Archive for the ‘Advice for Homeowners’ Category

How to Keep Cool on Your Fiberon Deck

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2014

Blog 16There’s just something about summertime. Even though most of us don’t get that wonderful three-month vacation that our kids do, summer never really loses its appeal.

That’s because, when the hot weather beats down, families like to get outside for some serious fun-in-the-sun adventures.

Your Fiberon Deck is exactly the place for all your July and August fun. If you’re like most people, summer comes as an escape from all the ice, snow, and gray skies. If you live in the Midwest or in the East, this past winter was severe.

Once the bright sun (finally!) made an appearance, millions of people sat down on their Fiberon deck to breath a sigh of relief. The wintertime blues had come to end! But as things heat up, summer can become every bit as tiresome.

No worries, because we’ve got the tips you need to make your outdoor living space a cool-down oasis, even though the temperature keeps getting hotter and hotter.

 

Make Your Fiberon Deck a Poolside Paradise

Blog 16-1One of the best parts of Fiberon’s composite decking materials…it’s got to be the multi-functionality.

Our product is designed to suit your lifestyle and taste. When it comes to your outdoor living space, you can build the deck that fits your dreams.

But…

Many homeowners don’t realize that Fiberon decks serve as the perfect surrounding for your pool. When it comes to summer fun, you can make a splash. Literally.

Let the kids enjoy some pool fun. Supervise from your poolside lounge chair, or you can even turn a few laps yourself. When you have a pool-feature on your Fiberon deck, you’re sure to beat the heat every day this summer.

 

Use Canopies and Umbrellas

One of our favorite deck accessories has got to be canopies and umbrellas. In fact, these wonderful items not only shield you from the sun, canopies and umbrellas also allow you to enjoy your outdoor living space in the rain!

We’ve all experienced those summertime showers. When it’s not the heat, it’s the rain. So why not beat both with a canopy?

 

Got a Garden Hose? Use It.

When’s the last time you played in the sprinkler? Don’t try to say you haven’t had the urge to run back and forth through that spraying water. When the sun blares down over your head, you may find yourself in need of a quick cool-down.

Well, if you’ve got a garden hose, you can use it! Let the kids run through the sprinkler on hot days. (And yes, even adults are allowed to have the same kind of fun.) While you’re busy giggling in the cool mist, you’re also keeping cool.

 

Keep the Drinks Flowing

Sounds like common sense, but so often people become dangerously dehydrated in the summer months. While you’re busy relaxing with a novel, or hanging out by your sparkling swimming pool, keep drinking liquids to cool your body down naturally.

We recommend a pitcher on your deck table. If you’ve got a cooler on hand, fill it full of ice, soda, lemonade cans, and water. That way, you can spend the whole afternoon on your outdoor living space without having to worry about the heat.

We mentioned having a pool, and we think you should get one! If this has been a dream on yours for awhile…

 

Design Your Poolside Deck Here!

Build Your Deck Memories the Fiberon Way

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014

Untitled7Your Fiberon outdoor living space is more than composite decking; it’s a place you design to suit your preferred moods. Even though we use top-notch, weather-resistant, and eco-friendly materials, Fiberon offers more than beautiful decking alone.

What do our composite decking products really offer you?

We’re all about the memories. The memories you cherish and the ones you will create when you spend time on your Fiberon deck. When you build or upgrade your Fiberon deck, you set the framework for a lifetime of fond recollections. We think it’s best to build those memories yourself. Now that summertime is officially happening, we want you to make the most out of your deck time fun.

Here are our ideas to create deck memories that make your life richer.

 

Use Your Fiberon Deck for a Community Get-Together

The days of meeting your new neighbors at the door with a roast and a Jello mold seem like a distant memory. What happened to the June Cleaver way of greeting the neighborhood newbies? It seems that nowadays we offer our neighbors a quick nod and continue about our business. With your Fiberon deck, you can put a stop to lackluster relationships with those who live nearby.

Send out an invitation to all of your neighbors. You live in close quarters, so why not be friends? When you host a Fiberon deck party, you develop closer friendships with people and forge greater support in your community. Break bread together with neighborhood families, and you’ll establish a warmer atmosphere as the years go by. 

 

Use Your Fiberon Deck for Family Time

We live in a world of constant “screen time.” Unfortunately, we’re not talking about screened-in decks! We’re talking about flat screens, laptops, and smartphones. When it comes to spending some quality time with your people, it’s best to put away all those gadget distractions.

