Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Selecting a Contractor

     Another busy week for us at Jensen Sprinkler, but that is what spring is all about. As I promised last week, today's blog is going to be about selecting a contractor. Again, most of the blog points are going to be taken from the Irrigation Association's "Irrigation Consumer Handbook". In perusing this part of the handbook, these points do not only apply to irrigation contractors, but for almost anyone you would hire to work on your property.

    " Whether you are searching for a professional irrigation contractor to install a system or to service an existing system, any professional you consider should have certain qualifications to do your work. The bottom line is that you are not just buying an irrigation system, but you are also buying the services of a contractor. Your job is to find the professional to do the work that will satisfy you. Use this guide along with questions on the IA Irrigation Consumer Bill of Rights"

Check for:

  • Insurance : Reputable irrigation professionals will carry appropriate insurance policies to protect you and your property. The insurance policies are critical to your future. You could lose your home or business if something happens and your contractor isn't insured.
  • Certifications, Training, Membership & Licensing: A contractor should readily provide information about professional certifications, training and required licensing.
  • References : All professional contractors should be expected to prove to you their track record of accomplishment. (Ask your neighbors or find a yard that looks great and see who they had helps, too)
  • How Will You Be Inconvenienced: Plan ahead for inconvenience. Irrigation installation creates change and activity on your property as well as an efficient system. How will you be inconvenienced? Will your pet have to be boarded? What will have to be moved out of the way during construction and for how long? Find out in advance.
  • Behavior and Appearance: How the contractor behaves and appears will be a good indication of how smoothly and professionally your job will go.
  • Proposals: Get a written proposal. A professional contractor will provide a written proposal. Every aspect of the job should be described in detail, have a dollar amount attached to it and include warranty terms.The more detailed the proposal, the better. Remember, the lowest price isn't always the best. You want to choose the best proposal based on all factors. The proposal should be broken down into subsections with quantities, sizes and brands specified. All preparatory and finish work should be included as should the amounts and the brands of irrigation equipment. Compare proposals point-by-point.
  • Customer Service: Expect to be told that the contractor will want to know about any problems or concerns today, tomorrow or a year from tomorrow. The contractor you want to hire will still be here years from now.
  • When the Job Finishes: Expect to be told that your irrigation system is fully guaranteed for parts and labor for a full year. This is the industry standard. The same language should also be in your contract. Expect a final walk-through prior to final payment. Expect full instructions on how to care for the system and how to use the mechanical components of your system such as controllers and timers. Do not expect seasonal reprogramming of timers or periodic adjustment of nozzles once they have been properly set and/or adjusted upon job completion unless it's part a separate maintenance agreement.

How to Spot a Nonprofessional Contractor

  1. A nonprofessional won't be listening to your needs.
  2. Nonprofessional telephone communications. Coarse telephone manners and failing to return calls indicate the type of response you will get on your project.
  3. Failure to show up for meetings on time. Maybe your work won't get done on time either.
  4. Unprofessional appearance. Inappropriate clothing and/or dirty or poorly maintained vehicles. Even smaller contractors who get out in the field regularly will take the time to tidy up before an appointment.
  5. Disorganized bids that fail to include specific details. Bids should be legible and easy to understand.
  6. Someone who gives you unrealistic prices. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  7. Belittling another contractor's work. A professional should never belittle another contractor or his or her work.
  8. Suggesting that you don't need a permit. In the event a permit is needed for your project, sometimes nonprofessional operators will try to get your okay to forego obtaining the permit. Don't give your permission. Even though permit inspections are often lax, the contractor should obtain all required permits.
  9. Offering to do construction work that is outside of the scope of the work for which the contractor was hired.
Hopefully these pointers will help you on your next project. Of course, we hope you hire us for all your irrigation projects!  Have a super week!

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