5 Ways to Become an Expert Deck Buyer
December 1, 2010 1 Comment
First, let me make the assumption that you will be hiring a competent deck contractor to complete your project. Our goal here is not to create another DIY “How to build a deck on a Saturday with three buddies and a 24-pack”. Instead, we want to empower you with knowledge that will help you get a high quality, enduring deck project built by a reputable deck builder.
- DO A LITTLE HOMEWORK: I would much rather meet with a prospective client that has done at least some cursory research about decks. I don’t expect you to know too much, but it’s extremely helpful if you can lead me, the deck designer and builder, down the right path so I have an idea of what you think you want to do. Photos are great. Maybe you saw a picture online of a staircase style or shape you liked. Benches, custom railing designs, pergolas and shade structures are SO much easier for me to integrate into your custom design if I know what style you like.
- ONLY DO A “LITTLE” HOMEWORK: The worst thing I encounter in meeting new clients is the person who has done so much online research about decks that they’ve literally become drunk on completely inaccurate or outdated information. The internet is a great resource, but it can be dangerous in that so much of the information is just bad. The lay person usually doesn’t have the overall knowledge of the big picture to process all of this data. Plus, you are hiring me because I am an expert. When you use your the lawyer or accountant, do you argue with his professional opinion? You are paying me because I spend a lot of time educating myself. Get your money’s worth and heed my advice.
- COME UP WITH A BUDGET: I’ve got some news for you. Believe it or not, you are going to have to pay to have us build your project. Yes…I know. It’s unfathomable to think I have to charge you, but I do. But seriously, homeowners tend to guard the budget they have set for a project like gold bullion. This is simply ridiculous and it wastes a lot of time–both yours and mine. In order for me to design your deck project efficiently, I need to know if you are in the market for a Ford or a Ferrari. I can design anything you want, but what’s the point if you have $15,000 set aside for the project, but I designed you a $75,000 deck you fell in love with but can’t pay for? If you tell me your budget, I’m going to give the most bang for your buck. Think about it. Do you really think that reputable deck contractors get to where they are by ripping people off?
- ESTABLISH A SCOPE OF WORK: You may not be in the market for a true custom designed deck. Heck, most people still hire us to build “rectangles” with one set of steps. We love those jobs because they will always be our bread and butter. If you are in the market for simple deck or a “rectangle” as we call them, you might be calling anyone and everyone you can find to give you a price. While that is the topic of an entirely different story, you need to make sure you are asking everyone “bidding” (I hate that word…it just lacks value) to include the exact same materials and methods. Here’s why. A deck builder like me is going to do things the right way, using the best methods, and is probably going to do things a plain ol’ contractor never even thought of doing. Write it out. We want X decking, Y railing, this kind of framing, this many footings, etc… This way you’ll have an apples to apples comparison.
- PRETEND YOU ARE GOING ON A DATE: Hiring a contractor is kind of like going on a blind date of sorts. The first time you meet the contractor, you have to remember it’s his first time meeting you too. An established deck contractor is not living and dying based on hiring or not hiring them for your project, so it’s important that you make a good impression so that they will want to work on your project. I’ll tell you a little secret…sometimes we (contractors) get such a bad vibe from a prospective client during the first meeting that we wouldn’t take the project if you paid us double for it. I could write pages about things people have said to me (probably unaware of how tactless their comments were in their defense). Be cordial. Be honest. And…be respectful. You’d be surprised how far that will get you.