Look each other in the eye, ask questions, share feelings, and listen to the details about your family’s day. You’ll be surprised at what you learn about the people you love. There’s no better place to have some good conversations than on your outdoor living space.

 

Untitled8Use Your Fiberon Deck for a Romantic Getaway 

Your deck enables a vacation in just a few steps. (By “steps” we mean a few footsteps outside your door.) When you give your home the ultimate upgrade with a Fiberon deck, you’ve got a lover’s paradise right outside your home. Snuggle up with your significant other in a big, comfy lounge chair, or lay under the stars in your hammock. Even if you sit side by side and crack open books, you’re still spending romantic time together.

 

Use Your Fiberon Deck for Parties

Graduation. Mother’s Day. Father’s Day. Birthdays. You get the idea.

You can even host a wedding reception on your Fiberon deck! The possibilities for a good time are endless. When you look out onto your outdoor living space, you’ll relive the memories you’ve built for yourself, your family, and your friends.

 

Use Your Fiberon Deck for You!

Some of the best memories will be when you’re all by yourself. Your deck is the perfect spot to hang out alone, read the newspaper, and think about the good things in life. Take a bowl of pretzels and a novel to your outdoor living space. Spend some time recharging yourself, and you’ll be thankful for it.

In the comments below, share your deck memories with us! We love to hear how you create good times on your outdoor living space.

 #DeckLove

Your One-Stop Guide to Deck Accessories

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

Untitled9So, what are you in the mood for tonight?

When you have the ideal deck accessories on your Fiberon deck, the possibilities are endless.

You can soak in the hot tub for hours on end, enjoy a little heat and light from your fire pit, or read by your Deck and Rail Lighting. (Fiberon just released these beauties!)

The good life only gets sweeter when you pick the deck accessories that suit your personality, style, and recreational/relaxation needs. Here are a few ideas from the Fiberon team…

 

The Relaxation Zone 

Relaxation means different things for different people. You might like to kick back with a new novel read by candlelight, or you might prefer to watch the sunset while you sink into the pillows on your wicker chair.

When you use your deck accessories to create a relaxed atmosphere, you add small additions that build greater comfort and serenity. We recommend a couple of potted flower arrangements to give you something to look at while you relax. Pick decorative pots that take your mind out of the stressful parts of your life.

 

The Social Arena

With Deck Day happening on June 7, there’s no better time for a meal on your outdoor living space. Equip yourself with a table and chairs–an essential deck accessory when it comes to getting social with family and friends—as well as some hurricane lanterns, a table umbrella for those sunny days, and gentle bamboo chimes.

And while you’re at it, why prepare your meal in the kitchen when you can spend even more time on your Fiberon deck? Get yourself a nice grill or outdoor kitchen to create a more social atmosphere while the steaks sizzle.

 

The Recreational Deck

Anyone up for a dip? Nothing like a pool party to get exercise and relax at the same time. If you’ve got a pool on your Fiberon deck, make sure you get the most out of swim time with pool sprinklers that look and sound like paradise.

Or if swimming isn’t your thing, get yourself a two-person table for competitive chess games or cards.

No matter what suits your personality, we’re here to give you the deck you’ve always dreamed about. To give our readers some ideas, share your favorite deck accessories in the comments below. Whether you’re a fireplace person or a hot tub person or both, tell us which deck accessories create the good life for you!

How to Decorate Your Deck for Summer

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014

When you can count on sunshine, you can count on growth. The flowers have popped out of the ground, sprinkling the landscape with vivid colors that lighten up our lives.

Untitled3Now is a perfect time to decorate your deck for summer!

Whether you arrange potted daisies, polish up your outdoor kitchen, or grow a personal herb garden, your deck decorations set the mood for the good times you’ll spend on your outdoor living space.

 

With Deck Day (June 7th) just around the corner, we’d love to see what you’re doing to ring in this celebratory season. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the Fiberon Pinterest page for more inspirational ideas!

 

Make Your Deck a Kid-Friendly ZoneUntitled4

There’s nothing more joyful than watching your little ones grow up. If you’re a parent, decorating your deck means creating an environment conducive to playtime and growing the imagination.

While a blow-up mini pool might not be your thing, consider adding a few pillows on your deck furniture for a more comfortable story time.

