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How to Avoid Scams When Hiring a Maryland Deck Contractor

May 19, 2015

Spring and summer are the prime seasons for home improvement. Coincidentally, it’s also the prime time for home improvement scams. Scam artists take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners who rush to get things done and forget to do their due diligence in researching the contractor they hire. As Maryland deck building contractors, we consider it our duty to educate homeowners on how to spot and avoid a bad deal.

Common Deck Building Scams

Most home improvement scams follow the same scenario: a contractor knocks on your door saying he has some leftover materials from a job he did in your neighborhood and offers to build you a deck for cheap. These scam artists typically target the elderly, as well as people who don’t have a deck or have one that is falling apart. They would often ask for a deposit, present the illusion of doing work and then disappear with your money. 

To avoid falling into this trap, always be wary of contractors who:

  • Come to you with offers that sound too good to be true

  • Insist on you making a decision right there and then

  • Don’t have any branded uniforms, letterheads, business cards or equipment

  • Look like they are out of state (check the license plates)

  • Request the full payment upfront

  • Don’t accept cash

  • Don’t bother with building permits

Remember, whether it’s a deck or a fence, any type of construction project on your property can’t be done in one day. Even if it’s a simple platform deck, permits have to be pulled first to ensure all the building and zoning requirements are met. Don’t trust a contractor who doesn’t provide you a deck plan or a written contract to sign.

Finding a Good Deck Contractor

Just because a contractor doesn’t look like a scammer, doesn’t mean you should hire them. There are plenty of not-so-honest and inexperienced deck contractors in Maryland who carry licenses, build sub-par decks and provide poor customer service. 

In fact, a new type of scam artist are contractors who actually advertise their business and get you to come to them. But after you sign the contract and pay the deposit, they keep inflating the project and asking you for more money. Eventually they stop all work and just leave with your money, often to a different state. At this point, your calls don’t get answered and there is little local law enforcement can do. These contractors will often start a business under a different name once the bad word gets out. In a recent deck scam in Texas, one homeowner lost over $18,000 to a “smooth salesman” who has been doing these schemes for years. Interestingly, the homeowner found the said deck builder on HomeAdvisor where he had good ratings.

To make an informed decision when hiring a Maryland deck contractor, be sure to:

  • Check whether their home improvement license is current.

  • Ask for photos of completed projects or request references.

  • Look for local contractors with a local address and phone number.

  • Check if they have a decking showroom you could visit.

  • Search for the company or contractor name online and look for any bad publicity. 

And if you are looking for a reputable deck building company serving Maryland and Southern Pennsylvania, you can start by visiting our showroom and talking to one of our experts!