Find a great contractor to design and build your dream outdoor living space in 7 easy steps
If you are like most homeowners, when it’s time to add a new outdoor living space or renovate your home’s existing one, you want to hire a professional you can rely on to get it done right. But exactly how do you go about finding a qualified and experienced contractor without just relying on the luck of the draw? As a leader in the outdoor living space design and construction industry, we here at Archadeck of Central South Carolina believe luck has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Your home is probably one of the largest investments you will make in your lifetime. Spending extra time to find a great contractor who specializes in outdoor living structures to work on your home will pay off in the long run. Much like there are hundreds of doctors available in our area, there are just as many contractors. However, scheduling an appointment with a veterinarian for your annual physical exam just won’t get the job done quite right. Although a veterinarian can perform physical exams, they’re qualified to perform them on animals, not humans.
There are seven basic qualities or aspects you should consider when selecting a contractor that’s just right for the job:
• Ability to Offer a Customized Product
• Attention to Detail
• Warranty & Protection
A contractor’s experience in his field directly affects your overall experience as a client. It’s essential that an outdoor living structure contractor possess the skills to manage a project and the many details involved from start to finish. Many of these skills, such as initial property assessment and designs that include structural integrity, come from years of hands-on experience working in the field of outdoor living space design and construction. A lack of experience can lead to a structure that doesn’t blend seamlessly with your home’s architectural style, isn’t structurally sound and will probably not last longer than a few years.
Be sure to ask some probing and investigative questions regarding a potential contractor’s experience, like: How many projects like yours has the contractor done? And not just the business owner, but what about the organization behind him? What experience does the supervisor and the tradesmen have? Is there a support organization behind them providing engineering and technical guidance if they get in over their heads?
Pay attention to how they answer these questions to get a good picture of their customer service skills. The answers to these questions go a long way toward determining the outcome of a project, even before it begins. In addition, a good contractor should be more than willing to give you a list of the last five projects he did so you can verify their knowledge and experience as well as their past clients’experiences.
Finally, experience means not only good technical experience and commitment to good customer service, it also means staying power. Is this their full-time career or a part-time…on the side…weekend job? A true indicator of a contractor’s future longevity is actually how long they have been in business and their true commitment to the trade.
By definition, professionalism means possessing the skill, good judgment and business-like behavior that is expected from a person who is trained to do a job well. No matter what service is being performed, every homeowner deserves and should demand professionalism.
Even though it’s clear what being professional means, sometimes it’s hard to determine a professional outdoor living space contractor from a builder. Don’t forget, you can stand a veterinarian and a medical doctor side by side and not know the difference without checking a few things like their licensing/credentials and insurance. Likewise, a professional outdoor living space contractor should have a high standard of knowledge and should carry proper insurance. He and his tradesmen should be properly licensed with a solid knowledge of building codes. 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. Ask for proof of these items up front, so you can verify them.
A professional should be reliable in not only their technical commitments for the project but in communication with you as well, right from the beginning with the initial consultation. They should be competent in the construction field, following building codes and requirements and stand behind their work with the appropriate warranties. A professional will provide a finished product that you will live with every day, a pain-free construction project and the maximum value at a fair price. You can easily check for these qualities from the references a potential contractor should provide.
Adhering to a process, or series of steps in which to do something, garners consistent results, improved efficiency and higher quality work. Using checklists and procedures combined with proper planning reduces the opportunities for overlooked items and delays.
How do you know if your contractor effectively uses good processes? Start by checking their sales process and then ask during your vetting process. Find out what your contractor’s method for planning and monitoring construction will be. Do they actually use written checklists 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?
At Archadeck of Central South Carolina, 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!
Based upon 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. 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 afford.
Providing clients with more bang for their buck makes a contractor more valuable. What types of additional services can they provide and still maintain quality? As part of the Archadeck franchise system, North America’s largest deck and porch builder, Archadeck of Central South Carolina is backed by a national network of experts. We have an established national relationship with several preferred material vendors and gladly share our expertise in form and function to create the perfect outdoor living environment just for you.
Ability to Offer Customized ProductYou 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, before you make a decision to commit to a contractor to build your project. He should point out smaller features you may not be aware of that will enhance the project without adding major costs. 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.
Attention to DetailA high-quality contractor increases their level of thought and effort for defining the details of a project to help make it unique. 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.
Warranty and ProtectionThe 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.
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. A homeowner’s best protection regarding warranty issues is to use a builder that is stable and has a good reputation.
Archadeck of Central South Carolina is backed by a warranty that 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 five years. In addition, 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.
The Proven Choice
Although checking these seven aspects of a contractor doesn’t guarantee that you will find the perfect contractor, they do help you narrow down the playing field in order for you to more easily identify a top-notch contractor, like Archadeck of Central South Carolina. We can help you create the outdoor living space of your dreams that seamlessly blends with your home’s existing architectural style. Contact Archadeck of Central South Carolina today at (803) 603-2160 or via email at [email protected]
The Archadeck of Central SC team – Mike Reu, Marshall Reu and Tucker Reu