How I Work
Knowing how to hire and work with a contractor can be a mystery for many homeowners. To shed some light on the design and building process, I have outlined below a six step process so you know what to expect from me.
The six steps are:
Step 1: Calling To Talk About Your Project
Before you call, take the time to look at my portfolio and other sources for ideas and inspiration. See if you can find an example of what you want, or something close. A magazine clipping, vacation photos, or even an address of something you have seen are all great starting places. Knowing what you want makes it easier to talk about design options and get you an accurate quote.
Also, take a moment to decide on the budget level you want to spend (basic, custom or high end) and identify an ideal spending amount. My online pricing information should give you a good feel for your options and the costs involved. Knowing your budget helps when we start talking about design options and tradeoffs and allows me to make sure the design always stays within your budget.
Then give me a call. You can leave a message with your evening phone number anytime but the best times to reach me are between 7 - 9 pm -- which is when I return all my calls. (During the busy building season, it may take me several days to return all the calls I get -- so please be patient.)
During that initial call, I like to learn about your project size, style preferences, budget and timeline to make sure I am the right builder for you. If not, then I am happy to refer you to my related links to other builders so you can find someone who is better suited to do the work.
If I can meet your needs and you feel I am the right fence, deck, and gate builder for you, then we can schedule an appointment to meet at the location, discuss your project in detail and come up with a final design.
Since I spend my workdays doing the actual building, I usually schedule appointments on Saturday mornings (8am, 11 am and 2pm). But if your Saturdays are busy, I can also meet before or after work.
Appointments usually take from 30 minutes to an hour -- unless you are a history buff, in which case plan on two hours! During that time I need to get all the information to develop a design concept that fits your needs and budget. This includes ...
Once I know all of your requirements, I like to use the rest of the appointment describing options, talking about tradeoffs and finalizing a design concept. Sometimes it is easy to talk through taking the best features of your examples and combining them together. At other times, I may outline a couple of design options to see which one sounds the best to you. My goal, since I usually only have time for one appointment per client, is to develop a final design concept you are delighted with by the end of the appointment.
Once I have the final design, I can work up an accurate written estimate reflecting the current material costs. The prices for materials are usually good for 30 days -- if the lumber yard raises their prices, I can give you an update.
During the busy building season (May to Nov) it can take two weeks for me to fax or e-mail you an estimate since I do them in the evenings after returning phone calls.
My estimates usually do not include removing landscaping, demolishing your old structure or painting/staining your new structure. Frankly, it is much cheaper for you to have your gardeners or handyman remove and dispose of unwanted plants and structures than to pay me a wood craftsman's hourly rate to do it. (If you need me to demo your old structure or haul it away, let me know and I will include it as a separate line item on your estimate.) I also recommend you work with professional painters who have the experience to color match your house paint, the expertise to achieve the exact stained "look" you want, and the right tools to be cost effective.
Step 2: Reviewing The Design, Estimate & Build Dates
Once you have the estimate, take a moment to review the design, construction details and price to see if it meets your needs and budget. You want to make sure the design is exactly what you want before you book the work because there is little time to make design changes once I start building. If you would like to modify the design concept or explore more options, I can work up a revised estimate.
When I deliver the estimate, I will also let you know what month I am booking work for and how long it will take to build your project. If your project takes 5 days, it is usually done 5 work days after the start date. Most medium sized projects are completed in under 2 weeks.
Step 3: Booking The Work
If you want me to build your project, give me a call so I can formally book your work and add you to my schedule. I book projects on a "first come, first served basis". If you have any special scheduling issues that would impact the start or building dates, such as ...
... please let me know so I can schedule around them. And if something comes up between the time you book and I start building, please give me a call.
When I book your project, I give you a "tentative" starting week. It is tentative because my schedule tends to have a bit of "play" in it. About half my clients expand or add onto the project once I am on site -- so your project start date can roll back from a few days to a week or two if there are several projects ahead of you.
I usually know your actual start date when I am close to completing the project just ahead of yours. I usually give you a call about a week before I expect to start to discuss final details and confirm the start and building days. If there are any major schedule changes, I will let you know.
Step 4: Building On Site
Prior to starting the work, we will want to designate an area for ...
I usually also need access to power, water and a bathroom. Let me know if you have any special needs or concerns about safety, as well as requirements for child and dog proofing the work site at night.
I usually work Monday through Friday and start between 8:00 to 10:00 am and end anywhere from 3:30 to 7:00 pm, depending on when the light goes and if I am purchasing materials. However, during the peak building season I sometimes prefer to work longer hours to make good use of daylight and build during the cooler parts of the day.
Since I try to purchase materials first thing in the morning or at the end of the day, let me know if we need to set a time to meet. If you have any time constraints or strong preferences about start and end times, please let me know.
Step 5: Interacting With Clients
I like to keep my clients informed about the progress of their project. So please let me know when is the best time to contact you and your phone number preferences. If you need to contact me, I am either on site or purchasing materials during the work day. I usually work up estimates and return phone calls during the evening between 7 to 9 p.m. and the message machine is always on. Please mention it if the matter is urgent or will impact the next day's work.
Step 6: Approving The Completed Work
As the project nears completion, I like to have you start looking over the work so that I can make any adjustments while finishing up. If there are several items, we can create a "punch list" to make sure all your concerns are addressed. Once completely installed, we make a final inspection to ensure the work is complete, is functioning properly and you are satisfied. I usually have the final bill or Paypal invoice ready and most clients have the final check ready then or make a payment within 2 days.
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