If your child is older, set up a corner chair where he or she can slip on their ear buds and turn the iPod up. Toddlers and little ones? Show them how to cultivate flowers in pint-sized pots (and make sure you know the  list of poisonous plants!)

 

Untitled5Grow Your Health with Deck Gardening

Even if you have a black thumb in the garden, it’s hard to kill potted herbs. Not only will you feed your family nutrient-rich goodies, but you’ll also create beautiful plants that emit a pleasant aroma.

Throw some terra cotta pots alongside your composite railing, plant a few seeds, and watch your mini-garden grow. If you’ve never grown food before, your Fiberon deck is the perfect place for a new beginning.

 

Experience the Night LifeUntitled6

You don’t have to go out to a fancy restaurant to experience the best nights of your life. Simply get out to your outdoor living space for a little evening fun.

If you want to squeeze the best experience out of your post-sunset fun, we recommend an outdoor fireplace to keep the good times going. You’ll relax to the sounds of crackling wood.

If a fireplace isn’t your style, how about some accent lights?

Fiberon lighting enables you to enjoy your outdoor living space well into the evening. You can dim the lights for just the right mood. Light up your nightlife with perimeter lights around the deck. Post cap lights or riser lights on the stairs. Make a sunset dinner, and enjoy the night ambiance after the grilling is done.

 

Give Your Deck a Pop of Color

Colors really set the mood. If you work in a gray office all day, there’s nothing like vivid colors to spark your post-work relaxation. From throw pillows and couch cushions to flowers and edible plants, decorating your deck with a splash of color will brighten up the occasion.

Pick the palate that suits you. Maybe you like the cool blues and greens that promote your serenity. Or maybe you’re a red and orange person who likes the look of bold color choices. No matter what you decide, just a few selections will make your deck pop.

Tie a string around your finger, because Deck Day is June 7! What are you doing to decorate for the occasion?

#DeckLove

It’s May! Make Your Outdoor Living Space a Happy Place

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014


Untitled1

Whether you’re grilling steaks, cutting the graduation cake, or giving thanks to Mom, your deck will be the ideal spot for a celebration.Celebration is what your outdoor living space is intended for. That’s what we think. So now that May’s fair weather is in full swing, you have more than just one opportunity to get outside for some fun in the sun.

Here’s our question: how do you use your deck to celebrate? We’ve got a few ideas of our own to inspire you.

Take Mom to the Deck:

Be honest: where would you be without your mother? And even if it isn’t possible to give your own mom the Mother’s Day celebration she deserves, there’s always reason to celebrate your wife, your sister, your grandmother, or any woman who’s helped shape your life.

On Mother’s Day, bring mom to the deck. Hang up her favorite flowers, put a refreshing beverage in her hand, and show her that you care about everything’s she’s given you. Even though there’s never a wrong time to thank mom, Mother’s Day is your chance to go the extra mile.

Wish the Graduate a Good Future:

For high school seniors, school is almost over! May is their time to also plan for summer fun before college begins. And during those remaining months before moving into the freshman dorms, students get to experience a little downtime, get out with friends, and maybe even earn a little lawn-mowing cash. Of course, there’s no better spot than your outdoor living space to make every day a vacation day.

After the student in your life receives their diploma, take them home to a nice spread on your deck. Put on some music, fire up the grill, and gather family and friends around to wish your graduate the brightest future.

And if your student is “too cool” for barbecues, there’s nothing wrong with pizza on the deck!

Untitled2

 

Goodbye April Showers, Hello May Flowers:

In the Northern hemisphere, Old Man Winter has stopped blowing his silver breath. And as we all know, spring opens with nonstop rain showers in April. Now that the wet weather has subsided, get out to your outdoor living space to enjoy a cold drink and warm sunshine.

Spend a Saturday afternoon with the kids and your partner away from the television set. Read a book in your hammock. When the evening draws its shade, light a fire in the pit to celebrate the warm evening.

 

No Particular Reason, Let’s Just Celebrate Life:

How about a barbecue this Saturday without any direct occasion to celebrate? What’s so great about composite decking products is that you can create a second home outside of your house.

With an outdoor living space, you can design your personal paradise–from outdoor fireplaces to hammocks to pools. The space is yours to do with what you want, and bring people together.

