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7 Reasons Why Deck Contractors Fail

January 25th, 2024 | 7 min read

By Isabelle Braeutigam

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When it comes to building a new deck for your home, the process can be both exciting and daunting. Choosing the right deck contractor is crucial, as it can determine the success and longevity of your outdoor space.

With over 15 years of experience, Custom Built has worked with hundreds of clients to transform their outdoor space into a place they love. We’ve witnessed the challenges involved with deck-building, and what happens when craftsmanship and organizational standards fall short.

In this article, we'll discuss how an unreliable deck contractor fails:

  1. Lack of Planning and Organization
  2. Ineffective Communication Between Workers
  3. Unclear Financial Planning and Management
  4. Low-Quality Craftsmanship
  5. Lack of Deck-Building Experience
  6. Lack of Code and Permit Knowledge
  7. Limited or Outdated Design Knowledge

1. Lack of Planning and Organization: The Foundation of Success

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One of the cornerstones of a successful deck project is meticulous planning and organization.

A deck contractor's lack of planning and organization can ruin what should be an exciting home improvement project - creating chaos and eroding trust. Uncoordinated work can cause major issues during vital project phases such as concrete work and framing.

Here are more issues you can expect from a contractor who doesn’t plan effectively:

  • Unsafe structural issues
  • Delays and unnecessary stress
  • Visually unappealing deck that doesn’t harmonize with your home’s architecture

The result is more than just an inadequate deck; it's an investment that doesn't meet your expectations. 

Here are a few signs that demonstrate a contractor is organized and plans ahead:

  • Contractor always schedules the next step (no loose commitments).
  • Proven Process Outlined (created to add structure with room for unique design creativity).

2. Ineffective Communication Between Workers: The Key to Seamless Execution

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Effective communication is at the heart of any successful construction project. Poor communication among workers on your deck contractor's team can create significant problems.

Picture a scenario where project managers, designers, and carpenters fail to communicate. This problem may cause the designer to create a deck the carpenter can't structurally build, causing extra work, delays, and required design adjustments.

Preemptive communication is vital for a successful project. Preconstruction meetings where multiple team members are present is a great sign that your contractor values clear proactive communication. This also signals a shorter wait between finalizing your design and starting construction.

Here are a few more ways you can tell your deck contractor has excellent organizational communication:

  • Shared Project Documentation: The team uses shared project documentation, such as plans, schedules, and progress reports. This enables each team member to access essential information, fostering a common understanding of project goals and timelines.
  • Regular Team Meetings: Effective communication is facilitated through regular team meetings where members can discuss project updates, challenges, and upcoming tasks. These meetings ensure that everyone is on the same page and can contribute their insights.
  • Coordinated Workflow:  A deck contractor's team with effective communication works cohesively, showcasing a coordinated workflow. Smooth interactions between team members during different stages of the project indicate a well-organized and collaborative approach.
  • Clearly Defined Roles: A team with effective communication has clearly defined roles and responsibilities for each member. This clarity minimizes confusion, prevents duplication of efforts, and allows team members to focus on their specific tasks, contributing to overall project efficiency.
  • Open Communication Channels:  An effective team maintains open communication channels, encouraging members to share insights, ask questions, and provide feedback. Open dialogue contributes to problem-solving and ensures that everyone is aware of any changes or adjustments to the project plan.

3. Unclear Financial Planning and Management: Transparency is Key

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Unclear financial planning and management from your deck contractor can jeopardize your project. Without a transparent pricing structure or detailed material specifications, the following can occur:

  • Budget overruns
  • Unexpected financial surprises
  • Unwelcomed uncertainty throughout your project

On the other hand, here is what good financial management should look like from your deck contractor:

  • Detailed Cost Estimate: A good deck contractor should provide a comprehensive and itemized cost estimate for the entire project, including materials, labor, permits, and any additional fees.
  • Transparent Pricing: Clear and transparent communication about the pricing structure, including any potential extra costs that may arise during the project.
  • Payment Schedule: A well-defined payment schedule that aligns with project milestones rather than requiring a large upfront payment. This helps ensure accountability and transparency.
  • Contract Agreement: A detailed contract outlining all aspects of the project, including timelines, materials, scope of work, and responsibilities. This legal document protects both the homeowner and the contractor.
  • Insurance and Licensing: Proof of proper licensing and insurance coverage to protect both parties in case of accidents, damages, or unforeseen issues during the project.
  • Change Order Process: A transparent process for handling any changes to the original plan, including associated costs and a written modification agreement.
  • Warranty Information: Information on warranties for materials and workmanship. A good contractor should stand behind their work and be willing to address any issues arising after the project is completed.

A lack of financial clarity not only hinders your ability to budget effectively but also risks compromising the quality of the deck.

4. Low-Quality Craftsmanship Standards: Building with Excellence

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PC: NeoTimber

Poor craftsmanship from your deck contractor can jeopardize your home improvement project.

Here’s what happens when a deck is built without paying close attention to details:

  • Imprecise footing installations
  • Subpar breaker board installation
  • Lack of ledger board connectivity
  • Improperly chosen mitered or squared joists

A lack of commitment to high craftsmanship standards may result in a deck needing frequent repairs or replacements. Your deck contractor should be committed to precision and attention to every detail. This will ensure that your deck will exceed your expectations.

5. Lack of Deck-Building Experience: Navigating Deck Design Complexity

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A contractor with little experience and trouble adapting to challenges can cause big issues for your project. An inexperienced crew might have trouble making the right choices for weather, grading, and materials. Seasoned project management experience becomes crucial in steering the team through unexpected challenges.

