How to Choose a contractor you can trust #4

When you buy something at the store you see the finished product.  When you order something online you see a picture of the finished product.  When you hire a contractor, you won’t see the finished product until the project is built.

 

Buying from a contractor means trusting someone.  Trusting they will build what you expect.  Trusting they understand what you expect . How can a homeowner be comfortable they are choosing the right contractor for their project?  How do they know who to trust? This is the fourth & final article in a blog series on how to select the right contractor.

 

In three previous blogs I wrote about evaluating a contractor’s background and experience, how to make sure the contractor builds what you want and expect, and understanding how a contractor effectively manages a construction project.  In this fourth and final blog in the series, I will share some thoughts on safeguards that protect you from things going wrong.

 

Safeguards include some of the obvious points that most people know  to ask when interviewing contractors.  Yes, I said interviewing because that is the right approach for both parties, the client & the contractor, take in the initial meetings.   We will discuss this more, shortly.  Let’s stick to the obvious now.  Always ask a contractor about the insurance they carry, permit requirements, and the warranties they provide.

 

Insurance can be tricky, I have met contractors who spin their answer on this topic.  When asked if they have insurance, some respond yes, because they have auto insurance.  The better question is, “What insurances do you carry?”  I must admit that I am not an insurance expert, but I know that liabilityinsurance is a must.  This protects your home from any damage caused during the construction process.  Worker compensation insurance is also very important.  It protects you from an employee of the contractor getting injured on the job and suing you for their bills.  There are specific legal requirements for obtaining Workers Compensation in Illinois and most states.   I believe that any company with employees is required to carry workers compensation insurance.   Auto insurance is important as well but I am unaware of how this may or may not protect the homeowner.  If anyone reading this is more knowledgeable on kinds of insurances, please feel free to add your comments.  It is good to ask for a copy of the contractor’s certificate of insurance to verify they are currently  covered.

 

Warranties provide obvious protection once the work is done.  At Archadeck, we offer a very strong warranty as well as a third-party guarantee of performance.  Always get any warranty in writing, and yes, reading it is a good idea.    Our warranty is 1 year on workmanship, defined as pretty much anything related to the quality of our work, and 5 years on structural issues.   Of course, warranties are only as good as the company that stands behind them.  If they are out of business in 6 months, then warranties are worthless.   Those low price offers often mean they are under bidding the project and eventually putting themselves out of business.  Will they be around when you need them back?   At Archadeck we have put in place a unique third-party guarantee.  An insurance for our clients if we are gone.  As a group, all the Archadeck franchisee’s created the National Guarantee Corporation in 1998.  We fund it with low annual dues.  This fund exists to protect all Archadeck clients for 2 years after the project is built as well as guaranteeing the completion of the project.  The good news is there are very few claims on the fund but it’s a great safety net for our clients just in case.

 

Of course warranties may not protect you.  Even if they are around, will the contractor stand behind their work or hide behind a clause in the warranty?  We rarely deny coverage, even when we could.  We  do the right thing for the client regardless of the warranty terms.  Recently, a client we built a deck for six years ago, contacted me regarding a structural issue.  This was one year past our coverage and the issue was not caused by anything we did.   We could have simply said “sorry, too late” or blamed the site conditions or blamed the architect for the design or the village for approving the plans.  But I figured the buck had to stop with us and we fixed it.  Maybe we should have anticipated this issue, maybe not, but we were the people the client trusted and we built the project, so we fixed it.  This leads to one final issue, and probably the most important, to consider when hiring a contractor.

 

Previously, I suggested that the initial meetings are an interview for the client and the contractor.   What does your research and your gut say about this person and their company?  Can you trust them to do what they say, to stand behind their work, to do what is right?   One of the best compliments I ever received about my company came from a client whose project did not run smoothly.  Actually, early in construction I would have called it a disaster.  Everything that could go wrong, did.  I was replacing the crew as well as bringing in a subcontractor to build the foundation, a completely unplanned cost.    If you have read my previous blogs you know that causes me much distress.  In total, we spent about $12,000 more  than expected.  These were costs we absorbed because it was the right thing to do.   Throughout the project, we kept the client informed but we never made it their problem.  When we were done, they were really happy  and thanked me.  As I was a little embarrassed at the way the job started,  I apologized again for the hassles.  The client replied, “No need to apologize. We’re really happy that you made it right.  Many contractors would not have and some might have walked away from the job, but you stuck it out and built us a great new screen room, deck, and patio.”    Will your contractor make it right?  This confidence is  invaluable.  I hope it helps our clients sleep a little better at night.

 

See you in the outdoors.

