The best place to start your search for a deck contractor is online or a referral from a friend. Decks.com uses past customer’s experience to publicly rate contractors across the U.S. Most established deck contractors now have their own websites offering an overview of their qualifications and pictures of their work. This will give you a chance to evaluate their abilities before you give them a call.
Home Shows can be an excellent one-stop resource for making face-to-face contacts and collecting information from a number of contractors. It is a good idea to interview a minimum of three different deck contractors for any project you may be considering.
Deck construction has changed relatively dramatically from what it was a decade ago when few construction standards existed for decks. New product technologies coupled with an explosion of the outdoor living lifestyle has moved decks into a niche industry. In looking to hire for your new deck, I would strongly encourage a deck-specific tradesman or business. A general contractor or carpenter, that does not specialize in deck construction, is likely behind the times and will not be able to offer you the full variety of the product market. They are also more likely to be unpleasantly surprised by new building code requirements unique to deck construction.
A huge benefit to hiring a professional, is granting someone else the trust to get the job done timely and correctly. However, there is certainly some value in doing a little homework as to what you should expect from the professional. First and foremost, verify the contractor has all the legal requirements in your region to perform construction services. If licensing and bonding is required, expect them to have it. Always verify they have general liability insurance, or don’t be surprised when your homeowner’s insurance ends up paying a claim. If they have employees, verify that they are fully insured subcontractors, or legitimate employees covered under a workmen’s compensation policy. As the homeowner, this is your business, as you are ultimately responsible for anyone you invite on your property.
Call the local building authority on your own and verify if a permit is required for your work. Do not trust the contractor alone to determine this. Building permits and inspections are indeed a time consuming process and often not favored by contractors. Given opportunity, many of them would forgo the process. This is not acceptable, and you should make it your responsibility to know when one is required and expect your contractor to abide. Work completed without permit notoriously bites the owner years down the road, with no contractor nearby to take responsibility.