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.

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How to choose a contractor you can trust

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? In the next few blogs I am going to share some ideas that may help homeowners know what to look for and how to select the right contractor.

The first area to consider is experience and background. How much experience does the contractor have with your type of project? Some contractors try to do all types of construction but there are subtle differences in materials and design that affect the outcome of each construction project. For example, our company specializes in outdoor living projects; decks, screen porches, sunrooms, patios, and pergolas for shade. we know all the details to make these types of projects fit your home perfectly. However, I know the basics to remodel a kitchen; but if we did one there would be a dozen little issues that just did not look right. If a company has done at least 100 projects in a category they have probably learned the nuances that insure the project will look right.

What is their background & history? The Better Business Bureau or Angies List are great places to learn how the contractor treats other clients. Speaking to references can tell you a great deal, especially if the contractor does not have a list ready and organized. This is a question we are asked all the time. If a contractor is not prepared for it, then how well will they prepare for your project?

How quickly they response as well as the quality of their response are key indicators of how they will perform for your project. Are they on time? Do they ask questions to help you avoid mistakes? Do they listen to you and understand your priorities? Do they commit to follow up and more importantly do they fulfill those commitments? If the contractor falls short before you sign a contract, they will certainly fall short during the project. Everyone is at their best when they are trying to make a good impression and earn your business.

In an upcoming blog I will talk about the design process and how to insure that the details you expect are included in your project.

See you in the outdoors.

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.

How do we begin the design process for our deck or patio?

Outdoor design begins with understanding what you want to do. A great place to start this process is by identifying what furniture groups you plan to use. Form should always follow function!

Creating outdoor living spaces requires outdoor design.  Obviously outdoor furniture will be a central element to enjoy the spaces with your family and friends.  The outdoor furniture you plan to use is a great starting point for planning your outdoor living space(s).   Knowing what type of furniture and activities you plan on using will drive the new spaces design.  Obviously it will affect size but also shapes and transitions. Form should always follow function.

When we begin the design process for a screen room, paver patio, deck or any of our projects we start by asking about use.   I like to understand what rooms they wish to have in the new outdoor spaces.   Most want an area to dine and to cook, some want a family room, many want a space for a fire pit or fireplace, some want spaces for hot tubs, and many have other ideas for outdoor spaces.   Often getting this conversation started is difficult.   Most people have not thought about their backyard in this way.   Asking about the outdoor furniture that they plan to use gets the conversation started.  Most home owners want to include a grill and a table for dinning.  Beyond these two staples each home owner adds those elements that create their unique outdoor space.

The base for creating outdoor design always flows from the functional needs.   Once we know the basic spaces that the homeowner wants to have we begin blocking out the project.   When we apply the aesthetic tastes of the client the design takes a more exact shape and form.

Deck, patio, pergola

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.