Decked Out: BBB® Tips for a Safe & Successful Project
Our days are getting longer and we’re anxious to get outside. Thousands just spent the weekend at the Maryland Home and Garden Show. Numerous homeowners were certain to have been inspired by visions of a new deck. Last year, BBB received 45,273 inquiries about Maryland deck builders and 51 complaints.
Sadly, we’ve all heard far too many stories about deck collapses in recent years. Five were hurt in two separate southern MD deck disasters last summer. Building codes exist for a reason and the safety of friends and family is priority number one. Building a deck is not something to enter into on a whim or with buddies and a case of beer.
Every successful project starts with 1) a solid plan. To begin:
· start with a budget
· know your space including any zoning or homeowner association limitations/requirements
· consider how you want to use your deck
· make a list of features you want to include and prioritize them
· research materials, required maintenance and cost-benefit
Once you’ve completed the steps above, unless you’re an experienced carpenter, it’s time to call in the pros. If you collected business cards from a weekend visit to a home show, take a closer look.
· Check for a Maryland Home Improvement Commission license number on the card. Using a licensed contractor protects the homeowner. They’ll have insurance and be bonded. To verify that a contractor, subcontractor, or company has a current license, search the Home Improvement Public Query at http://www.dllr.state.md.us/, or call 410-230-6231.
· Go to bbb.org. 1) Look for the Better Business Bureau Accredited Business seal and 2) check the company’s history of resolution of any consumer complaints. You can even request appointments for quotes right online.
· Interview several contractors and get quotes. Compare detailed quotes listing scope of work, materials, brand names (if appropriate) and completion dates. Building permits, required by Md. counties and Baltimore City for the construction of a deck, should also be included.
· Talk to friends and neighbors and request recent customer referrals.
· Get everything in writing. Read and understand the contract before signing. Get all verbal promises including warranties of materials and workmanship in writing. List start and completion dates in the contract.
Review the specified payment schedule. MHIC stipulates that a contractor may not request more than one third of total price of the contract up front. Beyond the deposit, the payment schedule is negotiated. Be certain that a portion of the payment, ideally one-third, is reserved until all work is complete.