Useful Resources for Contractors

Sometimes it might seem hard to have conversations and get information as a contractor. You can feel like you are an island of one. You are constantly dealing with client demands, employee expectations, unexpected changes and ordering complications.

So it is good to learn that there are plenty of places where contractors can talk – online – about their work. Share ideas, learn strategies, discuss available resources … these are the conversations contractors need to have to meet the demands of their clients.

Here are some places to look for other experts tackling the same problems – and asking the same questions – as you.

Reddit r:Construction

Reddit has a mixed reputation for having groups that discuss, well, almost anything. The downside is that you can come across some NSFW (not safe for work) content there. Thankfully they have continued to hire moderators to take out truly offensive content such as hate speech, and make safe searches possible and even easy.

Better yet, their moderated threads for people with certain interests are great places for people to come together and ask questions and give answers. The r:Construction thread recently hosted a range of conversations including a picture of a construction site where a wall collapsed, someone’s suggestion for good business software, and a question about the health effects of loose insulation near a vent.

This is a great place to scroll through to find answers without ever posting. You can also get active and ask or answer questions to build good will in the community. You can create an alias or use your own name, depending on your preferences and how self-conscious you might be about the questions you are going to ask.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is not just for job searches. It is also a popular meeting ground for people involved in all sorts of businesses, including contracting work.

Here it is important that you sign up with your own name and best work photo, and perhaps even establish a page for your business.

But once you have signed up, you can interact with other contractors and people in related fields. This is a great place to showcase your work, but also to raise issues about complex problems you have tackled. This way you can establish your expertise and experience, while interacting with other experts – and making contact with people who might need your services, possibly leading to more work.

You’re a contractor – spend some time developing your online presence to develop your business in real life!

 

Screen Capture by author

Why Contractors Prefer Poured Walls Over Cinder Block

For years, the most common type of building foundation was cinder blocks, especially for houses and smaller structures. This is because cinder blocks have some advantages for these applications. However, poured walls have become more prevalent for a variety of reasons.

Below are the advantages of each, and why more and more contractors are choosing poured foundation walls.

Advantages and disadvantages of Cinder Block

Cinder blocks helped revolutionize the quick and sturdy construction of houses. Relatively small and lightweight (compared to other foundational elements of a home) they could be easily stored and transported. They lasted a long time and could be ready to use when needed.

They are also easy to work with. This means that even inexperienced homebuilders can use them effectively to build sturdy homes when weather permits without any special planning or preparation.

However, cinder blocks are lightweight and the fact that they come end blocks instead of a solid whole mean that they are sturdy, but not as sturdy as poured concrete walls. Additionally each joint represents a place where water could get in or weaknesses could develop.

Advantages and disadvantages of Poured Walls

Poured walls, on the other hand, also offer a range of benefits.

First poured walls are stronger than cinder block walls. This is because they have fewer joints or places where leaks and crevices can develop. Also they are stronger because they are solid.

Additionally poured walls can be formed into almost any shape or design. Concrete is very flexible when wet, and designers are only limited by their imagination and not by the shape of a brick.

Poured concrete has some disadvantages though. Wet concrete is heavy, challenging to mix effectively, and difficult to transport. This can add expense and scheduling complications to a building project.

Why contractors prefer poured foundation walls

Ultimately the benefits of poured foundation walls outweigh the drawbacks and outnumber the benefits of cinder block walls. Because they are sturdy and less likely to develop leaks and cracks, poured walls are simply more reliable and worth the extra cost and scheduling challenges.

Photo by Laura Tancredi: https://www.pexels.com/photo/brick-wall-with-sunlight-in-daytime-7078615/

Find Your Next General Contractor

When it is time to expand or rebuild your business, you want to be sure that you are getting the best help money can buy. This means carefully vetting everyone who will be working with you to make your next step successful for the years to come.

This means looking closely at your general contractor to make sure that they can do the job with integrity.

