You would think that having a deck built would be a fairly easy thing to do. Not in our world it seems. We started planning for a deck a year ago. Last November I started speaking to a contractor who had been recommended by a neighbor. We were excited about the fact that he said he could start the deck in May or June of this year, and his prices were unbeatable. There were a few red flags along the way, but you know how it is…when you’re anxious to do something you tend to ignore the obvious sometimes. Well, that got us nowhere, because in June, after 7 months of wasting our time, he told us he didn’t know when he could start and that we should find someone else. UGH!!
Which, thankfully, I did. We really wanted to be able to use the deck for at least a couple of months before winter settles in so we didn’t waste any time interviewing a few contractors. I got three quotes and one was very low and the other two were fairly close to each other. As it turned out, the contractor with the low quote gave us a price without actually pricing out the materials. When he got around to doing so, his price actually turned out to be the highest of the three.
Here’s how the negotiating process went and how we saved around $5,000. After receiving the three quotes, I asked each of the contractors what portion of the quote was labor and what portion was for materials. Two of them quoted us around $8,000 for labor and another $4,000. Then I asked them if they had a problem with us ordering the materials. None of them did, and since I had a good feeling about the contractor who had the lowest labor bid we went with him. I had also seen his work at another house in the neighborhood and it was clear he knew his stuff. He seemed to really want the job and after the fiasco with the first contractor, that was important.
Buying the materials yourself gives you control, and you know exactly how much things cost and you can compare prices with two or three retailers if you like. Also, contractors typically ‘build in’ hidden costs which may or may not be necessary in the end, but the homeowner pays for it anyway. If we had taken the original bid of labor+materials, we would have spent another $5,000. It’s a bit more work, but not much. In fact, in our case the contractor used his own account with the retailer which also saved us shipping charges.
Here’s a sneak peak at the deck which was just finished yesterday! We had a small bench built with some leftover materials and we can also store some things inside like small cushions, charcoal, etc.
I wanted part of the decking to be installed on an angle. I think this helps to designate the sections of the deck and helps break up the expanse.
We wanted the tops of the railings to be functional, so we had regular boards installed there which are large enough to put a drink or small plate on.
If you’ve been following along, you might remember I was undecided what material to use and I asked for opinions in this post. We ended up going with Trex, which surprisingly was a little less expensive than Home Depot’s composite brand, Veranda. An added bonus was Trex had a much better color match for the house. The decking goes almost perfectly with the siding, and we choose a darker color for the rail spindles to add a bit of contrast. It’s a basic deck, nothing fancy, but I’m soooo happy to finally have it. It measures 12’x32′ which is just large enough for a table and an area to lounge in, and as happy as I am about the deck, I’m equally excited about the area underneath which will eventually be closed in and will function as a much needed storage area.
There are still lots of details to tend to. We need a table umbrella, chaise cushions, some electrical installed, the landing at the bottom of the steps needs to be finished, we need to stain the framing and get a new grill. Next year we’ll start to enclose the bottom part and maybe get the rest of the yard up to snuff.
I’ll post about it again when most of the details are done and, of course, come over anytime and see for yourself :).