Tag Archives: Archadeck of Central SC’s fifth installment in our series about the Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Panel detail on privacy screen in Columbia SC

Panel detail on custom privacy screen in Columbia, SC.

THE SEVEN KEYS TO FINDING A GREAT CONTRACTOR

PART SIX:  ATTENTION TO DETAILS

This is our sixth 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 you might have a contractor perform services for you.

To review, the seven keys are:

  1. Experience
  2. Professionalism
  3. Process
  4. Value
  5. Customized Product
  6. Attention to Details
  7. Warranty & Protection
Notice the detailed parting board on this AZEK deck in Norheast Columbia ,SC.

Notice the detailed parting board on this AZEK deck in Northeast Columbia, SC.

“It’s the little details that are vital.  Little things make big things happen.” 
– John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach, winner of ten NCAA national championships

This statement is true in life, and it’s true in the construction business.  There are thousands of little details that go into a building project – some that you see, and some that you don’t.  But their sum total makes up the look, feel and underlying quality of the project as a whole.

Deck BlueprintsOne of the little things we do behind the scenes at Archadeck to ensure the details are properly followed is to generate actual blueprints of every deck, porch or sunroom we design.  Our carpenter uses these plans in the field to eliminate questions and to avoid the “personal interpretation” that can occur if the project that the salesman and the customer agreed to is not clearly communicated to the guys actually doing the building. Together with these blueprints, we have a Construction Master File that details exactly how each feature of a project – railings, steps, footings – are to be built.  Without this common reference each carpenter would be left to build in the way that he sees fit, which is not a recipe for consistency or quality.

Beautifully detailed deck in NE Columbia, SC.

Beautifully detailed deck in NE Columbia, SC.

There are many other details – both aesthetic and structural – that come as a result of having built thousands of projects.  For example, on our deck and porch structures, our standard is to run the decking boards diagonal to the framing boards. This gives the deck an interesting and distinctive appearance, but that’s not why we do it. We do it because running the decking on the diagonal gives the structure a bracing effect that exponentially increases the resistance to any horizontal or vertical stress shifting that could occur. This results in a surface that feels much more solid and tight as you walk on it.

Saluda River deck in Columbia SC

Saluda River deck in Columbia, SC.

Other examples of details built into our construction: hiding the board ends with trim to achieve a more finished look, use of stair risers to give stairs the same appearance as you have inside your home, and the use of screws, rather than nails, in the decking.  These features all go towards giving your project a professional, finished look, and also they are what give our projects a distinctive “Archadeck” look that is consistent across the country.

This discussion has been somewhat internally focused on the way we do things at Archadeck, mainly because that’s what we know. As it relates to the theme of Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor, these same attributes are universal for any construction project. Not so much the details such as running decking boards on the diagonal, but rather the level of thought and effort that have gone in to defining what details will and won’t be followed. Sometimes the only way to determine a contractor’s attention to detail is to look at his work, and compare it to the work of others. If you don’t have an experienced eye for noticing these details, your prospective contractor should be able to easily and proudly point them out to you. But I bet that you can tell by looking at some examples of projects if they display the style and touches that you expect, even if you can’t put your finger on exactly what those touches are.

Archadeck of Central SC three generations of quality outdoor structures

The Archadeck of Central SC team – Mike Reu, Marshall Reu and Tucker Reu

Our commitment to excellence in outdoor structure design and building ensures your unique project is built with attention to even the smallest details. Call Archadeck of Central SC today for a free design consultation at (803) 603-2160 or email us at centralsc@archadeck.net.

Please visit our extensive outdoor structure galleries located on our website for more examples of our lovely designs.

 

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Archadeck of Central SC discussses the importance of customized design

7 keysThis is part two of the fifth installment in our series about the Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor. To review, the seven keys are:

 

  1. Experience
  2. Professionalism
  3. Process
  4. Value
  5. Customized Product
  6. Attention to Details
  7. Warranty & Protection

Custom bench seating on AZEK deck in Norheast Columbia ,SC.As a continuation of part five of our series on “The Seven Keys To Finding a Great Contractor,” we discuss the importance of a customized design in the success of  your outdoor living space.

