Tag Archives: Seven keys to finding the right contractor in Columbia SC

In the final installment to our series, “The Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor,” we discuss warranty and protection

7 keysTHE SEVEN KEYS TO FINDING A GREAT CONTRACTOR

  • PART SEVEN:  WARRANTY AND PROTECTION

This is our seventh and final installment in our series about the Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor.  This certainly applies to my 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

Archadeck custom projectThe warranty serves as the back-up plan for a consumer if things don’t go right with the builder.  This applies to major problems in having the project completed (unscrupulous contractors have been known to walk away from a job when it gets difficult or too expensive to make things right), or may apply to things that come up after the job is done and the contractor has been paid.

Small – and sometimes not-so-small – repairs are often needed after a job is completed.  This is normal in construction as materials can change as they weather, buildings settle, and sometimes things become apparent weeks or months after construction is finished that were not apparent when the job was being performed.

A warranty is important because it outlines in advance what the builder is and isn’t willing to do to fix problems after the fact.  Without a warranty, the homeowner still has certain protections under the laws regarding implied warranties.  However claims under these laws require the homeowner to file a legal claim, and can be time consuming and expensive, not to mention stressful.

archadeck warranty

For the record, at Archadeck our warranty covers the entire project (meaning that we will fix anything that’s not right) for one year, and further covers structural issues (foundations, integrity of framing, roof leaks, etc.) for a period of 5 years.

House illustration for home showA homeowner’s best protection regarding warranty issues is to use a builder that is stable and has a good reputation. If a contractor goes out of business or moves on to another job or another area, it may be next to impossible to get something fixed after the fact, regardless of the written or implied warranty.  On the other hand, a contractor that is concerned about his company’s reputation is more likely to meet or exceed what is written in his warranty.  Homeowners can check with the Better Business Bureau and check a builder’s references and online reputation to see what his history is regarding honoring warranty claims.  Once again, this is an instance where the cheapest builder may not be the best choice for you if there is a risk he won’t or can’t stand behind his work months or even years down the road.

Archadeck contractor checklist

The other major area of warranty coverage is what happens if the contractor defaults during the construction process.  This is not that unusual, and can be a BIG problem for the homeowner.  This can happen for a multitude of reasons, including illness, financial failure, a job change, or a contractor simply pulling out of a job because he bid it wrong and knows he is going to lose money on it.  Again, legal remedies are available, but they will involve time, money and stress.  And again, this is a case where the more stable and reputable the contractor, the less your chance of running into this kind of problem.

Archadeck actually provides a guaranteed insurance program that covers customers if the local Archadeck office cannot complete a project due to death, illness or going out of business.  In this event, the Archadeck corporate office will pay to have the project completed by another Archadeck location.

Process plays a key role in the success of your outdoor living project.One final word about warranty protection. It may be very difficult to pursue legal action against a contractor if you do not have a signed contract.  This contract should specify the price, the scope of work, the timing of the work, etc.  Without this document you may not be able to prove what work was agreed upon and therefore what implied warranties should cover.  Once again, here’s another reason to use a professional contractor who follows good business practices and not just a carpenter who can build you a cheap deck!

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

Archadeck of Central SC three generations of quality outdoor structures

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

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

 

 

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“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.

 

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.

Archadeck of Central SC explores getting the most value from your outdoor living space project

“Competing on price alone is a race to the bottom, and it’s a race nobody wins.  For some people, though, price is their only consideration.  That’s a sad thing, because most times, you do get what you pay for. ” – C. E. Young

Archadeck patios and hardscapesAs a contractor building outdoor structures attached to people’s homes, we often get challenged on price. In fact, it is frequently the biggest barrier our salesmen have to overcome.  And that’s easy to understand, since price is easily quantified.  It’s more difficult to quantify or compare value.

Price is one thing that determines value.  But it’s not the only thing.  In addition to price, you have to consider the cost of maintenance, the risk – and related cost – of product failure, and perhaps most important, the intrinsic feeling of worth that you get with the product.  And remember, it’s not just an outdoor living “product.” It’s your home. Your deck, your sunroom, your pergola, your screened porch.

