Cedar Deck

Choosing a Contractor

The last decade has been extremely busy for new home construction in the Greater Toronto Area, with hundreds of thousands of new single family homes built. In order to service the needs of that multitude of new homeowners, literally thousands of new contractors went into businesses ranging from drapery installers to lawn cutters, to painters, to, well ... fence and deck installers. Unfortunately, as evidenced by the number of frantic calls we get in late summer and fall, a lot of them don't last the season, often simply abandoning the job, sometimes without even starting (they always get their deposit, though).

When you are getting quotes from various contractors, keep these points in mind:
  • Can they produce an insurance liability slip? This does not mean just vehicle insurance: they should have a business liability policy.
  • Do they have WSIB ( Worker's Compensation) coverage? (If they don't, and they get hurt on the job, guess who is responsible: you!)
  • Do they have a reliable truck? Why should you care? They have to get to the job every day, don’t they? If they can’t get TO the job, they can’t DO the job. And you certainly don’t want their ratty old truck leaking oil or transmission fluid all over your driveway.
  • Do they have work you can look at? Do you actually know what you are looking AT? (Click here for our gallery)
  • Is their price too good to be true? (If it's significantly cheaper than your other quotes, something is wrong.) As they say, get 3-4 quotes. If one is way out of line, either way too high or too low to believe, throw it out.
  • Are they hard sell closers? Do they expect you to make a decision on the spot? Do they tell you their price is only good for today? A reputable company expects you to take your time and decide what you want.
  • Do they listen? Are they trying to sell you what THEY want to build, or what you want to have?
  • How do they do business? Last year one company told our client: get a quote and a design, from another company, give it to them, and they’d beat the price. Well, of course: they have no investment in design time or consultation, and you have no guarantees they know what they are doing.
  • Do they want a 50% deposit? (If they do, they need the money for the material because they have no credit.) It also means they are probably buying from the big box stores. We don’t because we can get better wood elsewhere. Most reputable companies will ask anywhere from 10 to 30% with the contract and reasonable progress payments throughout.
  • Do they poo-poo the idea of a building permit? Do they tell you that you don’t need one? Maybe they just don’t know how to comply. Do they even know what zoning is, or a variance ? (Look to find out about that) You’d be surprised at how nice a deck can look and still not meet the Ontario Building Code.
  • Are they familiar with the building code? (Who wants a deck that bounces when you walk on it?)
  • If you want a permit, who does the plans? Can they do it, or arrange it? Do they know what BCIN stands for? The permit plans need to be drawn by a BCIN accredited designer. (By the way: is means Building Code Information Number which is awarded by the provincial government after a rigourous training course)
  • Do you know what you are getting? Is the price on the back of a business card: “Deck, 300 sq ft. $7000.00", or is there a detailed proposal with a plan and specifications?
  • When can they start? If, during the busy part of the season, they can start right away, or within a couple of weeks, then they are probably not very busy. If they aren’t, while others are, there must be a reason for it.
  • Can they produce real references? It’s easy enough to get a few friends to fake a good reference over the phone.
  • Does the contract have any reference to the Ontario Consumer Rights Act on it? This is required by Ontario Law; otherwise it’s not a legal and binding contract on either party.