SECOND FLOOR DECK: [See photos – treated wood; paint partly filling gaps.] The carpentry of the top part of the railing was unsatisfactory. 1) The mitered angles (corners) are not fitted. In one case one board is ½ inch higher than the other, and there are gaps of up to almost 1/4 inch between the boards on the other three angles. In addition, the cuts are ragged, as if the saw was not sharp enough for the wood. 2) These top boards do not fit against the support boards beneath them. At one point there’s a gap as much as ¼ inch, and with the entire length of the board on the front of the railing, there’s a gap that daylight shows through. In addition, these boards do not align vertically with the supports, and even the holes for the screws are ragged. When I realized these problems, I asked Donnie to redo the work: replace the top board, making certain that the miters were accurate, that the angled cuts were smooth, and that the top boards align and fit against the support. In spite of the fact that the expense of this unsatisfactory work should have been borne by Donnie, I stressed that I would pay for the lumber -- whatever kind he preferred (see below**) and would contribute what I calculated to be about one-third of the cost of the labor. His first responses (text messages) seemed cooperative, indicating that he would do the work soon, although he tended to place the responsibility for the problem on me. For example, he wrote in a text message: “I was hired to make that deck sturdy. . . .If I knew you wanted furniture grade work it would have cost a lot more. I used treated wood that does shrink. . . . I could have used cedar [**] boards and not had that problem.” It goes without saying that deck railings should be sturdy (especially at 10 feet above the ground) but one would also assume that the parts would be reasonably well-fitted and cleanly cut, which does not mean “furniture grade.” In fact, the railings to my front porch and large ground-level deck are made of treated wood that was cut smoothly and fitted evenly, but far from furniture grade. If Donnie could not achieve that quality with treated wood, however, the professional response should have been to let me know the problem and explain the options, including my finding someone else to do the work. For over four weeks he failed to set a date for the repairs, although I reminded him a couple of times and even gave him dates when I would or would not be available. His responses were courteous but never specific about what he could do or when he would do it, although one Saturday morning he left me several telephone messages that he was on his way to my house and, then, that he was waiting in my driveway. But he had not let me know earlier that he would be stopping by, and so no one was at home to answer the phone or see him at the house. Finally I gave up and found someone else to do the job. FRONT PORCH AND DECK: Because Donnie and his helpers were planning to spray the stain onto the main deck and the front porch, including the railings, I asked them to be careful not to get stain on the small evergreen shrubs that I had planted near the steps a few months previously. Donnie’s response was an indignant, “I’m a professional.” Nevertheless, two of the shrubs are partially covered with stain. . . . Otherwise they did a good job with the staining. CEDAR SIDING. A couple of the boards that they replaced came loose within a few days. I asked him also to reset these boards when he repaired the deck railing. ASSESSMENT OF THE PROJECTS AND ESTIMATE OF COSTS: Donnie's initial assessment of the work was cursory, if not negligent and unprofessional, and, consequently, the estimate of the cost of labor and materials was inaccurate. For the second-floor deck, I asked him to replace the railing and replace or repair and stain the floor, whichever was appropriate. With a quick look at the deck, he gave me an estimate for the railing and for staining the floor, with no mention about replacing all or some of the floor boards. When his crew started work, they immediately explained that the floor boards needed replacing. When they began to refit the cedar siding that had sprung loose, they pointed out that the bottom of the siding boards, which touched the ground, had rotted (apparently Donnie had not inspected them); they should be replaced. This additional materials and work raised the cost considerably. Nevertheless, I wanted new boards for both the deck floor and the siding; and I have no complaints about the costs, which were reasonable. I cannot condone, however, the initial misleading estimate. I don't have a documented record (check/credit card receipts) of the costs because on two occasions Donnie asked for partial cash payments (weekend -- no check cashing). I agreed to his requests, but both partial payments before the work is finished and cash payments seem less that the best professional procedure.