An example of price vs. value that we often come across is when customers ask about the cost of a wood deck versus the same deck made of composite/pvc materials. The composite deck costs more – sometimes twice as much – than the same deck in high-quality pressure treated pine – but which choice is the better value? The pine deck will need to be treated every 1-2 years to prevent warping, splintering, etc.  Without this maintenance, the wood deck will deteriorate to the point of needing to be replaced in 5-10 years. The composite material normally has a warranty for 20 to 25 years.  The composite also looks more impressive.  So the intrinsic value of the composite deck could be significant to the homeowner. How much more pride and satisfaction will the homeowner have in the composite deck, both when it is new and over the life of the deck, as compared to the pressure treated deck?  Meanwhile, another homeowner might take more pride in choosing a less expensive product and committing to the regular upkeep necessary to make it last longer.This is a subjective feeling.  Which deck has a higher value?  It depends on the homeowner.

archadeck contractor checklist

Archadeck contractor checklist

This concept of value applies to choosing a contractor as well. Review for a moment the other criteria discussed in this series: experience, professionalism, process, design, details and warranties. Based on these criteria, all contractors are not the same. If price is the only consideration, then one must also factor in the risk of things not going perfectly.

What’s a worst-case scenario? A fly-by-night contractor taking your money and running? Perhaps you face a more likely scenario where the project gets completed but not fully to your liking, or a scenario where the finished structure is fine but the construction process is painful and slower than you would like. Each of these scenarios has a cost associated with it. The problem with determining value is that unlike price, you really don’t know what the overall cost is going to be – there is risk no matter what you do. The best you can do is to minimize this risk.

  Archadeck 2012Are we saying that high price is always better than low price? No! Higher price is only better if it reduces your risk of having to spend more later to get what you want. The costs of providing insurance, of hiring competent skilled (and documented) workers, of reliability, of having assurances in the form of warranties and of simply standing behind one’s work are not free.These are real costs that have to be built into a contractor’s cost structure. If you allow the contractor to shortcut these factors, then your risk goes up. In the long run, your lower price may not really be lower.

On the other hand, there are also contractors out there who use high-pressure sales tactics to pressure customers into paying high prices that are not related to reducing risk and ensuring quality. Some companies in the home improvement business are known for quoting a very high price, then using high-pressure tactics of closing the sale at that sales visit, up to the point of almost refusing to leave unless the customer signs.Then, upon threat of being kicked out, they offer a one-time only discount of 30%.These tactics are aimed at getting the customer to sign without allowing the time to become educated on what the real price/value proposition should be.  Sales tactics like these make it difficult for the consumer to trust any contractor (which is unfair to those of us who are trying to provide a fair product at a fair price).

outdoor-living-room-pergola A final comment on value: We always ask customers what their budget for a project is. Sometimes they seem reluctant to tell us, as if they fear we might raise our price up to their budget target.The reason we want to know the budget is two-fold. First, if it is unreasonably low, we can avoid wasting their time and ours talking about a project that is not going to happen at that price level.  Second, if we know the budget (and if it is realistic), we can design the project to fit into that range.There are four components of any outdoor living project that affect the price: size, materials choices, features, and environment. The cost of your project can increase or decrease dramatically simply by varying those components. A reputable contractor, with your best interests in mind, can provide you the value that you need at the price point you want – if you work with them on the choices available.

We are all looking for a deal – it’s human nature. If you are buying a $35 shirt and you think you can get it for $25, go for it. The worst that can happen is you may be out $25 if it doesn’t hold up.  But if you are considering using a contractor to build something for you, then you are likely talking about a meaningful amount of money – more than you would be willing to waste. This is not the time to be trying to get a super sweet deal – it may cost you much more in the long run. As the old adage says, the bitterness of poor quality lingers long after the sweetness of low price is gone.

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 project is brimming with value. Call Archadeck of Central SC today for a free design consultation (803) 603-2160.centralsc@archadeck.net

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

At Archadeck of Central SC, our careful attention to process is one of the factors that sets us apart from other builders

The third part in our series “The Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor” is about the importance of processes.

In any business requiring handoffs with multiple people and multiple variables (weather, materials, environment, etc.) it can be difficult to get consistently good results.  In fact, many businesses that worked fine when they were very small (one man builders, for example) struggle as they grow to achieve the same consistent, high-quality results.  This has been the downfall of many a contractor – and why success can be their own worst enemy.

