As a ‘contracting for services’ company, Kooler aims to serve our clients and community. And we do this in multiple ways.

In this short post, our aim is to provide some insights on what to look for when hiring your trades service provider. There are many service providers to be certain and we don’t all play in the same sandbox. And as I write this, I am placing my ‘homeowner’ hat on as I have hired my share of awesome, and not so awesome, providers in the past.

Here’s the main points I will cover in ‘what to hire’ when it comes to your trades service provider;

  • Hiring on Price Alone – this may be a mistake.
  • How to properly ‘vet’ a service provider.
  • Let’s get detailed.

Before we dive in – take one moment to review your past experiences. Whether you brought in a plumber, electrician, garage door technician, or home builder, what were some of the worst experiences? And what made them so?

In my experiences, the worst ones were poor communicators. We lacked details of when they would come to service and we lacked details on our costs. Sometimes I went for the ‘cheap’ guy and got what I paid for — cheap fixes. What else made this a poor experience for you?

And on the flip side – what were the great experiences? Who are those trades providers you love to refer? And why? I know in my experience a ton of good experiences comes down to great communication and for me to receive value before I ever commit to a transaction. This may be in the form of education and a detailed, lined out process so I know what I might expect as I hire the person or company. And sure enough, the really great experiences follow through with what was promised. Or they communicate really progressively when things change.

What experience do you want? This may be the most important question right behind – what do I need/want done?

Hiring On Price Alone – This May Be A Mistake

Price matters for sure. And when hiring a trades service you get to choose – Price | Quality | Speed. Pick two.

If you want a great price, you will compromise on quality or the speed and efficiencies of how that service is complete. And if you want high quality and efficient speed, expect to pay a higher price.

I know as a service provider and as a home owner there is a wild variability in how things can get done. In looking at home painting as an example, I’ve seen messy painters, clean painters, quality of paint varies greatly as well as how it’s applied and the experience I can have when painters are in or around my home. If I take my home out to bid, I can get a $3,000 to $7,500 price tage for restaining the exterior. Why such a difference?

The difference comes down to multiple factors – likely another article in and of itself. Though let’s look at a few.

  • Quality of materials – this has a minimal effect really as a cheap stain can cost $30 per gallon and a quality one $50 or more. And add this up to 20 or more gallons for a project and you can see where several hundred dollars comes up as difference. Quality in materials does matter and greater the quality can usually last longer while also providing a better looking finished project. Lastly higher quality materials generally come with less or no VOC’s depending on the project which can aid in the experience for homeowner and provider.
  • Efficiencies – on some higher priced proposals they come with greater efficiencies. This means there may be a crew versus one person. And your job is complete within a few days versus weeks. It can also mean there is additional containment procedures – ways to keep a job clean. Perhaps a trailer onsite versus a pile of stuff in your yard (if exterior finishes).  And of course, there are trained professional labor rates versus a ‘fly by night’ individual. Professionals pay insurances and pay professional rates to real pros who know how to deliver a quality finished product and a quality experience.
  • Scope of Work – for this article we’ll sum up here. It’s in the details as to some of the costs we’ll see or not see. Is all the work included that you want done or will there be additional prices added. I’ve seen some instances where people will bid low to secure a job and then sneak in costs along the way with lack of details and assumptions. More on this below.

Budgets are key. Talk openly with your providers on budgets as you meet up. A great trades professional will ask you about yoru budget as it can really guide the conversation. Not all trades providers fit us. And when we discuss pricing early in the game it can save everyone time.

How to Properly ‘Vet’ a Trades Professional

Testionials, credentials, and referals. Get these.

What affilitations are the company or individual associated with? When vetting providers I’m seeking professional organizations like the Painting & Decorating Contractors of America, or the International Door Association. While this does not guarantee they use these resources, it’s one step to show they are professionally oriented and seeking development in their chosen field.

What other credentials might they have? Are they ‘authorized’ dealers or providers of a certain manufacture? Generally this means a manufacturer has vetted their skillset and capacities as many quality manufacturers wont sell to just anyone.

Are providers trained and certified? There are not always licenses for all trades providers – in Colorado there is not a license for painting. However, there is training and certifications for various levels of professionals when sought out. Is there in-house training? Are providers certifying and investing in professional development?

Lastly, hoow about referals and references. Anyone solid will have a list of references they can offer you to connect you with a client who has had the service you seek delivered already by the professional you’re speaking to. Follow up on references and ask them about their experience with delivery, pricing, and communications.

Let’s Get Detailed

It’s all in the details. In the service construction industry there is a multitude of variables – weather, final product, changes in scope, scheduling – just to list a few. Get a details proposal and make sure to read the fine print contract. If a provider is ready to work without a contract in place, take pause. This may open up an awkward scenario of where you debate assumptions that were potentially discussed weeks or months prior.

A trades professional will have a detailed scope of work that also outlines the exclusions and assumptions. This offers a clear tract of how the project will proceed and it will limit any additional charges unless you agree upon them in the moment and ahead of completed work.

There is not a reason to hire without details lined out and agreed upon up front. Take the time to delineate all the variables and to outline the scope. It will save you thousands of dollars overtime.

In summary, set a realistic budget and talk about this right away with your potential provider. Follow up on the people you meet with using the web and seek credentials, affiliations, and references. Lastly, make sure you have details.With a clear proposal, you’ll know with more certainty of what you can expect.

And anytime – reach out. We’re here to help your home get a little kooler.

Matt Kuehlhorn is Kooler’s founder and owner. He can be reached at matt@koolerhomes.com anytime and he is here to serve.