Advertisements

How to choose a contractor you can trust, part 2

When you buy something at the store you see the finished product.  When you order something online you see a picture of the finished product.  When you hire a contractor, you won’t see the finished product until built. 

 Buying from a contractor means trusting someone.  Trusting they will build what you expect.  Trusting they understand what you expect. How can a homeowner be comfortable they are choosing the right contractor for their project?  How do they know who to trust? This is the second article in a blog series on how to select the right contractor.

 In my last blog I wrote about evaluating a contractor’s background and experience.  In this blog I would like to share some thoughts on how to evaluate the contractors approach to understanding your needs.  In my business we call it “design”, but really it’s about asking questions, listening, and understanding the priorities of the client.  Not all construction projects involve “design” but all of them include understanding the client’s priorities.   In our outdoor living business we strive to offer designs that match our client’s needs and wants.

 To insure that we understand a client’s priorities and, just as important, they understand what we are proposing to build, we provide a clear drawing with detailed specifics related to their project.   Every contractor should give clear written details of your project.  Of course, a written agreement and warranty are important as well.

 Project specifications should include details regarding materials and finishing information. Material information should clarify the quality of the material, if appropriate.  For example, we note number 1 grade decking and stainless steel screws for our deck projects.  Any items the client will be responsible for should also be included in the project specifications.  For example, when we build screen porches, we note that the client buys the ceiling fan which we install. 

 In some cases it’s valuable to visualize your project in three-dimensional photo realistic drawings.  When we build decks, patios, screen porches, sunrooms, or pergolas for shade, we offer a plan view (view from above) of the project.  If a client desires, we can offer custom three-dimensional drawings of their home with our proposed project shown on an image of their home.   This type of design work takes more time so we charge a small project retainer, which applies to the price of the project.

 Of course price is an important part of any proposal.  Some contractors give estimates.  Estimates can change and some contractors purposefully give a low price that they plan to increase once the project begins.  We guarantee that the that we agree will not to change unless the project is changed by the client or something unforeseen occurs.  We define unforeseen as not visually present or a requirement by a building department outside of those noted in the building code.

 In a future blog I will discuss project management and services offered by contractors.

 See you in the outdoors.

Archadeck in the news

“We really try not to sell you the product of the moment,” Berryhill said. “We ask how you want to use it. We look at the aesthetics and material, how much maintenance you’re willing to do, and your budget.”

We made the cover of the Daily Herald Home & Garden section today! Several of our comments are quoted in the article and 2 of the 4 pictures are projects we built. Check it out.

http://www.dailyherald.com/story/?id=388742

Outdoor living solutions.

A screened gazebo provides a great dining space with out the bugs.

Last spring a Libertyville home owner contacted us about a new screen porch project.  When we met I shared the news that in the Village of Libertyville, IL any attached roofed structure requires a full foundation.  The cost of a full foundation is a significant increase over a standard construction for a screen porch. The Building codes and most communities in Illinois do not require such an extreme foundation.   The homeowner’s functional priority was a screened area for 4-6 people to dine in.  She also wanted deck space that fit the house and offered room for another table as well as a grilling area.   We designed and built a large main deck with a wide stair transition to a lower deck. 

The lower deck held a new 14′ screened gazebo.  A 14’ gazebo is a good size for a 6 person table.   By building a screened gazebo we avoided the full foundation requirements and the costs involved with such an upgrade.   Also, we matched her aesthetic priorities for the gazebo with a kit manufactured by Berlin Gardens Gazebo’s.  By utilizing a kit instead of building the gazebo from scratch we saved the client additional costs as well as significant time in the construction process. 

This project is a great example of the solutions that Archadeck provides its clients based upon their priorities, including meeting a budget.

Plan your 2010 outdoor project now!

January is the perfect time to design your new outdoor living project.

January is the perfect time to design your new outdoor living project.  Begin the process now by contacting Archadeck to have your new deck or patio for the full 2010 outdoor season.  As the premier outdoor living builder in Chicagoland, Archadeck Is ready to discuss your new backyard space.  For 30 years we have created outdoor living spaces for America’s families.  Now is the prefect time to connect with our professional Design Consultants. Get in front of the spring rush and have your new deck or screen room ready when the weather comes.   View our variety of projects at northern-chicagoland.archadeck.com.

We can complete your design process in one meeting for an hour or multiple meetings with a variety of design options.  Most often, we can create a design with you in two meetings.  Usually, your new deck, gazebo, pergola, or patio will be ready for you, eight weeks from the day we have a design & agreement. Of course, the times can vary based upon the project & village requirements.  As an example screen rooms and sun rooms will usually take an extra four to five weeks to complete.  Call today to get your project started so you will enjoy the outdoors with your family all spring & summer.