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Finding the Right Contractor for You: An Interview with Dave Hamann of Hamann Carpentry, LLC

By Dave Hamann

When it comes to choosing the right contractor for the job, many people feel overwhelmed and unsure of who to choose. That's why we interviewed Dave Hamann of Hamman Carpentry to get his advice on who to hire for what.

About Hamann Carpentry:

Dave Hamann, owner of Hamann Carpentry, LLC. I started my business in the fall of 2008. With about 13 years of experience, a degree in building construction and a business degree in management it only seemed natural to start my own business. I am now entering my sixth year of business. Our focus is on light remodeling projects and home repairs. I work with other contractors in the area when I need additional help on larger projects. A bathroom remodel, basement or a deck might be considered a larger project.

Maintaining consistency wherever possible is a continuous goal. Remodeling is inherently variable. A proactive approach to projects, open communication with customers, suppliers and other trade professionals who possess similar value and understanding of providing a positive home project experience for the customer are all attributed to the growth and success of the business. I have also been involved with other local businesses in the area through networking groups and trade associations.

What is Your Company's Mission?

To create and maintain a positive home project experience for the homeowner and to conduct sustainable on site and off site business practices for a positive reputation of the trades and future of the market.

Three Qualities a Quality Contractor Should Possess?

Every contractor wears many hats and possess a multitude of qualities often overlooked. There are too many to list or to provide a description of, but for me, these three first come to mind in order to adapt day after day in an ever changing work environment.

  • Intuition: This is true for a lot of professions. However, a contractor works with a myriad of different people and factors associated to projects. Virtually every job has these characteristics: customer, supplier, subs, weather, costs and the contractor. Each one of these is dealt with individually and in their own manner. Acknowledging and understanding the needs and requirements to satisfy each of them involves a skill set gained almost entirely by experience. The ability to manage even a small project and do so effectively doesn't happen by chance, but by the intuitive nature of the contractor's experiences both on the job and off the job. Through intuitive decision making and taking action towards the production of a project, follow up calls to customers, scheduling deliveries, ordering materials on time or simply showing up to an estimate on time can be the difference of why the customer hires you in the first place. Customers take notice when a project runs smoothly and it's not from a contractor script. Contractors who possess this quality and use it every day sometimes take it for granted, but your customer's thank you.
  • Patience: Contracting can be a seasonal or feast or famine industry, but for some it's a year round profession. Depending on the market and expertise of a contractor, one can find themselves slowing down through the holiday periods, colder months and even sometimes in the middle of the summer with each having their own relative factors. It's not always a customer coming to you; sometimes you have to go to the customer and the process of landing a project can take time. Once the project is under way, rushing through it should not be the approach, or the outcome of the project will suffer. For example, framing a deck might take a few days, but all of the steps it took to get to that point takes significant effort: generate plans, permits, materials list, secure equipment and labor, ordering, deliveries, scheduling, weather, etc. When a contractor takes the time to plan accordingly and execute affectively to assure that the production of the project is as efficient as possible, customers notice the value added aside from just the onsite tasks. When production is efficient on the job, it affects the customer's home, lifestyle and general disturbance to their day to day lives. Contractors are comfortable and expect variability day to day, but this is not always the case with homeowners which can make home projects a difficult process for an untrained eye. Timing right and planning appropriately also affects the bottom line. Having the patience to plan the work and work the plan usually benefits both the customer as well as the contractor. Aside from the many different personalities a contractor encounters, having patience throughout each project is a necessary quality to possess to assure the quality of the production and the customer's experience remains steady.
  • Critical Thinking: Critical thinking skills are directly related to problem solving in remodeling. This is one of the reasons I have continued to remodel rather than build. Personally, neither are related other than the raw materials. Plans are, in the most general form, a justified guideline due to the inherent variability of remodeling. Remodelers face Murphy's Law almost every day. Whether it be a delivery, a sub-contractor having an "emergency", window or door replacement, framing a deck, installing new flooring or even painting, problem solving is a fact for the contractor and most of the time involve multiple elements that say no while you just have to find a way to make it happen to satisfy the customer's needs. As I like to say, where there's a will there's a way, all while keeping cost, safety and longevity of the work in mind.

What Business Practices Should a Quality Contractor Employ?

