No one likes surprises during a remodel, especially a deck build. Whether incorrectly framed decking or improperly installed railings, receiving a below-par product for all your time, money, and excitement can be emotionally and physically exhausting.
Even worse? Hiring the wrong deck builder could lead to safety issues for you and your family in the long run.
No matter whom you choose to construct your outdoor living space, it’s important to know what to look out for while vetting Lansing deck builders. In every deck build, hiring the right contractor is the key difference between a deck built for long-lasting memories and a deck that leaves you desperate for another solution after investing thousands of dollars.
With over 15 years of experience building decks in the Mid-Michigan area, we know the strengths and characteristics every homeowner should consider when hiring a deck builder.
Let’s explore 7 qualities all reliable deck builders should showcase:
1. Experience with Deck Building
“Have you built a deck before?” is a simple but crucial question you must ask your prospective deck builder. Look for contractors with proven experience building decks and a positive track record.
We recommend scrolling through Google Reviews of prospective builders and seeing their reputation in your region (builders with 4.0 stars and above are safer options).
Most importantly, ask as many open-ended questions as you can. This will help you better understand who your deck builder is and if you can trust them. Here are a few questions we recommend asking when it comes to learning about a builder’s experience:
How many decks have you built?
What types of decks have you built?
How many years have you been in business?
Which associations do you belong to? And how long have you been a member?
2. High Level of Craftsmanship
Does your prospective deck builder obsess over every design and production detail?
If so, you’ve found another qualifying aspect of their work process. Decks need extreme attention to detail, and your builder should have the skills to construct a long-lasting product.
To diversify your research and gain more insight into your prospective deck builder, make sure to do the following:
Consult family and friends for their builder connections.
Join a Facebook Group with other homeowners and see if other users have used their services.
Review their gallery to confirm their prior experience and quality of work (i.e., even placement of the deck boards, the longevity of the deck, etc.)
3. Expertise in Deck Design
Great deck builders obsess over details. Stellar deck builders use that obsession to showcase five-star deck design knowledge. A trustworthy deck builder should have a background in design. They should conceptualize your project with every factor in mind ranging from your home’s architecture to the terrain.
Here are a few open-ended questions to ask to vet your deck builder’s expertise in design:
What is your design process?
What kind of design plan will you provide?
How will you help me decide which colors and railing styles to choose?
Do you create 3D renderings or visualizations of the proposed deck design to help me envision the final result?
Review the styles of decks they’ve built to align with what you’re looking for design-wise. Maybe they have more experience with rectangular decks and less experience with unique designs such as hexagonal sides or cantilevers.
4. Knowledge of Materials
From wood to composite to PVC, your ideal deck builder knows the pros and cons of each deck board material option and which is suitable for your project. Look for contractors that do their homework and understand how your aesthetic preferences, placement area, and Michigan climate affect board selection.
Make sure to ask the following questions to gauge your deck builder’s knowledge of materials:
Are you a certified carrier of Trex, TimberTech, or other composite decking brands? How long have you been certified?
Are you experienced working with different decking materials such as wood, composite, or PVC?
Do you have extensive knowledge and experience to back up your rating with your certified supplier (companies like Trex reward contractors with Pro, Silver, or Platinum Deck Builder status based on their track record with their materials)?
5. Commitment to Safety and Structural Integrity
Like every build or remodeling project, safety is essential and should not be taken lightly. During construction, your deck builder should embrace this concept and ensure that all components ranging from deck board width to railing integrity are above and beyond code and safe to use.
Deck builders and contractors aligned with their safety standards should be able to answer the following questions with confidence and assurance:
Are you licensed and insured?
Do you offer a lifetime workmanship warranty?
How do you ensure a build goes above and beyond code compliance?
What permits are required to be pulled for building a new deck? Do you pull them for each project?
6. Excellent Customer Service and Communication
Communication is vital during a deck build, especially client-contractor interactions. In fact, communication in remodeling is often difficult, thanks to the various shifting parts of a project.
Contractors will take all the project management and coordination off your hands; however, the volatile nature of a project can force teams to pivot suddenly, leaving some clients without consistent information.
As you read up on Google Reviews, look out for what prior clients have to say about your options. They should, ideally, say something like, “They were communicative and answered every question I had about my project.”
Here are a few more questions you should ask your deck builder regarding their customer service skills and communication style:
How is client communication done during the project?
Are you open to incorporating client input and feedback during the construction process?
Do you use a management program or calendar software to keep track of your projects?
Do you have a designated point of contact or project manager who will oversee my deck project?
What kind of walkthrough meeting will you conduct with me at the end of my project to ensure my deck is built to specification? Is there a meeting with the production team, advisor, or salesperson who sold my project?
7. Offers a Deck Warranty
A trustworthy and reputable deck builder believes in their work and offers warranties on their craftsmanship. If you’re set on a contractor, make sure to ask how they handle post-construction issues and what kind of services they can provide to fix those potential problems.
Here’s how to tell if a contractor is offering a good warranty:
How long does your warranty coverage last?
What type of warranty or guarantee do you offer for the deck construction work?
What specifically does your warranty cover? (e.g., workmanship, structural integrity, materials)
Keep in mind that your warranty options change depending on the installer. For example, if your builder isn’t certified by a supplier, you might not get the same access to a warranty.
Next steps to hiring a deck builder
With so many deck builders available in the Greater Lansing Area, it can be confusing to know which option you can trust to successfully bring your deck vision to life.
Furthermore, hiring an underqualified contractor subsequently leads to botched projects and months (or years) of staring at an unusable deck that disrupts your peace of mind.
That’s why it’s important to understand what qualities represent a talented deck builder who will deliver your dream deck and make the experience simple.
As a remodeler with extensive experience managing and constructing decks, we value creating beautiful and functional outdoor living spaces and ensuring your construction experience is as positive as possible.
In this article, you have learned the 7 qualities of a reliable deck builder and how each attribute factors into the success of your project.
To learn more about finding the right contractor for your deck and remodeling needs, read the following articles:
Michael brings over 2 decades of building and remodeling experience to his position as the Owner and Visionary of Custom Built. Michael’s passion to make an impact on the home building industry has led him to serve for over ten years at the local and state Home Builders Association, culminating as President of the HBA of Michigan in 2020.