This is the second installment in our series about the Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor. This certainly applies to our business of building premium decks, porches and sunrooms, but really these principles apply to almost any area of work in which you might have a contractor perform services for you such as plumbing, electrical or landscaping.
To review, the seven keys are:
- Customized Product
- Attention to Details
- Warranty & Protection
Professionalism is an over-used term. Everybody holds themselves out as a “pro.” But under rigorous criteria, most fall by the wayside.
Professionalism is defined as “conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession” and “exhibiting a courteous, conscientious, and generally businesslike manner in the workplace.”
In the traditional “professions” (doctors, lawyers, CPAs) there are clear technical and ethical standards defined by oversight groups like the AMA, state bar and AICPA. However, for the more common trades there are usually neither such clearly defined standards, nor strong organizations to enforce these standards. It’s no wonder then that the real world standards of conduct are all over the place for contractors.
A professional should have a high standard of knowledge
- Expect your contractor to be properly licensed. A residential contractor’s license in S.C. takes a minimum of two years of working experience plus passing an extensive exam regarding building codes and best practices.
- Likewise, most trades require licensing to ensure proper knowledge of building codes. Expect your contractor to use such licensed tradesmen.
- Following local permitting laws (which include having building plans reviewed for adherence to code, as well as key on-sight inspections of work)
- Carrying proper insurance to protect both himself and his customers against damages and liability
A professional should follow high standards of personal and business conduct, including:
- Returning your calls on a timely basis
- Communicating problems to you quickly and thoughtfully
- Following through on commitments such as quotes, start dates, completion dates, etc.
- Professional conduct at your home on the part of the contractor and all of his workers
- Respect of your property, including keeping the site orderly, neat and safe
- Following the professional knowledge and expertise in line with the proper professional licensing and qualifications, a professional will ensure that any work that he is responsible for is performed properly in accordance to such standards.
- A professional will readily stand behind his work with the appropriate warranties and personal assurances that any shortfalls will be made right.
Isn’t this what we all want in a contractor – someone who has the necessary knowledge that the layman doesn’t have, performs a high quality of work, follows building codes and requirements, carries the proper insurance, provides meaningful warranties, and stands behind his work? If only this was the norm, not the exception.
- The last point I will address is: how can you identify such a contractor?
The answer is not so difficult. First, check out the qualifications in advance. Licenses, insurance and warranties can all be verified up front. A reputable contractor wants to show you these because he knows they set him apart from the crowd. The second step is tougher – judging the character and reliability of the contractor. You can tell some things by his conduct in the sales process. Was he on time, did he follow up like he said he would? Was he open with communication, explaining things to you and sharing information with you? And the final thing you can and should do is get references from him and call them. Other customers like you will be more than happy to give you the whole scoop – good or bad – about the contractor you are about to hire. You have the right to ask for references, and a professional contractor will happily give them to you because he knows his past customers will be his best sales force.
Keep in mind, there are a lot of “fly-by-night” builders that can build your deck. They can offer you a structure really cheap and you may be one of the lucky few who actually benefits from taking this route. These types of contractors rarely have the credentials to cover an accident or other issue that could happen on your property during the building process. This could leave you, the homeowner, holding the bag if the unfortunate happens. Also take into consideration where that “fly-by-night” contractor will be if you have a problem with your structure, months, weeks or even days after leaving. Having the peace of mind in knowing you can contact your contractor for a resolution to a problem, or just to answer a question, is worth its weight in gold!
One last word about finding a professional contractor. This is one area where you truly get what you pay for. If a contractor is properly licensed, carries proper insurance, offers a meaningful warranty, uses reputable subcontractors and gives the kind of reliable and competent service that keeps customers singing his praises, he is not going to be the low-price option. But if you care about the finished product that you will live with every day, and about a pain-free construction project, you should be thinking about maximum value, not low price.
As we mentioned in our first article in this series, if you want to improve your “luck with contractors,” take luck out of the equation, and hire a true professional.
“The thrill of a bargain soon fades and is often followed by the disappointment of a project that doesn’t meet your expectations. The pride and satisfaction of a really good project can last forever.”
Our knowledge and experience in outdoor structure building and design over the years can ensure a space that not only meets but exceeds your expectations. Call Archadeck of Central SC today for a free design consultation (803) 603-2160.
Please visit our extensive outdoor structure galleries located on our website for more examples of our lovely designs.