Keeping it simple is my philosophy. The onsite work is not rocket science, but there should be certain steps taken to the order of how things are done and should all be done by a professional if professional results are what is intended. My estimates and initial on site consultations to evaluate and discuss a project are typically free of charge. A down payment is secured to cover major expenses and a schedule is communicated with the customer. Updates are shared with the customer as needed and any changes to the project are discussed and adjustments are immediately implemented during the project. The balance of the project is obtained upon successful completion of the project. Each of these steps has a system in place so the transitions with each phase are effortless. I can't claim to completely remove the unknown aspects of remodeling because it's next to impossible. With almost twenty years of experience I determine a well thought out educated evaluation of the project to meet the results of the customers' needs regarding the project. I also maintain open communication and keep the customer up to date throughout the project to rectify any concerns a homeowner might have during a project. The details of the tasks is the contractors concerns, but where tools may be stored and how the project may affect the customers day to day is a concern a contractor should be up front about. This way the homeowner isn't apprehensive to a wall of plastic getting put up to contain any dust from the work areas or be surprised when a subcontractor might show up in the middle of the day. The ultimate goal involves the overall management and production of a project to be as efficient as possible all while minimizing the disturbance to the homeowner. Any home project is a temporary disturbance, but it is just that; temporary. In most cases there is an improvement being made which will benefit the homeowner long after the contractor is done.

Specialized Contractor VS. Generalized Contractor?

Each have their own benefits. It depends on the scope of work and/or customer preference. When a project involves a lot of different tasks, some customers prefer to work with one contractor rather than taking on the general contractor role and hiring specialty contractors to complete their project. Most remodeling contractors are multi-talented while having the skills to complete most tasks involving carpentry and more. Some remodeling contractors inherently have acquired specialties such as framing, flooring, drywall, etc over the course of their respective careers. Plumbing, heating, HVAC and electrical should always be completed by a licensed professional. Some of my customers prefer to paint or take on other tasks of the project to save some of the budget for other aspects of a project. As I've said, it's not rocket science but if the customer is looking to achieve professional results it is best to hire a professional.

Advice for Homeowners who Found Contractor They Can Afford, but Who Does Not Have Enough Experience?

Reevaluate the priorities of the project. More times than not it is the other way around, but there is good reason for it most of the time. There are a lot of contractors out there, but if that contractor doesn't have the experience needed to complete the tasks of the project then it's not the right fit. It is part of the contractors' responsibility to evaluate and qualify their customers just as much as it is for customers to qualify their contractor. I know that I am not the right contractor for every potential project I get a call for and will let the customer know that as soon as I come to that conclusion. As my preliminary visits are free, this way I don't waste any more of my time or the customer's time. I work with and know many other reputable contractors in the area and if I see a better potential fit for that customer I will refer them to another contractor that might be better suited to meet the needs of their project.

Overall Advice When Choosing a Contractor?

Choosing the right contractor is not necessarily a one size fits all scenario as much as a general contractor would like to think. It all depends. That's not to say that there aren't general contractors who can meet every need of every customer. I just find it hard to believe for any contractor to have 100% closing rate, or any business for that matter. What's the scope of work? How long will the project be? Are their multiple trades involved? How did you feel upon meeting with the contractor? Was/is there any signs of the contractor not conducting themselves as professional? When a contractor is available immediately, caution yourself, especially during the busy season. Why don't they have work? Are they insured?

My motto has always been clean, quality and considerate. I've expanded on that motto by guaranteeing a positive home project experience. As most contractors, I pride myself on what I do for a living with my hands and with the skills I have learned along the way. To the best of my abilities, I listen to what homeowners are looking to achieve with a project and justify it in the details of the scope of work I produce for each individual project. This understanding of homeowners is fulfilled by the results of each project. I perform each project as if it's my own house. There aren't too many people that are more picky than I am, and if something isn't good enough for me it most certainly isn't good enough for my customer. Most of my customers offer to use them as a reference without me ever having to ask. My references are always available upon request, am a member of the Better Business Bureau with an A rating and I am always available for an onsite consultation to provide an estimate.

What Services does Hamann Carpentry Provide?

We provide home remodeling services from repairs to small renovations and everything in between (e.g. ex. windows, doors, decks, drywall, flooring, bathrooms, etc).

Along with the carpentry and trade tasks associated with projects, these things don't get completed by themselves. The homeowner has a choice of which contractor they feel comfortable inviting into their home to improve it. What knowledge, experience, resources, expertise, and ability to execute similar projects plays a big role for who is selected. Finding a good contractor to rely on should be based on trust. What the priorities are, budget, goals and defining the needs and wants of a project also play a role for a homeowner to consider. Getting referrals, checking references, gathering multiple estimates and reading reviews online are all great sources of gathering information. There is no cut and dry secret answer to finding the right contractor for your project. Agreeing on a contractor you feel comfortable with, is able to complete the work in a timely manner and meet the needs of the job just takes time and a little effort. However, contractors do the work every day and do it for a living. Free estimates and project consultations are a service and is work the contractor is taking time away from other tasks for. These are the facts and it's how I approach my projects. Sometimes the facts are exactly what you were hoping to hear and sometimes you wish you never asked. Without the facts of a project, the job doesn't get completed properly and to the complete satisfaction of the customer and/or contractor.

Contact Info:

Do it once, do it right. Or let the other guy do it.

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About The Author

Dave has a combined 18 years of experience and education in the field of residential...

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