How to Choose a Decking Contractor

True story: A friend wanted Fiberon composite decking to replace her rotting wood deck because, as she pointed out, “we’ll never have to re-stain it.” Which is true. And she wanted grooved edge boards installed with hidden fasteners so “we’ll have a nice smooth surface and no nail pops.” Also true.

So she met with a local contractor and showed him the Fiberon board, color, and fastener she wanted. Then she asked (1) if he was familiar with Fiberon; and (2) if he could do the job.
He answered yes on both counts.

When the quote arrived, however, the contractor hadn’t specified Fiberon composite decking. In fact, he hadn’t specified composite decking at all, despite my friend’s request. Instead, he had listed pressure-treated lumber and ordinary deck screws.

Why? I have no idea. She has no idea. All I know is, on the scale of one to there’s-no-way-I’m-trusting-this guy-to-build-my-deck, my friend was clearly on the side of “thanks, but no thanks.”
Which leads me to the point of my story.

When it comes to selecting a contractor to install your new deck, it pays to ask questions -- and proceed very carefully -- if you don’t like the answers you receive. After all, just because someone tells you he can do the job doesn’t actually make that true. As with so many things in life, it pays to do your homework.

Owning a gorgeous and relaxing outdoor space starts with choosing the right professional for the job. Shown above: Fiberon Horizon Decking in Ipe with Horizon Railing in White. 

How to Find a Qualified Decking Contractor

Finding a decking contractor may sound easy, and in some ways it is. Vetting can be done similarly to other products and professionals you’d search for. Still, there may be a couple of steps you’re missing if you’ve never had to build or rebuild an outdoor space. To ensure you’re choosing the right person for the job, consider the following:

1) Ask around

Know someone with a fabulous deck? As them who built it. Personal recommendations are a great way to forge connections with reputable contractors, plus you'll get an insider's view of how the process really worked. Another great resource is the Fiberon Find a Builder tool on our website. Simply type in your zip code and list of local deck builders will appear.

2) Check them out online

Consult online forums or research tools to read reviews of local deck builders. Reputable resources like the Better Business Bureau are great for background research. A word of caution: Don’t rely exclusively on online information. Not all reviews are completely objective; some may even have been paid for.

3) Conduct phone interviews 

Once you’ve narrowed down the search, make some phone calls to discuss availability, confirm that the contractor is licensed, and discuss the scope of your deck or porch project to determine if it aligns with your plan. Ask for references; then, call the references to discuss the project. If possible, visit the homes to see the decks firsthand.

4) Meet in person

Schedule time with prospective contractors to visit your home and see the project site. This will give you an idea of the working contractor-customer dynamic and allow the contractor to confirm that the project is a good fit for his or her skill set. This is also a good time to evaluate if you are comfortable with this individual and if you’d be able to effectively communicate with each other throughout the project. Remember: the contractors you meet with are evaluating you, too.

Love your neighbor’s outdoor space? Ask them about their contractor. Shown here: Fiberon ProTect Advantage Decking in Grey Birch. Photo courtesy of Texas Custom Builders.

5) Ask lots of questions

Asking the right questions before the deck build could eliminate disappointment when the project is complete

There are a number of important questions you will need answered to ensure that the decking contractor you choose has the right experience, is reliable, and is a good fit; among them:

  • Does the contractor have a license and can he/she supply proof of liability insurance?
  • Will he/she help with the design aspect of the project and supply an architectural plan?
  • Will he/she secure all necessary permits? Generally, contractors are more familiar with building code and permit requirements, but it’s still advisable to research which permits will be required and confirm that the contractor will secure them.
  • Is he/she familiar with your chosen building material? Choosing a contractor who is comfortable working with the material you’ve chosen will enable the best possible outcome and help to avoid possible disappointment. He or she should also be able to answer questions about different material options available.
  • What is the cost of your services? Since there is potential for differences in labor and material costs, we recommend getting cost estimates from at least three different decking contractors. It’s important to make this choice holistically and not simply choose the least expensive. A contractor who offers an extremely low quote could be cutting corners and may not have the technical competence to successfully complete your project. Consider all factors to ensure you get the results you expect.
  • What are his/her payment terms? In what kind of installments should I expect to make the payments, and when would they be due?
  • What kind of team do you work with and what is their schedule? Specifically, when will you start and stop work for the day, and who will be on the job site every day, and who’s in charge? Is there a foreman during construction, and will he/she be on-site at all times?
  • Will subcontractors, such as landscape professionals, be utilized? It’s important to know if there will be subcontractors working on your property and if so, which part of the project they’ll be completing, so you can consider those employees while completing background checks.

Though an inquiry this detailed may take a bit of extra work, having all of your questions answered will bolster your confidence when you’re signing that contract.

Honest, open discussions with your contractor will help ensure your decking dreams become reality. Shown here: Fiberon Symmetry Decking in Burnt Umber and Warm Sienna with Symmetry Railing in Tranquil White.

Working Together

Once you’ve done your due diligence and the selection has been made, keep these things in mind when your contractor shows up to the job:

Keep the communication channels open
  • Go over any issues as they come up to avoid compounding problems.
  • Be clear about your expectations to eliminate miscommunications.
Track all changes in writing
  • Take the time to record all requested and agreed-upon changes. This will protect both you and your contractor.
  • Always discuss the aesthetic and financial implications of the changes you decide to make. No one likes to find out after the fact that their small tweaks cost big bucks.
Be a good customer
  • Make timely decisions and ensure payments are on time
  • Be friendly and considerate to the crew. Offer refreshments and designate a restroom for their use.

Finding the right person for the job, asking the important questions, and communicating effectively are all important steps to making sure the road to your beautiful outdoor space is a smooth one.

For more helpful tips, download our free guide to decking.

This blog post was originally published in May, 2017 and has been updated for accuracy.


One Response to “How to Choose a Decking Contractor”

  1. Brad Graham says:

    This is a great post! You have shared an awesome ideas that provides good information in choosing the right decking contractor. I’m pinning it to share, thank you!