Our suggestion: use your deck for a weekly celebration of the good life. It’s your happy place.

In the comments below, share with us some ideas on how you use your outdoor living space to celebrate. With Mother’s Day and graduation season coming up, how will you use your Fiberon composite decking to live the good life?

#DeckLove

How to Keep Your Deck Clear in a Winter Wonderland

Friday, December 20th, 2013

Tomorrow marks the official first day of winter, but don’t tell that to Mother Nature…or the vast majority of the US.

With snow, ice and other winter weather in amounts well-above averages for this time of year in EVERY region of the country, winter has made its presence felt far in advanced of the “official” start to the season.

And as winter weather veterans know all too well, (and all those southern states are learning quickly) all that winter weather, while beautiful, has to be removed from streets, sidewalks and decks.  If you have a composite or PVC deck, you might be wondering how best to remove snow and ice from it without causing damage.

The best option is to use ice melt that is safe for use on concrete, flagstone and grass.  If the ice melt is safe for those three surfaces, it should not damage your composite or PVC deck.  However, avoid using an ice melt with a colorant added, as the dyes can stain decking.

You should also avoid using sand and metal shovels (or plastic shovels with a metal edge) as you may accidentally scratch even the most resilient decking.

For more tips for snow and ice removal, check out our archives.

Enjoying Your Deck

Thursday, October 10th, 2013

Woman and girl dancing on deck

Welcome to the final installment in our series designed to help you navigate the steps to getting the outdoor living space of your dreams! If you missed them, here are Part 1 –DesignPart 2 – MaterialsPart 3 – Working With ContractorsPart 4 – Budgeting for Your Deck and Part 5 – Care and Maintenance. This week will focus on the fun part – enjoying your deck!

Finally, once your deck is built, you get to take advantage of everything it has to offer. Here are some ideas to maximize your new living space:

  • When the weather is nice, try to spend at least a little bit of time on your deck every day. It will allow you to use the deck the way you intended and make the investment worthwhile.
    • Grill out and eat dinner on your deck
    • Lounge with a good book
    • Throw a deck party with neighbors!
    • Decorate for the season
    • Plan a deck date night under the stars
  • Use your furniture and décor to create separate sections of your deck for different activities
    • Grilling/Dining Area
    • Relaxation/Yoga/Spa Area
    • Entertaining/Conversation Area
    • Children’s Play Area
    • Garden Area

For more great ideas about how to enjoy your deck, you can check out our Pinterest boards, but however you choose to use your deck, it will add value to your home and, more importantly, your life. Enjoy your new outdoor living space!

I hope you enjoyed our six part series on what to expect when you’re building a deck.  To find it all in one place, you can download our free white paper What to Expect When You’re Decking.

 

Care and Maintenance of Your Deck

Thursday, October 3rd, 2013
Welcome to the fifth installment in our series designed to help you understand and navigate the steps to getting the outdoor living space of your dreams! If you missed them, here are Part 1 –Design, Part 2 – Materials, Part 3 – Working With Contractors and Part 4 – Budgeting for Your Deck. This week, we will focus on deck care and maintenance.

One of the things that many homeowners find when they first start researching decks is that care and maintenance can be costly and time-consuming. The good news is that, in general, you can control the level of maintenance required by the materials you use to build your deck.

Spacious deck built with Fiberon Pro-Tect in Chestnut

Spacious deck built with Fiberon Pro-Tect in Chestnut

General Care

All decks – wood, composite or plastic – are going to require some general care, both to maintain the integrity of the materials and to ensure it is a place you want to spend your time. There are several important factors to keep in mind to ensure your deck stays beautiful over time. It is critical to follow your decking manufacturer or supplier’s instructions with regards to care and maintenance of your deck as failing to do so may void any warranty offered. Any suggestions or tips in this post should not be taken over a manufacturer’s instructions.

If the gap between decking boards is less than 3/16″, organic debris such as leaves, seeds or pollen can settle on the deck and clog gaps. Water can pool, steeping organic debris that forms a “tea” or tannin which may stain your deck. This organic debris is a strong food source for mold. Keeping the gap clean is the easiest way to keep the deck clean. If gaps become clogged, use a garden hose, a spatula, putty knife or similar tool to remove debris.

Mold and Mildew

Mold and mildew are common environmental conditions. Molds grow on decaying organic material such as wood, leaf decay and pollen. Tiny and lightweight, mold spores travel easily through the air. Different climates experience varying degrees of these conditions depending on the amount of moisture and heat present.