Here are a few ways to differentiate an experienced and inexperienced deck builder:

  • Certifications and Licenses: An experienced deck builder often holds relevant certifications from industry associations or has the necessary licenses to operate in the area. Verify and ask about their credentials.
  • Years of Experience: Longevity in the business is a strong indicator of experience. Inquire about the number of years the deck builder has been in the industry and their track record of completed projects.
  • Portfolio of Similar Projects: Reviewing the builder's portfolio can provide insight into their experience. A seasoned deck builder will likely have a diverse portfolio showcasing various designs, materials, and project sizes similar to what the homeowner is seeking.
  • Referrals and Recommendations: Seek referrals from previous clients or ask the builder for references. Positive reviews and recommendations from satisfied customers indicate a builder's reliability and quality of work.
  • Insurance Coverage: An experienced deck builder will have comprehensive insurance coverage, including liability insurance and worker's compensation. Request proof of insurance to ensure protection in case of accidents or damages during the project.
  • Transparent Contract and Proposal: An experienced builder provides a clear, detailed, and transparent contract and proposal. This includes a breakdown of costs, timelines, materials, and any potential additional charges, demonstrating professionalism and honesty.
  • Professional Affiliations: Membership in professional organizations or affiliations within the industry can be a positive sign. It demonstrates a commitment to staying informed about industry best practices and standards.

For example, making sure joists stay stable in strong winds needs a lot of hands-on experience. Tricky installations like Trex RainEscape require practical understanding beyond just theory.

6. Lack of Code and Permit Knowledge: Building Within Regulations

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If your deck contractor doesn't know about building codes and permits, it can cause problems for your construction project.

Failure to stay abreast of the latest regulations may lead to decks not adhering to necessary code requirements. This not only poses potential long-term issues but also opens the door to warranty difficulties.

A lack of code knowledge could result in structural inadequacies that compromise the safety and longevity of your deck. Your deck contractor should stay updated on these changing rules.

Here are a few ways you can ensure your deck contractor follows building codes and pulls permits for your project:

  • References and Credentials: You can request references from past clients and inquire about the contractor's credentials. A contractor with a history of successful projects and satisfied clients will likely prioritize adherence to building codes.
  • Transparent Communication: A reputable deck contractor will openly communicate the importance of building codes and permits. They will discuss the necessity of adhering to regulations to ensure the safety and legality of the project.
  • Professional Affiliations: Membership in professional organizations related to construction and remodeling can indicate a contractor's commitment to industry standards. Affiliation with such groups may suggest a dedication to ethical practices.
  • Local Building Department Interaction: You can check with the local building department to confirm the contractor has a history of pulling permits for their projects. A reliable contractor will have a positive relationship with regulatory authorities.
  • Updated Knowledge: Building codes evolve, and a contractor who invests in staying updated on the latest regulations showcases a commitment to providing high-quality, compliant work. They should be aware of changes in codes that may impact the project.
  • Site Inspections: Contractors who follow building codes will be comfortable with and encourage site inspections by local authorities. They understand that inspections are crucial for verifying that the work complies with the approved plans and relevant codes.
  • Written Contracts: A professional contractor will provide a detailed written contract that includes information about obtaining necessary permits. This demonstrates their commitment to legal compliance and ensures clarity in the responsibilities of both parties.
  • Clear Documentation: A contractor who follows building codes will maintain clear documentation throughout the project. This includes records of permit applications, approvals, and any communication with regulatory authorities, ensuring accountability and transparency.
  • Knowledgeable Discussions: A contractor well-versed in building codes will engage in knowledgeable discussions with the homeowner. They should be able to explain specific code requirements relevant to the project, demonstrating a thorough understanding of local regulations.
  • Project Timeline Considerations: Contractors who follow proper procedures will factor in the time required for obtaining permits in the project timeline. Delays may occur due to permit processing times, but this demonstrates the contractor's commitment to doing things by the book.

7. Limited or Outdated Design Knowledge

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Having limited or outdated design knowledge means the deck contractor might be unable to offer quality and timeless design ideas. This could make your deck less attractive and not as trendy as you might want. Imagine if your deck looks old-fashioned or doesn't match the current styles people prefer.

A deck is not just about functionality; it's a structure that will add depth and curb appeal to your backyard. It’s important to spend time and resources creating a design that will fit your space for years to come. 

If your contractor doesn't understand design or consider your existing space, your deck will not seamlessly connect to your space. Hiring a contractor who understands design is worth the investment for a well-planned deck that will last years of trends and enhance its curb appeal.

Next Steps to Hiring a Deck Contractor

When thinking about a new deck, remember the challenges that can arise during construction. From lack of planning to unclear financial management, these hurdles can impact the success of your outdoor project.

In this article, you learned more about why contractors fail at building decks.

At Custom Built, we've replaced hundreds of decks built by contractors who, unfortunately, missed the mark. We understand the frustrations behind subpar work and strive to ensure enjoyable and rewarding deck builds with quality workmanship and longevity.

Ready to turn your deck dreams into reality? Contact Custom Built for a comprehensive consultation. Let us bring our expertise to your outdoor project, ensuring a deck that meets and exceeds your expectations.

As you embark on this exciting journey, remember that with Custom Built, your deck is not just a structure; it's a testament to our unwavering commitment to quality, communication, and craftsmanship.

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Now that you know more about the reasons why deck contractors fail, let’s explore how to compare composite deck builders, how much a deck costs, and the top questions to ask a remodeling contractor before hiring them: 

Isabelle Braeutigam

Isabelle has worked at Custom Built for 7 years, learning the Custom Built Systems from all sides. She has become an industry advisor in the customer relations software HubSpot, has a keen talent for elements of design, and currently leads the marketing team under the innovative TAYA system.