questionsis it rude to ask a deck contractor for a written…

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I would like to add that somehow this company has a really good rating on Angie's list, which is how I found them.

vote-for34vote-against

Find another contractor. That's unprofessional. It is absolutely expected to shop bids.
Next thing the dude will want to be paid cash only.

On your Angie's list note, people have different standards/levels of expectation. Deck's are usually "utilitarian" and many people don't pay much heed. Don't be those people. :)

j5 j5
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It is normal to ask for written bids, most professional contractors will have a carbon copy quote sheet and they will keep a copy for their records so that they know what they quoted and for how much. I haven't worked with many contractors, but the few I have were very professional and gave me a written bid by default. Angie's list has its purpose, but you can't trust everything that you read online.

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@tippypaws: I don't much care for Angie's list. Contractors that are professional expect to give written bids, expect you to get other bids, and are licensed. In addition, most places will want a permit pulled for a deck (unless you're just repairing, which you are not).

Written bids are not email, either. They're on paper. No exceptions.

Most states make it easy to look up the license, so that you will know whether the person doing this bid is bonded, and carries proper insurance. A bid should contain references to sunk costs like permits, and anyone who balks at providing a written bid should probably be eliminated for other reasons. I love to remodel. I have bids for every single thing I've had done, even if both the contractor and I knew that I wasn't soliciting other bidders. It's just better, that way. I don't like surprises, especially not when they involve more money, or more time, than I was expecting.

Back later, maybe...

vote-for13vote-against

No, but "rude" is in it. It's prudent. A couple of years ago I had a screen room built on my house. They are quite common here, so it's one of the things they were pushing at the garden show, so I signed up with five contractors to come out and give me estimates. The one that was the cheapest I also had a good feeling about, as he seemed to understand working with an older home, promised to be careful of my plants and pets, and had a good solution for my old wiring concerns. I hired him and was happy I'd gotten someone comfortable to work with, as there were a lot of problems, as is usual with my 100 year old house. The main one was that the french doors I'd bought for them to install in the downstairs room leading to the screen room couldn't be installed there, the foundation was too high and the load bearing beams too low for them to fit. The contractor suggested I put the screen room on my bedroom on the second floor above, resulting in a covered porch. tbc

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But I wanted it downstairs under the shade tree, so we changed the plan to make the screen room on the first floor and make the top of it a deck, and install the french doors coming out of my bedroom onto the deck. That change added about 10% to the price, which I felt was a bargain. I got a 10x20 screen room with ceiling fan (that I provided), dog door (that I provided) and five wall outlets on its own breaker box, plus a 10x20 deck with pine railings and a special coating that won;t get above 75 to the touch even if it's 112 out. They replaced the old frame windows in the downstairs room with modern double pane windows and installed the french doors (that I provided) and painted everything for a little over $10K. I would never have thought of adding the deck, and my house is on the side of a mountain so the view is gorgeous. It's the best thing I have done for myself in twenty years.

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No, I feel it's needed. If a contractor balks at giving it to you don't take a chance on using them, no matter how enticing the price might seem.

I would also let Angie's List know how the contractor was. That's the only others will know.

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@shrdlu: I'm going to disagree with this, somewhat.
I prefer my bids as PDF or Excel spreadsheet if they can't estimate the job on the spot. I don't much care for managing paper.

j5 j5
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@j5: I think that "written" just means something other than verbal, not necessarily the dead tree version.

As to the OP: I agree with the above, a formal estimate is absolutely necessary. This is to compare bids and if there is a disagreement later as to what amount was agreed to by both parties.

Also, not mentioned, do not pay for the entire project up front. Unless it is very unusual and the materials are very high cost in relation to labor, pay no more than 50% in advance. Do not make a final payment until the job is completed to your satisfaction and any required inspection(s) and permit(s) are closed out.

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@j5: the problem with emails is that they can say you changed/edited something, that it's not in their copy, etc. If you have a paper copy then it is easy to tell when something is changed.

I had written estimates on siding done about a year and a half ago. the one and only bid i considered was a guy, not a company. he was able to work on a few other issues for me too. I too have a very old house (found board behind mirror that said "remodel 1920"). and getting issues dealt with is hard for big companies not use to starting from scratch on a project.

Get written bids. it covers everyone's butt including the contractor's.

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@j5: I agree that paper is not necessary. You can make changes on a piece of paper just as easily as a pdf (if not easier).

vote-for8vote-against

No, you should expect it in writing. Because, if it's not in writing, it doesn't exist. When I've had things done (decks being one of them) I always get an estimate. It usually comes in the mail, or email, a few days later.

This guy sounds like a loser, I'd call around. And, you've also helped prove my point that Angie's List is worthless :-)

vote-for7vote-against

You have the right to demand a written bid. If he's doing stuff without a written quote of some sort, he's most likely sketchy. I would do as others suggest and go with someone who gives you a written, categorized quote.

These people throwing numbers around will always sound cheaper, up front, but they aren't professional and, trust me, in the long run you will lose more money from them, and their quality won't be as good.

vote-for8vote-against

As stated already, a written estimate is a must. It will be a life saver if a dispute arises. The more descriptive the better. Include any warranty information, permit fees, owner provided contractor installed items.
Speaking of permits, they are a must and required by most municipalities across the US. Part of the permitting process will require a good set of construction drawings. (check with your local building department for requirements). These will also capture what you are paying for in the way of material and design. I can't stress enough to get a permit.
I realize it is an added cost (in fees) but think of it as paying a professional to inspect the work of your contractor and sign-off that the deck is safe.
The other important things to consider are foundation depth- poured in place concrete below the frost line; attachment to existing rim joist of the house - never direct contact; lag bolts and carriage bolts; vertical railing posts - support 100 pounds horizontally

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Not everywhere requires a permit - not needed anywhere around here for a deck.

If he's not willing to give you a written estimate, move on and count yourself lucky.

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I would have nothing, none, nada, done as far as contracting work without a specific (!!!), written, signed, estimate. Period.

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run away from this contractor. You're just asking to be ripped off if you don't get a written bid. Make sure that any bid also includes any fees for permits. You'd be surprised how many jurisdictions require permits for even the tiniest project. Also make sure the contractor is bonded in case they really screw up.

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Get it on paper and check for insurance and license too.

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Thanks for the info guys. I've got another contractor coming out tonight to give me a bid. I hope it goes better this time!

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A lot of you are interchanging bid with estimate. Two very different things. As for the OP, it is not rude. If they won't give you a bid or estimate, find someone else who will. Get a few different ones, and remember that the cheapest one isn't always the best one. Enjoy your deck! :)

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You're interviewing the worker as well as asking for a bid on the job. It doesn't sound like you would want this person doing the job, even if his bid came in 20% below the others. If he doesn't care about your opinion BEFORE the job, what makes you think he will care during or after.

Infrequently, and I mean VERY infrequently, you can find a fantastic contractor with an abrasive and unpleasant personality. Ones like that live by referrals, so ask your friends/neighbors.