To thrive, mold and mildew need air, water, elevated temperatures and a food source. There is no way to eliminate all of these conditions in the environment. A wide variety of building materials including concrete, wood products, vinyl siding and many others are subject to potential mold growth.

To minimize mold on your decking, clean your deck as often as needed, at least twice each year. Climate conditions vary in different regions of the country and may necessitate more periodic cleaning. Removal of leaves, debris, and other organic materials that provide a food source for mold development is important.

Cleaning Your Capped Composite, Uncapped Composite or PVC Deck

As I mentioned above, it is important that you clean your deck as often as needed to remove pollen, organic debris, dirt or stains. Generally, a broom or a blower will work better than a hose for removing scattered organic materials like leaves. For general cleaning, use soap and water or mild household cleaners.

Skilled professionals may use a pressure washer with wide fan tips, at low pressures under 1,500 psi and at safe distances (about 12” above deck). In the wrong hands, your composite deck can be damaged by a pressure washer. Exercise extreme caution.

Maintenance Considerations

If you have capped composite or PVC decking, keep the following information, in addition to the tips above, in mind:

  • Direct downspouts, downspout extensions and splash guards away from decks.
  • Position dryer vents away from decks.
  • Maintain a deck that is dry and clean.
  • If mold is present on your deck, use soap and water to clean.
  • Minimize the use of wet mulch up against the deck structure.
  • Items stored directly on top of the deck surface, such as flower pots, prohibit water evaporation and can cause some staining of the deck surface.

Additionally, it is important to protect decking during masonry construction. White or hazy residue from mineral deposits (efflorescence) can leach out of stone and masonry materials after water evaporates leaving the deposits behind. Minerals from soils in certain arid and mountainous environments can also cause a hazing affect when deposited on the deck surface.

This can only be prevented with complete and secure coverage of the decking surface area during the construction phase or installation of the decking after the masonry construction phase. To minimize this affect during masonry construction, keep materials dry and allow masonry and cement to cure properly.

Additional Considerations for Uncapped Composite Decking

Because of the exposed wood fibers in uncapped composite decking, more frequent deck cleanings may be required to keep mold from growing. If mold is present on your deck, there are many commercial products available for cleaning mold.

In addition, the use of wrought iron railing or other carbon steel materials in contact with or above an uncapped composite deck surface may cause dark extractive staining.

Wood Deck Maintenance

When taking care of wood decking, in addition to the mold and mildew prevention tips above, you will need to clean your deck semi-annually and seal and stain it as needed. You’ll need to plan ahead to ensure that the weather doesn’t ruin all your hard work. Clean and treat your wood deck when the weather forecast calls for three rain-free days in a row and temperatures between 50° and 90° F.

To determine whether your deck needs to be sealed and stained, sprinkle a few drops of water on the wood. If the water beads up, you don’t need to treat it yet, but if not, it needs to be cleaned, stained and sealed. Do this test once every six months.

Your deck must be clean and dry in order for the stain to penetrate the wood. Keep in mind that this is a stain that is not meant to come off, so wear clothes and shoes that you won’t mind throwing away when you’re done.

  1. Remove all deck furniture and plants and trim any shrubs, bushes or trees near the deck to avoid getting leaves and twigs in the stain.
  2. Repair any damaged or loose boards and sand all the rough patches.
  3. Sweep off the deck and then clean your deck based on the stain manufacturer’s instructions. Note that some manufacturers require the use of a wood stripper and brightener.
  4. Clean redwood, cedar, or mahogany with a wood cleaner specifically formulated for these surfaces.
  5. When working on vertical surfaces, work from the bottom-up to avoid uneven appearances.
  6. Liberally apply the wood stripper with a pump-type sprayer.
  7. Let the wood stripper stand for a minimum of 15 minutes, but don’t allow the wood stripper to dry.
  8. After the wood stripper has had time to work, rinse the surface with a garden hose, or pressure washer on a low setting.
  9. Mix the brightener with water according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
  10. Apply the solution with a pump sprayer and let stand for 15 to 20 minutes.
  11. Use a cleaning brush on any trouble spots (spots affected by mold and mildew).
  12. Rinse off the deck with a garden hose and nozzle or pressure washer on a medium setting. Repeat the process if necessary.
  13. After the deck has been thoroughly cleaned, let it dry for at least 48 hours.

