These days, consumers reasonably expect any expensive product they buy to carry a warranty. That includes decks. Generally speaking, the specifics of the warranty aren't nearly as important as the fact of the warranty itself. Offer a warranty or you won't be competing on a level playing field.

“Everybody offers a warranty, so I don't know if it's really a selling point,” says David Cellucci, owner of My Deck & Patio, San Antonio, Texas. He offers a one-year warranty on workmanship, a five-year structural warranty, and whatever the manufacturer or lumber supplier offers on the materials involved.

Time to Deliver As a selling point, more important is “the actual execution of any warranty,” Cellucci says, because it paves the way to referrals. “People see your workmanship, so the worst thing I can do is wreck my reputation on warranty issues. It is super important that your deck looks good from the beginning and looks good next year,” Cellucci says.

At Rocky Mountain Custom Decks in Englewood, Colo., owner Brian McFate calls his warranty — recently extended from one year to two — “huge for referrals. Five or ten years from now, people can be at a party on that deck and ask who built it.” Obviously, the owner's attitude can make the sale vanish before the contractor knows it's gone.

There Goes Your Warranty David Conner, owner of Archadeck of the Blue Ridge, Forest, Va., sees it a little differently. In his experience, the warranty doesn't play much of a role in getting referrals. “When people refer someone it's because they love the way the deck looks and how we handled the actual construction process,” he says.

But the warranty can be a key ingredient in the original sale. “I think it's important to the buyer because so many people have been taken advantage of in the past,” Conner points out.

Archadeck's two-year warranty helps separate the franchise from competitors, he says. The warranty is backed by a third party — essentially, it's self-insured by the Archadeck franchisees — which “gives it credibility even if we went out of business,” Conner says.

“Most others out there, it's just them,” he continues, “and if the contractor decides he doesn't want to build decks anymore or he moves to another state, there goes your warranty.”