But wading through recommendations and slide decks and sales pitches is not easy work. This is especially true when the work is outside of your scope and expertise, and might even be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Thankfully there are organizations designed to help you evaluate businesses to determine if they can do what they say they can do. And, importantly, these organizations can give you a clear picture of whether those companies are doing business in good faith.

While it might not mean those companies are a perfect match for your needs, it will likely help you determine whether or not they can do the job.

Here are two resources to check as you start your next building or remodeling project.

HomeAdvisor.com

Finding companies who are interested in doing your project shouldn’t be as hard as looking in the yellow pages or doing a Google search for “contractors near me.” There are companies looking for you and your business right now. And one place they are doing this is on HomeAdvisor.com.

Simply fill out a few details of your upcoming projects, and companies will share their information with you. Maybe even more companies than you can shake a stick at. So add a few expectations to narrow it down and voila! You now have a list of companies from which to choose. And your search has started!

BBB

The Better Business Bureau is a trusted name in business review and evaluation. For decades they have helped companies and customers resolve complaints, set expectations, and generally raise the standard of excellence for work in almost any field imaginable.

Despite having been around a long time, they have kept up with the needs of a modern on-line community. Forbes recently reported on why they are still valuable, and how best to use the BBB. The short version is this: not every company gets everything perfect the first time. Disputes happen. But does the company have fewer than most? And do they work to resolve those concerns? That is an important part of doing business.

How To Ensure Quality While Building Commercial Construction Projects

Whether your next construction project is your first or one in a long series of successful projects, you want to make sure that you have the best contractors using the best materials.

You know that the cost and the quality are both variables, and they are related to each other (though not exactly the same thing.) By doing important planning and quality control work up front and throughout the process, you can make sure that your project meets or exceeds standards, and survives a lifetime or more.

Here are the steps for ensuring quality in your next construction project:

Define and clearly communicate your criteria

Before you approach a contractor, be clear about your own expectations. This is not an “in your mind’s eye” kind of clarity, but instead a specific list of expectations and intended results. If possible, it includes examples, time frames, and clear ideas on current needs and future needs following anticipated growth patterns and trends.

Put this in written form and discuss it with potential contractors, making sure they have the tools and the know-how to get it done.

Use checklists and follow an agreed-upon inspection plan

Building anything involves a series of negotiations around improvements, efficiencies, and situations that arise that could not be anticipated or planned for. Work with your contractor to establish a checklist for what you will be looking for at each phase of the process. Then use these checklists and inspection calendars to make sure the project is advancing as expected, or within acceptable variances based on unanticipated situations.

Following the checklist closely allows you to have a conversation about expectations in a structured way.

Look for quality work and products without micromanaging

It is tempting to walk the grounds at your site and find many reasons to be upset or excited, depending on your mindset or mood. But this is why you hired professionals. You will have a chance to kick the tires and point out details at the walkthrough, and when meeting about the checklists.

It is easy to burden your contractor down with a bunch of requests to handle things that just aren’t important at a specific stage, or are set to happen anyway, except someone had to stop to take your call. Use your meeting time to address major concerns. Then you can surface all of your concerns, if you are willing to accept “this will happen but not right now” as an answer.

Do You Already Have These Useful Resources for Contractors?

Being a contractor is tough work. Sure, being your own boss is great, but what it can really mean at times is that everyone else is your boss. You are always working for someone else. Then, as you grow, you find yourself dealing with the problems of management: labor issues, supply chain issues, pricing issues.

It can be a lot. So why would you do that without seeking out the best tools and help available?

Here are some resources to help you solve your toughest problems, or talk to other people about how they have solved similar ones.

Contractor Talk

Contractor Talk at https://www.contractortalk.com/ is an online resource where contractors can talk with other contractors to problem-solve, share best practices, provide warnings and look-fors, and more.

This online resource bills itself as “A forum community dedicated to professional construction and remodeling contractors. Come join the discussion about the industry, trades, safety, projects, finishing, tools, machinery, styles, scales, reviews, accessories, classifieds, and more!” and boasts over 139 thousand members.