PART 5, continued — CUSTOMIZED DESIGN The design of a project is perhaps the most important phase of creating an outdoor living space you will enjoy and be proud of.  It’s also an opportunity to see the level of experience, professionalism, and value your builder can bring to the table.  The design should take into account your personal needs and preferences, the use of space regarding furniture, grills, etc., the traffic flow of the space, and your appetite for ongoing maintenance.  And of course your budget.

The salesman should be knowledgeable about materials options and should be willing to take time to educate you. Your job in this process is to do your homework Your job in this process is to do your homework – look at pictures on vendor websites, Pinterest, Houzz and other sites for examples to get a feel for what you like. Ask lots of questions, and make sure that you give the salesman feedback on his design to keep him on track.

There are 5 factors that will determine the cost of your project.  You can work towards managing your budget by managing these factors. These are:

  • Archadeck of Central SC custom fire pit on slate patioThe size of the project – A 400- square-foot deck costs more than a 200-square- foot deck – not double, but significantly more.  This is an important factor that is totally up to you.  However, be careful to ensure that the project you decide on is big enough to do what you intend to do on it.  Some customers opt for a small space due to budget constraints, and then are disappointed when certain furniture won’t fit in the space.  If you know how you want to use the space, line off an area of the yard or house the size of the proposed project and actually put the furniture there to see if it works.  This is a mistake that does happen, and is hard to fix after the fact.
  • Composite deck and open porch in Kings Grant, Lexington SC is rustic and elegant with plent of room for dining and entertainingThe materials you choose – a pressure treated yellow pine deck costs far less than an Azek PVC composite deck.  However, it may not look as impressive, last as long or be as easy to maintain.  In addition, you will need to spend money every 2-3 years to protect the pressure treated wood, and over the life of the deck this may cost more than the up-front investment in maintenance free materials. Your salesman should be able to walk you through your choices.
  • Amenities – features that you add to the project can be what makes it special for you. Items like bench seating, lighting, a fire pit, a water feature, or a built-in outdoor kitchen make a project beautiful and impressive. However, they can be the most expensive part of the project.
  • Spacious elevated deck on Saluda River in West Columbia SC by Archadeck of Central SCEnvironment – The area where your project is built may affect the price – for example it’s easier (and therefore cheaper) to install a patio in a flat yard than in a yard that needs to be backfilled and built up.  It’s also easier to build a deck three feet off the ground than it is 12 feet off the ground.  This is an area that you may not have much control over, but it is a factor to bear in mind.
  • Quality of builder – this is the tricky one.  If you search hard enough, you can find a cheap builder.  But there are reasons why he is cheap. It could be his quality, his reliability, or the stability of his business. If you bet wrong here, you risk having a finished project that you are not happy with, or worse, having an unfinished project that he has abandoned. The highest priced contractor isn’t necessarily the best. If you are paying for a quality builder, you should expect him to have adequate General Liability and Workers Comp insurance, builder’s licenses, permits, stability in terms of years in business and warranties that he will stand behind his work.

Mahogany Hardwood Deck with trellisIn addition to creating an appealing design that fits within your budget, you should be comfortable that the design of your project is structurally sound.This again is an area where you have to rely upon the quality of your builder. Areas he should focus on are the size/strength of the foundation (posts for decks, pillars for sunrooms, and ground preparation for patio structures), proper spacing of beams and joists, and roof tie-ins built properly to avoid leaks. These are all important factors that will ensure you can enjoy your project for years to come. Building codes come into effect here, but these are often minimal standards that should not only be met but exceeded in a quality structure.

PlansAs a side note, every builder who takes the time to create custom designs he is proud of has had the frustrating experience of having an unscrupulous customer take his design and give it to a cheaper builder to do the work. So don’t be offended if/when a builder won’t release the design to you until a contract is signed.  It is an unfortunate necessity of protecting his tradecraft.

