The Secret To Selecting A Contractor Or Artisan

There are very few of us who have commissioned or appointed either a contractor or artisan in the building or construction trade, who have not been left feeling disappointed in the standard of the workmanship.

It is so sad to think that there are a great many people out there who think that working with a builder, tiler, painter or whoever can offer a home improvement service, is the stuff that nightmare’s are made of.

Sad because I am convinced that even though there are those artisans who disappoint us, there are an equal number who set a high standard and deliver superb service and product.

All of this was brought to mind during a recent conversation with a friend who is looking to tackle some improvement projects.  Here are some of the tips I shared with her:

1.  In the event that you have not managed to establish a good working relationship with a reliable contractor that understands your standard, start by asking your circle of friends if there is someone that they have no qualms in recommending.

2.  If you have to go out “cold calling” so to speak, once you have the name of the contractor and he has eventually pitched up and managed to give you a speedy quote, spend some time getting to know him – interview him as you would a new employee – after all you are going to entrust something of value into his charge.

3.  Ask for the names and contact details of no less than three clients that you can reference back to.

4.  Remember than you will only be given the contact details of those satisfied clients. You ain’t gonna get the names of the unhappy clients. But that’s okay, as long as you…

5.  Stop to ask whether there has been occasion for “disgruntled clients”. If so, would he be able to be honest enough to fill you in with some of those details.

6.  Prepare a list of questions /queries that you would like to address with the prospective contractor or references. In terms of the references – you will have a clear path to follow while speaking to them. In terms of the contractor – you will be able to glean whether he understands your brief to him and your particular needs.

7.  Getting before and after images of past work is also a great help during all this “information gathering” time.

8.  Remember that going for the lowest quote does not necessarily guarantee quality of service and product. Holding price out as your only yardstick can be a bit on the dangerous side.  There is always a cost to getting value added service. A Merc is not a cheap car and if that is your standard, then cheap ain’t gonna cut it. Should you be able to get a reliable contractor that sets a good standard at a reasonable price – THAT’S FIRST PRIZE!

9.  Once you have done your research, sit down to make that calculated decision.  Discuss it with a friend or your other half.

10.  Remember that your gut feeling should never be negated! It’s a very good measure to include.

OKAY – so this is going to take a lot more effort on your side and it does mean digging deeper with the homework. Yet I feel sure that the net result can leave you confidently empowered and with greater peace of mind. You have taken control of the situation and that attitude can continue throughout the project process. Before the spade hits the ground, or the cement hits the floor, you would have established a comfortable understanding with your contactor.

What is your opinion on this matter? Have any tips or secrets to share with us about your experience in choosing a contractor? Share the knowledge!

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About Rose McClement

Biz owner / entrepreneur in Interior Décor / Design / consultant / mag column writer / avid blogger bringing the skinny on design as Proudly South African.

Posted on November 18, 2011, in 101, Décor Diva, How To and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Great article – You should also have a basic contract for the job no matter how small!!!

    Put the brief in writing and include all specifications for the job. Never take a contractors word – you will have nothing to fall back on.

    Make sure the contractors quote includes everything in your brief and also if his quote is a quotation or an estimate (big difference) Be very careful of daily rates rather work on a fixed price for the project.

    Include an expected completion or delivery date.

    Know what you want – if you keep changing your mind or adding little bits here and there you cannot expect the contractor to honour the original quote or time frame!!!

  2. Great comments to take this to next level.

    If we all just remembered to apply these due diligent exercises then we would be closing down the margins for errors and misunderstandings.

    All the points that you made just took my mind back to the contractor who did the conversion of our studio. He is not a big player at all, but of his own accord, he came with the type of quote you mentioned, the contract and when things were added in or taken out of the quote, it was noted. He stipulated the hand over date. The end result – no problems about the monies owing and he handed over on due date.

    Thanks again for bringing these points out as well.

  3. Thanks for raising this important distinction. If you are looking for artisans on your job, make certain you know if:

    1.) Your contractor knows to “build” things rather than just run a project – contractors who want to get in there and get their hands dirty rather than just manage people and numbers are going to be better at talking to their subs about what they need to be done. Because they understand how things are made and installed themselves they tend to bring out the best in the makers who are working for them in the many trades.

    2.) Speaking of trades, ask your contractor about their subcontractors – the people who build the foundation, lay the brick, trim the space, craft the doors, lay the tile, lay the floorboards. They may be a little nervous that giving you their subs will cut them out, but at least when they talk about the subs, they should be able to confidently and proudly talk about why his or her selected trades are the best.

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