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.