In summary, your project will only be as good as its design.  Is it sound?  Is it something you can afford?  Does it suit your personal lifestyle?  And most important, is it something you will be proud of every time you use it?  If you have found a contractor who can provide you with such a design, you have likely found a contractor who is a good fit for you.

Archadeck of Central SC three generations of quality outdoor structures

The Archadeck of Central SC team – Mike Reu, Marshall Reu and Tucker Reu

Our commitment to excellence in outdoor structure design and building ensures your unique project will bring enjoyment and pride for many years to come! Call Archadeck of Central SC today for a free design consultation at (803) 603-2160 or email us at centralsc@archadeck.net.

Please visit our extensive outdoor structure galleries located on our website for more examples of our lovely designs.

Archadeck of Central SC discusses why a “warm, fuzzy feeling” is key to creating your customized project

7 keysTHE SEVEN KEYS TO FINDING A GREAT CONTRACTOR, PART FIVE: CUSTOMIZED PRODUCT

This is our fifth installment in our series about the Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor. To review, the seven keys are:

  1. Experience
  2. Professionalism
  3. Process
  4. Value
  5. Customized Product
  6. Attention to Details
  7. Warranty & Protection

Building an outdoor living project that is right for you is key to the long-term enjoyment you get for your money.  A cheap, cookie-cutter project is not going to give you a good feeling when you use it.  However, an overdesigned, over-priced project is not going to give you a good feeling either.  You need a project—whether it’s a deck, sunroom, screened porch, combination, etc.—that meets your individual wants, needs (and budget).  One of the keys to finding a contractor that fits with you is whether you are able to “connect” when it comes to designing what you want to build.

A contractor should have a large experience base of designing projects similar to yours for you to draw upon.  He should ask lots of questions, and give you lots of information regarding what you can and can’t do, and what factors are going to affect the function and cost of your project.  You aren’t expected to be the expert, nor should you have to come up with the design yourself.inside and out

Further, a contractor should point out smaller features you may not be aware of that will enhance the project without adding major costs.  This is part of the value add that a full-service contractor should bring to the table.

During the “selling” phase of the project, you get a great opportunity to go through much of the process with the contractor.  You should get a feel from his ideas and suggestions whether he is adding value to the process.  He should be doing a lot of listening to make sure he understands what you want.  At the same time he should be giving you lots of feedback and ideas and education about what your options are.  If you find his input valuable, then you may be well on your way toward having identified the right contractor for you.

Archadeck custom projectOne note about a contractor’s design.  If the contractor values his time, experience and expertise in project design, don’t expect him to leave his design drawings with you unless/until you sign a contract.  It’s not fair or reasonable to expect him to “give” you his work product for free.  Too many contractors have had the experience of finding that their original designs, which they invested hours in creating, were passed along to cheaper carpenters to re-create.

Cheaper doesn’t mean better and the proof of this is evident through the way you view, and use, your outdoor space in the years ahead. Here at Archadeck of Central SC  we realize the thrill of a bargain can soon fade and is often followed by a structure that doesn’t meet your expectations. Keep in mind the pride and satisfaction of a really good project can last forever!

In summary, you should expect that a full-service contractor will add value in helping you design your own unique outdoor living project.  You should be able to see him in action during the design phase, which conveniently is before you make a decision to commit to a contractor to build your project.  If you don’t have a warm, fuzzy feeling that he is thoughtful, considerate of your ideas, and responsive, then now is the time to move on to someone else.  But if he takes care of you during the early stages of the project, then odds are good that you will be able to work well with him to bring the job to completion and that you’ll have the custom-built outdoor living space of your dreams.

Archadeck of Central SC three generations of quality outdoor structures

The Archadeck of Central SC team – Mike Reu, Marshall Reu and Tucker Reu

Our commitment to excellence in outdoor structure design and building ensures your unique project will bring enjoyment and pride for many years to come! Call Archadeck of Central SC today for a free design consultation at (803) 603-2160 or email us at centralsc@archadeck.net.

Please visit our extensive outdoor structure galleries located on our website for more examples of our lovely designs.