Avoid staining in the heat of the day or in direct sunlight when the stain could dry too quickly.

1. Mask off any parts of the home that may come in contact with the stain.
2. Completely stir the stain.

  • If you’re using multiple gallons, combine them into a five gallon bucket to assure color consistency.

3. Pour a small amount of stain into your paint tray.
4. Apply a thin coat to a two- or three-board section with a paint roller.

  • Work from one end to the other, assuring that the stain penetrates the wood.
  • Apply the coats in thin layers. Generally two thin coats are better than one thick one.

5. Repeat this process on all wood surfaces.
6. Use a paintbrush to apply the stain in tight areas, like the steps or railing.

  • The support beams under the deck probably will not need a coat of stain. But you may wish to apply a coat for aesthetic reasons.

7. Allow the deck to dry for at least 24 hours.
8. After the deck has thoroughly dried, put your patio furniture back in place.

No matter which level of maintenance you choose for your deck, following these tips will ensure that it stays beautiful for years to come.

Stay tuned next week as we wrap up our blog series with the fun part – Enjoying Your Deck! Or, if you can’t wait, download our free white paper What To Expect When You’re Decking!

 

Budgeting For Your Deck

Thursday, September 26th, 2013
Welcome to the fourth installment in a series designed to help you understand and navigate the steps to getting the outdoor living space of your dreams! If you missed them, here are Part 1 –Design,  Part 2 – Materials and Part 3 – Working With Contractors. This week, we will focus on the elephant in the room – budgeting for your deck.

Budgeting For Your Deck

There are many factors that will combine to create the cost for the deck of your dreams. The first step is to decide what amount you’d like to spend on the project. Make sure this is a realistic number, which takes into account both materials and labor, and set that number as your target budget. It’s also important to consider the absolute maximum amount you can or are willing to spend on your deck and make sure that you don’t go above that number, no matter what.

Several factors in the design of your deck will affect materials and labor costs. The size, shape, whether it will sit at ground-level or raised up and any extras, such as built-in benches, hot tubs, lighting, fire pits or any curving of the boards, will all have an effect on the total cost of your deck. Additionally, the materials themselves have a range of associated costs.

As a reminder, it’s important to remember that regardless of what kind of decking you choose it will only apply to surface decking.  Composite and PVC materials are not approved as a structural material, so you will need to use pressure treated lumber for the substructure of your deck. The substructure for the deck will be what the code calls for in your municipality and some deck designs may require more stringent substructure designs.

For the deck surface, you’ll pay more money for composites than for natural wood upfront, but the added maintenance and replacement costs for wood can make for a more expensive deck over its lifetime, so make sure you consider that when pricing out the deck surface and railing material. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) developed a tool in 2006 for use in comparing the costs of using yellow pine (pressure-treated wood), redwood (hardwood), composite decking and recycled HDPE plastic (similar to PVC) over the life of the deck, broken down by materials, installation and maintenance and gives you an idea of the average annual cost over the lifetime of the deck. Although the numbers have not been adjusted for inflation, this Excel tool has worksheet tabs that allow for cost inputs and can give you a good idea of the cost differences between the materials.

More recently, an article featured on the popular reviewing site, Angie’s List, estimates that on a simple 14’ x 20’ deck with one flight of stairs, you’ll pay around $4,600 more in maintenance costs for treated lumber than composite decking material over the first eleven years you own your deck.

Overall, a deck adds value to your home and has a high return on your investment if you ever sell your home. The lifestyle value allows you and your family to enjoy an expanded and beautiful outdoor living space for years to come.

Stay tuned for our next installment in this series designed to help you navigate the deck of your dreams – Care and Maintenance. Or, if you can’t wait, download our free white paper, What to Expect When You’re Decking.

Working With Contractors

Thursday, September 19th, 2013
Welcome to the third installment in a series designed to help you understand and navigate the steps to getting the outdoor living space of your dreams!  If you missed them, here are Part 1 –Design, and Part 2 – Materials.
This week, we will focus a major aspect that can seem pretty daunting – contractors.

