you be building a magazine quality deck? A gorgeous deck designed just for you? There may only be 1 or 2 that are capable to design and build that kind of thing.
Google Image search for “Deck Builders”
These days it is the best tool for finding great deck builders. Let’s face it, these are actual photos of decks in your area. These are the guys you want to connect with.
There are hundreds of photos–just scroll down. You can click on the image and choose visit site to learn more about the companies.
Is warranty important?
Here’s where it gets tricky. Most people assume that all warranties are the same.
Has the company been in business for 5 years? What is their warranty? 1 year? 5 Years? 10 years?
Are they a franchise? What if the franchise leaves the program? Will the franchisor honor the warranty? (in most cases they do not).
The truth is that every builder has different talents and experiences. They all build something different. All decks are not created equal. One may last a year–one may last 50. Differences are that drastic.
Stairs are an Achilles Heel– 90% last only 5 – 10 years and they are the most expensive part of a deck by the square foot.
Here are 5 things to look for in a deck builder:
Supports every 8-12 inches of stairs with sealed stringers
Code compliance/Engineered plans
A good warranty description–read the exemptions.
Your average deck builder lasts about 9 months
Builders all start out with good intentions, however, they often lack the capability to build a long-lasting deck.
About half of them lift photos from the web. Google allows you to do an image search–so you can see if another company created the photos or lifted them. Do a search, and look for the largest image or an image with a watermark. I have asked builders for cards only to find my work featured on their business card!
They are all looking to build their own portfolio and rarely do they charge enough to stay in business. When you are looking for the lowest price you may as well resign to not having a warranty. If the company isn’t in business, there is no warranty. A deck company that is losing money will not be in business long.
The most dangerous fact is that many of these low budget companies close up and disappear with deposits from numerous clients.
People just can’t resist a bargain– but every bargain is a gamble.
The prudent path is to hire a professional company with a track record. They will never be a bargain in the short term, but 10 years down the road it will become apparent that the investment was worth the stretch!