Join today and get your questions answered!

Join ACG

ACG is the Association of General Contractors of America is a professional organization supporting general contractors.

ACG’s title page proudly proclaims, “AGC of America is the leading association for the construction industry. With over 27,000 member firms, AGC provides a full range of services satisfying the needs and concerns of its members, thereby improving the quality of construction and protecting the public interest.”

A professional membership includes a magazine that addresses problems and concerns of people doing the work you do, and access to local and national chapters. They also sponsor conventions where you can learn, teach, and expand your skillset to help your company thrive.

Visit Equipment World Online

Wondering where to get the best tool for the job? Constrained by a lack of dealers in your area. Look no further than Equipment World at https://www.equipmentworld.com . Here you can find every tool for the job. No matter the job.

This site is about more than just buying and selling equipment and tools. Here you will find useful articles, helpful suggestions, and a searchable archive to answer your current issues in just a few mouseclicks.

Photo by Ksenia Chernaya: https://www.pexels.com/photo/railing-with-variety-of-instruments-for-repair-5766461/

4 Signs You’re About to Hire the Wrong Contractor

Hiring a contractor is an important and risky time for your project and your company. You need to make sure that you’re getting a quality contractor so everything goes according to plan in your final project matches your expectations.

On the internet, every contractor can look the same. So how do you know you’re about to hire the wrong contractor? Here are six signs:

Resume but no references

One sign that you are about to hire the wrong contractor is that the person or company can offer you a resume, but no references. Sure, there is a list of projects they have worked on. Those projects might have been completed successfully. But who is attesting to that work? What role did this person or company play in that work? If you don’t know these answers you might be about to hire the wrong contractor.

No trusted materials partners

A second sign you’re about to hire the wrong contractor is that they won’t give you any information about the materials they will use on your project. Contractors who simply resort to using the least expensive parts for the work run the risk of using materials that weren’t meant to work together. They also might run the risk of compromising the whole project because they used the cheapest item to do an important task. Then when that item fails the whole project can be lost or set back.

Reluctance to agree to any timelines

A red flag in your hiring process is when your contractor is unwilling to agree to any time lines. Yes, things happen. And big projects are exposed to bigger problems happening more often. However, an individual contractor or subcontractor who won’t agree to any time lines is letting you know that they don’t have any time lines or expectations for their own work.

No catalog of completed work

Finally, your contractor should be able to point to successful projects they have worked on. Whether they were the lead or subcontractor, you should be able to see their work and understand their experience. Have they done projects of this size and scope, have they dealt with the complexities your project will offer?

This is not merely about experience in the lead role, but about general experience with the work itself. That is, they don’t have to have been the lead contractor in every project they show you. But if they have never done a project like yours at all, you might be about to hire the wrong contractor.

Photo by George Becker: https://www.pexels.com/photo/1-1-3-text-on-black-chalkboard-374918/

Why Large Contractors Prefer ArmorSheet Waterproofing Products

Photo by mali maeder: https://www.pexels.com/photo/yellow-and-black-excavator-69483/

Contracting work is among the most demanding professions. You are expected to be an expert on hundreds of topics, stay on top of changing laws at local, state, and federal levels, hire people, and manage details small and large.

It all comes at you fast, and you are always looking for ways to slow it down, or make it all run more smoothly.

Trying to create simplicity out of complexity is part of our mission at Mar-Flex. This is why we offer the ArmorSheet complete line of waterproofing materials. There is no more need to run to a half dozen suppliers or do research on how certain products will (or won’t) mix to create a waterproof seal that could make or break your entire project.

Instead, smart contractors rely on a single set of matched solutions. You do not have to research or guess or hope. The ArmorSheet products just work. And they work together to give you a complete waterproofing solution.