Working with Contractors

Contractors installing Fiberon decking material

Mick Feduniec and his team from Deckscapes in Charlotte, NC install Fiberon Pro-Tect Decking

Unless you are an experienced deck builder, it is highly advisable that you hire a contractor to handle this project. Their experience with multi-level designs, deck board angles, and stair designs can create a dream deck beyond your imagination and do it so that your deck is safe and meets code requirements. As you get started, there are several things to consider as you look for a contractor.

Reputation

Reputation is the most important factor in choosing a contractor to work with on your deck. The easiest way to start looking for a contractor with a good reputation is to ask your friends and neighbors who have decks who they used and whether they would recommend them. If no one you know has a recommendation, services like Angie’s List or online forums that specialize in decking are great places to get honest reviews about contractors in your area.  Additionally, manufacturers’ websites have zip code locators for deck builders in your area and may have a contractor gallery with photos of deck projects.

Once you have a few leads, conduct phone interviews. During the phone call, ask about their availability, ability to handle the size and scope of your project (including experience with your preferred material) and make sure they are a licensed contractor (if your state offers or requires licensing) with liability insurance and workman’s compensation coverage – you don’t want to be held liable for any accidents or injuries sustained while working on your project. It’s also important to ask for references from previous projects. If the contractor cannot or will not provide references, that should be a huge red flag.

Once you have a list of references, make sure to contact them and ask them some pointed questions regarding their satisfaction with the job, the timeliness of the project and the workers, whether or not the workers were respectful of the property and its residents and if you can see either pictures of the job or the deck in person.

Once you’ve narrowed your list of contractors down to three or four, schedule time to meet with them in your home. This will give you a chance to ensure that both parties can communicate effectively about the project – a key factor since you will need to communicate regularly about the project’s progress and any issues that arise. If the initial interview process is strained or leaves you feeling uneasy, it may be a sign that this isn’t the contractor for you.

At this point, investigate the contractor’s background including checking with consumer agencies (Better Business Bureau, etc.) to determine if any complaints have been filed against the contractor, criminal background checks on each individual who will be working on the project and (if it’s a large company) the employee work history of the person that will be supervising your job.

Logistics

In the category of logistics, there are a few things to consider when choosing your contractor. The first is whether or not he or she will secure all the necessary permits to build your deck. Generally, contractors are much more familiar with the various building codes and permits that will be required in your particular case so having the contractor take care of them makes a lot of sense. However, if everything else is pointing you toward a specific contractor, but they don’t take care of permits, it shouldn’t be considered a deal breaker since you can absolutely handle the permit process yourself.

The second thing to consider is your builder’s familiarity with the kind of materials you have chosen. If, for example, you have your heart set on using composite decking, but the contractor has little to no familiarity with the various brands and types, you could be setting yourself up for disappointment.

Finally, it’s important to know if the contractor will be hiring any subcontractors to complete more specialized work and what specifically they will be working on. If there will be subcontractors, make sure to consider them in the background checks.

Cost

The final consideration when choosing a contractor to work with is cost. Because of the potential for vast differences in labor and material costs, make sure to get quotes from at least three contractors for your project. However, don’t automatically decide to go with the lowest price. Consider all the other factors we’ve discussed, and any other criteria that are important to you, to make your final decision.

Working With Your Contractor

A positive, efficient and effective relationship with your contractor will help your dream deck become a reality faster than anything else. To establish and maintain a good working relationship:

  • Communication is key.
    • Meet with your contractor regularly to go over progress and any issues that haven’t already been addressed. In the initial stages of the project, it may be beneficial to meet daily – allowing you to catch any problems before the work is completed – saving you time and money. As the project progresses, you should be able to move to a bi-weekly or weekly meeting schedule, depending on your comfort level.
    • Be clear in your expectations and how you communicate them. One of the biggest sources of stress between contractors and homeowners is miscommunication.
  • Track all changes in writing
    • It is very likely that there will be changes to the initial project as you go along. Ensure that you get to sign off on any change that will add costs to the bottom line of the project and the process will go much more smoothly.
  • Be a good customer
    • Make decisions quickly and ensure payments are on time.
    • Be friendly and accommodating to the workers. One thing many homeowners overlook is designating a bathroom that they can use.

If you follow this advice, the relationship with your contractor will be much more positive.

Stay tuned for our next installment in this series designed to help you navigate what can be another pain point in the deck-building process– Budgeting for Your Deck.
 Or, if you can’t wait, download our free white paper, What to Expect When You’re Decking.