Process plays a key role in the success of your outdoor living project.

Process plays a key role in the success of your outdoor living project.

Processes – or the lack thereof – can be the biggest differentiator between a contractor who delivers good results on time and on budget, and one that is constantly battling chaos at your expense.  There are thousands of variables that a contractor faces on every project – it is a rare project that goes without something unexpected happening. However, experienced contractors that have learned from past mistakes will incorporate processes into their workflow to avoid making the same mistake again.

For example, taking the time to have utility lines identified and marked before construction begins is often an overlooked step, and 9 out of 10 times, nothing bad will occur. But every once in a while a gas or power line or fiber optic cable is cut, costing the contractor money, interrupting the customer’s service and causing an unforeseen delay in the project. If a contractor has to “remember” to do this every time, it will often get overlooked. However, if his processes require him to check the item off for every job, it should not get overlooked.

Deming said, If you can’t define what you are doing as a process, you don’t know what you’re doing.”

Archadeck patios and hardscapesThere is a huge contrast between using well-thought-out processes and procedures to control the construction process versus jumping into a job without proper planning and processes. Amazingly, many contractors go from job to job thinking that because they “know what they are doing,”  they don’t need to waste time planning. And they wonder why they are continually hit by “bad surprises.”

How do you know if your contractor effectively uses good processes?  The easiest way is simply to ask during the vetting process. Find out what your contractor’s method for planning and monitoring construction will be. Do they actually use written check lists for ensuring that all steps get addressed before, during and after construction? Is there a supervisor or manager holding the crews responsible for following these processes?

ProcessYou can also tell a lot about how effectively a contractor uses processes by watching the sales process. Is it well-coordinated, clear and purposeful?  Or is it more chaotic? Does the contractor proactively address key concerns in advance, setting your expectations, or does he seem to want to get in and get out without helping you to understand the process you will be going through together in building your project? If the sales process has not been well thought out and executed, you can be pretty sure that the construction process will be the same.

At Archadeck of Central SC, our careful attention to process is one of the factors that sets us apart from other builders:

  • Our process begins with a free design consultation.
  • We then conduct a comprehensive needs analysis uncovering what you’re looking for in an outdoor living space.
  • Our in-depth site survey buttons down the particulars.
  • Our detailed photo gallery and portfolio of completed projects will stimulate your imagination.
  • We work with you to refine or streamline your design.
  • Rather than an estimate, you’re given a precise price quote.
  • Our quality-focused Job Process Methodology (JPM) is put into play.
  • Archadeck of Central SC obtains all necessary permits necessary for your project.
  • Once your project is started, progress almost always proceeds without lags.
  • Our workers respect your property.
  • Construction debris is removed regularly and project site is kept clean and orderly.
  • You approve the final structure and enjoy!
Archadeck pool deck dining area

The success of a project can be measured by not only the end result, but the way the project itself takes place – beginning to end.

After we determine your needs and the specifics of your site, you can choose to move forward in one of two ways. With a project retainer, Archadeck of Central SC will draw up custom plans using three-dimensional drawings to illustrate your proposed structure from a variety of angles. You can work with us to refine that plan to your satisfaction. Or, instead of developing a custom plan, you can choose to move forward in stages as part of our staged, or phased, building program. This will allow you to complete your ideal outdoor living space in stages as your lifestyle and budget affords.

Archadeck of Central SC three generations of quality outdoor structures

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

Our knowledge and experience in outdoor structure design and building 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.
centralsc@archadeck.net

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

Professionalism in a contractor is not a bonus, it is what every homeowner deserves and should demand

7 keys

As our 2nd installment in the “Seven Keys to Finding a Great Contractor” series, we focus on the importance of professionalism.

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:

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

Finding the right contractorWhat should you should expect of a professional contractor?

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.

building-a-deckA professional follows high standards of conduct that are designed to protect the consumer, including:

  • 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:

1. Reliability

  • 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

2. Competence

  • 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!

Composite spa deck by Archadeck of Central SCOne 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.

Archadeck of Central SC three generations of quality outdoor structures

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

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.
centralsc@archadeck.net

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