Thursday, May 22, 2008

Building a Financially Smart Deck – A Check List!

Building a Financially Smart Deck – A Check List!
We decided to add a deck to our house since we spend a lot of time outdoors and really enjoyed the deck at our last house. A deck is a significant expense so I decided to be financially smart about getting one. Based on my experience, some suggestions on how to do proper due diligence when considering a significant home improvement project.

Build or Buy
I pride myself in my ability to swing a hammer or use a screwdriver but building a deck? The thought crossed my mind so I did some research on the internet, browsed through some deck building books and mulled over the situation. There are significant savings if you build it yourself but a deck is a complicated project which I felt was better tackled by professionals.

When considering build or buy – think about
  • Time commitment – Do you have the time to get this project done?

  • Learning curve – Have you dealt with something similar before?

  • Competency – Are you really good at this stuff?

  • Building code compliance – Sloppy work is not acceptable and will cost you.

  • Complexity – The more bells & whistles – the more challenging the project.

  • Quality – Always a priority.

Many to One
Finding the right contractor for the job is key. I leveraged Angie’s list, contractor websites and word-of-mouth to contact four contractors. What I was focusing on was

  • Quality – Check out past work (pictures) and references

  • Credibility – Check for proof of insurance, bonded, member of local and state trade organizations

  • Service – Check out customer satisfaction history, complaints (open & resolved) , BBB reviews

I spent time laying out my design on paper and listing all my requirements – decking material, railing designs, height, area and layout. Your design may change as you work with different contractors and review price impacts but a detailed design is essential. Why?

  • Comparison shopping – You want each contractor to bid on the same requirements.

  • Clarity – The more detailed your requirements, the less chance of misunderstanding your needs.

  • Options finalization – Decide on what you need (and can afford) to finalize your requirements. Vacillation on requirements is frustrating and will extend your project deadline (costing time & money).

Close the Deal
When you have decided who you want to work with and what you want build – make sure you take care of the following

  • Final review – Confirm your final design, specifications, material selection, color, size and final output. No turning back after this point.

  • Price discount – Always explore discounts or price breaks. It never hurts to bargain for a better price.

  • Pressure Tactics – Don’t be pressured to agree to something you are not comfortable with – price, features or design. You are the customer – feel free to assert the fact.

  • Contract – Get your requirements, price, payment method, penalty, warranty and reviews in writing. Make sure you review before your sign.

Upfront time and effort spend in analyzing your requirements and conducting appropriate due diligence is always a prudent approach. Prudent when you consider the financial, functional and aesthetic impact of such projects.

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