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Booking a contractor this summer? What you need to know

'Right now, anyone looking to book a larger deck project for this summer is going to need a lot of luck on their side'
20210407 deck turl
You may have a hard time getting a contractor to build you a deck this summer. Jeff Turl/BayToday.

How busy are contractors right now and for the summer?

With the real estate market heating up in Ontario, local contracting companies have their hands full this year: SML Contracting, based in  Huntsville, says they've been busier over the last two years than ever before, booking an average of one large cottage project a week.

"If you came to us right now and said, 'I want to build a deck this summer,' chances of us being able to fit that into our schedule are very slim," said Jay Brubacher, project manager at SML Contracting.

According to Stephen Watson, Lake of Bays' director of building and bylaw services, the township issued over twice as many building permits this January as they did last January: 32 this year compared to 12 last year.

Does the pandemic have anything to do with this?

Due to the pandemic, many residents are planning to stay at the cottage in lieu of travelling internationally for the summer: Watson and  Brubacher said these residents are more interested, as a result, in upgrading their homes for their vacations. In addition, with many workplaces allowing employees to work-from-home full time, some are selling their homes in the Greater Toronto Area and relocating.

"I know last year, starting in early, early spring, a month ahead of our busy phone call season, the phone just started ringing off the hook and didn't stop until August. It was incredibly busy and it seems like it's going to be the same way this year," Brubacher said.

How do I find the right contractor for the job?

Bryce Sharpe, Muskoka Lakes' manager of planning, says he recommends residents ask their neighbours and acquaintances about trustworthy contractors in the area. Watson recommends getting quotes from three different contractors before booking a job and beginning the build and taking the time to check their references. For smaller projects,  Brubacher said their company recommends people consult with their local lumber yard to find local contractors they can vouch for.

When can I expect to get booked?

Right now, anyone looking to book a larger deck project for this summer is going to need a lot of luck on their side. Brubacher said many of the contracting projects their company is handling this summer were booked last year. Brubacher said it's key to call early in case a spot is available.

Watson adds it's important people submit permit applications to their municipality as early as possible.

What about prices?

It's no secret COVID-19 has driven up costs of goods and services worldwide and contracting isn't excluded from the impact. Brubacher said cottagers calling to book an appointment need to be flexible about pricing this year and recognize, with lumber and other materials more expensive now, they likely won't get the savings they're looking for —  unless they take on the project D.I.Y. 

"If you want to have it built by professionals, then you are going to have to work with them on schedule and pricing," he said.

Zahraa Hmood is a Local Journalism Initiative reporter covering the municipalities of Muskoka Lakes, Lake of Bays and Georgian Bay. Her reporting is funded by the Canadian government through its Local  Journalism Initiative.