The idea of starting a home renovation project is exciting, especially when it involves your patio and outdoor space. What can be a real buzzkill is the time it takes to find the right outdoor living contractor to hire. You can spend days in the weeds researching and vetting all the options out there. To turbocharge your research, here’s five quick tips to help narrow down your list.
1. Does the contractor have the proper and valid licenses?
This first one might seem pretty obvious. A valid licensed contractor is regulated by the State or county they operate in. In the State of Florida, contractors are required to hold valid general liability and worker’s compensation insurance plans.
With an unlicensed contractor the probability they are uninsured is very high to almost guaranteed. What this means is this person becomes your liability when working on your property. If they are injured, most homeowner’s policies will not pay on a claim. This allows the unlicensed individual to bring a suit against you.
If you have a problem with the work completed, there is little that can be done to regulate an unlicensed individual.
Just because a contractor shows you a license number doesn’t mean it’s valid. It could be a lapsed, incorrect or expired license. Shady contractors will open and close their doors to avoid customer complaints. You can check State of Florida contractor licenses here to confirm the validity and length of license.
2. Is there a showroom you can visit?
It’s not generally a thought that crosses your mind about a contractor when visiting their showroom but the ability to visit a storefront speaks to the stability of the contractor. You want to hire someone that will be there long after the completion of your project.
Don’t fall for the “we don’t need an office” or “we have a warehouse” lines. A serious and professional contractor has a showroom that you can visit and explore to get a better understanding of the work and products they offer. When visiting the showroom don’t be afraid to ask how long the contractor has operated in this location. Anything longer than 10 years is a good sign of stability.
3. Does the company have an extensive portfolio?
The proof is in the pictures. And unfortunately, many contractors fake this aspect to confuse consumers unbeknownst to the consumer.
The first thing you want to do is look at the contractors’ website. Is there a portfolio you can view to get an idea of the work the company does? Pictures to gain project inspiration and ideas from when contacting the contractor? You can check out our portfolio here.
The second thing to look at is the types of projects, materials and designs. This will tell you a lot about the type of contractor you’re potentially hiring. Many low-end outdoor kitchen contractors work with a handful of materials and products and nothing else. A luxury outdoor kitchen company will demonstrate that they can work with a wide variety of materials and products.
Just how car mechanics must be certified to work on certain brands, you wouldn’t hire a Hyundai technician to work on your Mercedes Benz. The same concept applies here. You wouldn’t hire a contractor that hasn’t shown the ability to work with materials you’re wanting or the ability to complete projects at a high level using a variety of materials.
Finally, look at the consistency of the pictures in the portfolio. Do they all have the same picture quality? Do the backdrops match the region you’re in? Is there more than one photo of the project? Many contractors post stock imagery provided by manufacturers. Even worse, some just rip other companies work. We’ve seen companies local to our market in Tampa post pictures of outdoor kitchens in the mountains. Last time we checked, there are no mountains in Tampa. Don’t get duped by deceiving contractor portfolio practices.
4. How soon can your project start?
This is where patience is a virtue. A reputable contractor providing a high-end product should have a back log of projects lined up in their queue. Any outdoor kitchen company or contractor that can immediately start on your project should strike you as a red flag.
Reputable outdoor kitchen contractors should have anywhere from 10-15 active projects going on any given day. As projects wrap up, the next project in the queue falls into the scheduling queue.
A company that can start almost immediately is an indication of not being in demand and a sign of instability (which goes back to item #2 on this list.)
5. Does the company present things in an organized manner?
The little details matter for home improvement and renovation projects. Before you even reach out, has the contractor made it easy to get an idea of who they are and the type of work they do?
If they aren’t showing or telling you how things will run, chances are your expectations will not match the processes in place. Having detailed processes and structured contracts is a sign of high-quality work, great communication and attention to detail. It’s hard to contract for a project when the details are vague.
Most consumers only have an outdoor kitchen built once in their lifetime. Naturally, it’s hard to know what to look for in a company when researching. By following these five tips, you’ll give yourself a better chance of finding the right outdoor kitchen contractor for your project.