My experience with Caldek Sundeck Systems was extremely unpleasant and was the worst experience that I have ever had with a contractor. I have written several reviews and this is the only one where I have given less than 8 stars.
When I got the estimate, the Caldek rep emphasised me that the deck should have a steeper slope than it currently had to improve the drainage of water. I paid a deposit of about $1,900 to replace the vinyl on a small 8 ft by 14 ft deck off of the master bedroom.
Work started well enough. I helped the carpenter remove a heavy metal railing and had him store it in our bedroom so that he did not have to lift it down to the ground below.
After a short period of time, I was told by the carpenter that he could not put the slope on the deck because there was not enough space. He would make the deck flat instead.
I then got a phone call from Caldek telling me that there was a half inch thick layer of cement on the deck and an extra layer of plywood. I would have to pay and additional $800 for their removal ($250 for the cement and $550 for the plywood).
I went and looked at the cement layer and saw that it was closer to an eighth of an inch. There were also two quarter inch layers of plywood instead of a single standard 5/8 inch thick layer.
I expected that this would be a simple thing to sort out. My experience with every other contractor that I have ever dealt with is that when there is a problem it is easy to sort out by talking. However, this was not my experience here.
Instead, I had this strange experience with the Caldek rep on the phone insisting to me that the cement was 1/2 inch thick when I was looking right at it and saw that it about 1/8 of an inch.
Photos of the thin layer of cement, the extra 1/4" layer of plywood and the first 1/4" layer of plywood are attached. The layer of cement had been put on by the previous owner to provide drainage. It was close to 1/2 inch thick by the door but quickly thinned. Much of the deck had no cement.
When I mentioned that the extra plywood was only ¼” thick and that the first layer was only 1/4" thick and as a result that $550 was too much for my small deck, the sales rep just said it was in the quote. He was also immovable on the $250 cost for the thin layer of cement. After another unpleasant discussion with the owner the only concession was that I would not be charged for the replacement of a few rotten 2x4s.
There was a $550 cost for the removal of an extra layer or plywood in the quote that I foolishly ignored the first time. The quote said subject to additional charges for unforeseen work. Additional costs for time and materials is expected, but the $250 for the cement was arbitrary. It and the $550 cost for the 1/4" layer of plywood were clearly unreasonable.
In reality having 2 thin ¼” sheets of plywood was probably easier to remove than a single standard 5/8” layer. The carpenter scraped off the vinyl, two ¼” layers of plywood and thin layer of cement in about an hour or less with a large pry bar.
I was asked by the carpenter whether I wanted to stop work so you are suddenly faced with the choice paying for something you feel is outrageous or being stuck with a deck that is half ripped up.
The carpenter suddenly started saying that I needed to get a sill wrap around the door guaranteeing me that there would be rot there. This would cost another $2000 according to the quote. We agreed to stop work while I considered this additional problem.
In short, after a few e-mails (to which Caldek took up to about two weeks to respond) the work stopped and Caldek charged me additional fees for restocking and several hundred dollars for giving the quote, leaving me with about $200 from my deposit. I did not agree to those extra charges. They then just kept the entire deposit.
In the end, I had a much more pleasant experience doing much of the work myself and finding another decking contractor to finish the vinyl. He was just excellent. He spent time with me giving advice on how to do the carpentry work. He even gave me a free tube of caulking to use when reinstalling the railing. And he did not ask for a deposit.
I also ended up with a deck that had a proper slope for the drainage of water so that there would not be rot so easily in the future. And there was also no rot under the door.
New addition to review:
I have read Caldek's response to my review trying to blame on me by calling me a difficult customer. After dealing with Caldek and several excellent contractors I have learned the following lessons that I hope you may find useful.
1. Good contractors are fun to work with and extremely valuable while poor ones are a huge headache and are to be avoided at all costs.
2. If you have a contractor who is being unethical or plays games it might be best just to tell to leave your property as soon as possible to cut your losses.
3. When looking for good contractors, only look at ones that have a large number (like 50) reviews on Google or Homestars and there should be consistently high scores.
4. Always check references. A good contractor is happy to provide references.
5. A good contractor will spend time with you understanding your problem.
6. Lessons passed on to me by a reference that I called who once ran their own plumbing business:
a. Never give a deposit. “You will get screwed every time if you pay a deposit before work is started.” There are obvious exceptions such as if the contractor needs to spend significant dollars, such as manufacturing windows. However, a contractor must be licensed to be able to take a deposit. You can check whether they are by looking at the service Alberta website. I failed to check this.
b. Always hold some money back for a few weeks until you are totally happy with the job, otherwise you lose your leverage.
7. Read the Alberta Consumer Protection Act. There is a lot of valuable information in it such that protects you such as:
a. a contract requiring prepayment must be signed by both parties,
b. in a prepaid contract all costs including cancellation fees must be clearly outlined, and
c. it is an unfair practice for a supplier, in a consumer transaction or a proposed consumer transaction … to charge a fee for an estimate or services unless the consumer i) is informed in advance that a fee will be charged and informed of the amount of the fee, and ii) has expressly consented to be charge the fee.