Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Composite Decking could Cost You as a Contractor

Composite Decking Liabilities

We published a poll where we asked;

Who should pay for the labour to remove and replace faulty composite decking?

The Home Owner (12%)

The Builder (34%)

Your Insurance Company (0%)

The Manufacturer (even if you have to sue) (54%)

People seem to be of the opinion that if you sell it to them--you are partially liable for replacing it when things go wrong.


The important consideration here is that since the manufacturer refuses to pay for the removal, disposal and installation of the replacement decking (under warranty), YOU as the BUILDER may well be shamed into, or worse still forced to through litigation with your own client.

In my mind any external factor that could put you at odds with a happy client is simply not something we as high end builders should ever risk. I don't like having to tell people "No Maam, even though I sold you composite decking--and it turned out to be defective, I couldn't possibly replace it for you for free". The majority of our builders have steered clear of it for this simple reason and the fact that we don't believe it to be the best material to use.

In the act of selling people composite decking you must make clear that in the event of a warranty claim you will not be supplying free labor to replace the deck should the materials turn out to be defective. You need to tell them verbally and include it as a term within your contract. If you don't make this perfectly clear up front, your act of selling the product could leave you vulnerable later.

The other trouble is that once you tell people you won't replace defective materials for free--they just may not buy from you.
The Company that was the largest deck builder in Canada staked their business on composites--and in the last couple of years they have watched 10 of their franchisees close their doors, (1 joined I am not sure if that is due to complications of composites or just management issues in general.

As deck builders we need to choose what we sell carefully. We need to look at the warranty and decide if the risk is worth the potential gains. It is your deck business and only you decide what you will or will not sell.



Mark said...

But if its pressure treated you have to say "Well maam, in one year your deck will crack, splinter, fade and cup."

Classifying all composite manufactures as the same is similar to saying all wood species such as cedar and ipe are also the same.

Unknown said...

Mark, composite decking fades...and sometimes falls apart, and often grows mold, yes, pressure treated wood cracks.

I won't debate which is better composite or wood, but I will suggest that by excluding labor and disposal from their warranty, the composite companies are lumping themselves in with each other.

When a composite company offers a respectable warranty...they will stand out from the crowd.


Mark said...

Saying away from the composite vs wood topic.

I will add in my experience there are certain manufactures that due offer a superior warranty while others will offer you nothing. In addition some will assess each claim individually and in some cases will cover the labor and removal.

It comes down to working with an experienced contractor that knows which manufacture to choose for the proper situation. Or as a contractor to work with knowledgeable suppliers that will provide you with the best materials for your customer and the appropriate information for each.

Unknown said...

Mark, thanks for the comments. I am happy to talk about this warranty subject.

I haven't seen much difference between warranty language, but if you have a stand-out please give specifics.

It has been a couple of years since I looked at the warranty information of the majors, and at that time it looked like they all took the Trex template and just changed a few words.

When you mention the companies giving their installation contractors exclusive verbal warrantees that cover installation and disposal costs, Trex as an example, I've heard that from a few installers.

However, when I approached company reps in an attempt to get a deal in writing for our builders, they refused to even acknowledge the practice and would not put anything in writing--you are just supposed to "trust them".

From an ethical standpoint, how is it fair to any of their customers for two distinct levels of warranty treatement? If you are a contractor that builds 5 decks a year with their products, you get a full warranty.

But if you happened to use a contractor that only does 1 deck a year using their product, they may not cover the installation and disposal costs.

Putting my clients in perilous situations like this, pits me against them.

We have a form that I ask all our builders to sign prior to building any composite deck--it basically outlines the warranty issues and states clearly that we will not be providing free labour to replace any defective product--and that the written warranty excludes labor and disposal of the defective product produced by them.

Like that bank commercial... Even kids know it's not nice to hold out on people...