Front Yard Gardens…The Latest Trend?

Have you ever considered building an open front porch or patio in the front of your home?  Usually, the backyard is the first thing that pops into mind when someone says “outdoor living space.”  But let’s not forget the front yard!  Your front door is where you welcome friends and family into your home.  Why not make it warm and inviting?  St. Louis Today wrote and excellent article on the emerging popularity of front yard gardens.  Take a look at what they’ve said and what others have done to spruce up their front yards.

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How to choose a contractor you can trust, part 3

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 third article in a blog series on how to select the right contractor.

In two previous blogs I wrote about evaluating a contractors background and experience and how to insure the contractor builds what you want and expect. In this blog I will share some thoughts on how a contractor can manage your project so it is built well and construction runs smoothly.

Project management is important in most businesses but it is crucial in construction. There are a lot of balls to juggle. Building department requirements, the carpenters, coordinating multiple crews, trash removal, material showing up on time, ensuring timely inspections to avoid delaying job progress, protecting driveways from dumpster damage, ensuring the correct fasteners are being used in the correct locations, and that is just a few examples. The most important detail is clearly communicating the progress of the job in a timely manner to the homeowner. Understanding how a contractor manages the multiple issues that can arise during the course of the job should be important in deciding who you want to hire for your project.

People and systems can make or break the job. In our organization, we manage each deck, patio, or screen porch project with a system called the Job Progress Methodology. This elaborate checklist (over 200 items currently) and four supporting guides for the field personnel keep us on track to ensure a smooth running project. We use this tool in conjunction with a series of construction standards in our Master File. This is a collection of drawings that clearly reflects how each detail of the project will be built.

Knowing who the crews are and how they are managed are important factors in the end result of the project. Finding tradesmen that are skilled, reliable, and trustworthy can be challenging. Over the years I have been shocked by the lack of skill that some carpenters bring to their work after presenting themselves well in the interview. We issue a written test to weed out many people up front. Asking for their approval to conduct a background check causes even more to drop out. With new crews, our Project Manager is on site daily for the first two to three weeks to insure they are building to our expectations and acting appropriately at our client’s homes. Some trades require proper licensing such as roofers, electricians, and plumbers in Illinois. We check that all insurances are up to date and that all our subs are properly licensed.

If you want full service, the contractor should handle all issues related to securing the permit and the inspections. This includes contacting the utility locater service, JULIE in Illinois, to insure no lines are hit when digging is involved. It should also include providing any drawings and information your Home Owners Association might require. Our company provides all of these services when we build Outdoor Living projects such as decks, screen porches, or pergolas.

How a contractor organizes it’s work, before and during the construction, is critical for success in your project. It is critical if you want comfort your expectations will be met and the job runs as smoothly as possible. If material or crews occur in the wrong order, it becomes difficult to undo the construction, making this organization critical. Of course even a quality company that makes every effort to be organized will still have mistakes, but they need to step up and make them right for you! We will talk more about this in our next blog.

See you in the outdoors.