Julie Bawden-Davis | Improvement Center Columnist | December 14, 2011
A deck brings the indoors outside, making a comfortable and eye-catching gathering spot for family and friends. If well-built and constructed of high-quality materials, it can last for many years. To ensure its longevity, carefully consider the deck contractor you choose.
What is a deck contractor and what do they do?
Deck contractors are craftsmen who design and build decks based on client desires and available landscape space. They measure property and draw up detailed plans. "For projects such as second-story balconies and steep hillsides, deck contractors also consult with engineers, who complete necessary calculations to make sure that proposed projects are sound," says contractor Greg Ethenoz, owner of Beyond Decks in Thousand Oaks, Calif. "Engineers make adjustments to deck plans, if needed."
Types of deck materials
Pressure-treated wood is one of the least expensive materials used. A costlier, more durable wood product is the hardwood Ipe, also known as Ironwood. To maintain their integrity, all wood decks require a yearly treatment with UV deck oil. Composite, made of real wood and plastic products, has gained popularity in recent years. This long-lasting material requires no yearly oiling, but needs occasional cleaning. The newest material gaining popularity is all plastic PVC, which is more expensive than composite, yet virtually stain-proof.
Permits, which validate structural integrity, are sometimes required. According to Ethenoz, in California a permit is essential if the structure is higher than 30 inches from the ground or attached to the house. Permits are obtained from your local city offices by showing the appropriate officials your new deck plans. If you live in development with a homeowner's association, make sure that decks are allowed.
Budgeting for a new deck
Reputable contractors provide detailed quotes that outline entire projects, including materials, labor and permit costs. Incremental payments should be due as projects progress. Costs vary according to the size and scope of the project. Ethenoz charges $35 to $50 per square foot for a standard shape that requires no permits and higher for non-standard or elevated decks. Fill out the form on this page to get quotes from deck contractors in your area.
References and examples
When considering a contractor, view examples of his or her work and ask for references. Inquire with clients about the contractor's professionalism and workmanship, and ask how well their deck is holding up.