The ArmorSheet Line

While more details are available here, here are highlights of the ArmorSheet line:

  • A series of products that meet some of the strictest building standards, including Division 7 waterproofing and section 07-27-26 fluid applied barrier and membrane products
  • A focus on LEED certification, including guides for the products that help you achieve your target and budgeted LEED status
  • Above-grade solutions that include barriers and flashing to help you meet or exceed code
  • Below grade solutions including self-adhering and sprayed on waterproofing
  • Bentonite waterproofing options
  • Armor drainage board and tile
  • And our proprietary adhesives, mastics, and sealers that guarantee the waterproofing results you promised to your clients

We also sell a complete line of safety and application resources for your crew. You can make one stop, one order, and make sure that your crew is outfitted, prepared, and safe for the duration of your waterproofing and building project.

The best way to protect your bottom line is to do the work well, once, with quality products. If you live by this motto, then the Mar-Flex ArmorSheet line is for you.

For more information visit our site or call to speak with our installation experts.

 

When Your New Employee Doesn’t Speak Your Language

Photo by Matthias Derksen: https://www.pexels.com/photo/a-translator-in-a-yellow-hoodie-holding-a-placard-11333421/

Being a contractor means meeting deadlines and producing high quality work under some of the hardest imaginable conditions.

One common issue, especially in this era of unprecedented low unemployment, is finding enough workers to meet demands and deadlines. Across the country this increasingly means hiring workers in a very short time frame, or even day or short-term laborers with little formal work experience. Some not only lack a resume, they don’t even have a tool belt.

But the work must get done. And so while you might prefer to hire people who speak English, the situation might mean you will have to choose whatever laborers are available. Fortunately, language differences do not mean that they haven’t done the work before and don’t work hard. You might have found your next great employee – but you won’t know until the project gets donte.

Here are some tips for dealing with new employees when you don’t speak the same language.

  1. Hire one or more bi-lingual employees.

Your first resource in dealing with an employee who does not speak English (or whatever language you speak) is a bi-lingual employee. This person can help speed up the training and language acquisition process, and should be around to help with complex questions. For instance, even if you each have some knowledge of each other’s language, details around building codes, measurements, and other expectations can’t be left to guesses and approximations.

  1. Hire one or more bilingual day laborers.

You can’t control whether you have a bilingual employee. But chances are, if you’re hiring temporary labor, you can find one or two people who are stronger in English than you are in Spanish or whatever the target language is.

And if you don’t have a bilingual day laborer, on to solution 3.

  1. Use Google Translate or some other translation app

When a bilingual employee or short-term hire is not available, the next best option is to use a translation app. While these are imperfect solutions, they can offer enough support to convey key ideas and get the job done. Google translate can be surprisingly technical and has found use in a lot of technical fields related to building, design, engineering, and more.

It is important that you remember that speaking different languages doesn’t make you or the employee dumb – it just means there will be barriers to communication and the occasional mistake. Being patient might bring you a dedicated and loyal worker.

Be Ready for These Questions on Your Next Bid

Photo by Mikael Blomkvist: https://www.pexels.com/photo/two-people-checking-on-a-construction-project-8961300/

Being a contractor is demanding work. Your profits are continually being squeezed between the customer and the project supervisor. Demands and questions come at you from multiple directions at all times, and that’s all AFTER you get the contract.

And now potential customers and clients are asking more and more questions – more and more work for you – even before they sign a contract.

So be ready for these 4 common questions on your next bid.

1. Can this bid be itemized?

Customers sometimes ask this because they hope to do some of the work themselves, or ask their uncle or close friend if it all seems to be a fair price. The best answer is to give an itemized price with your mark-ups already included in the price on each line. In the end, no one is in the business of doing things for free.

2. Is your bid an estimate or a fixed price?

Again this is a question designed to help the customer try to save their cost almost directly from your wallet. Your policy should make sense for the work you do, and your reliance on factors out of your control. For instance, if lumber prices or gas prices drive your costs, say it. And also clarify up front which sorts of late demands will incur extra costs on their end – and put it all in the contract.

3. How long have you been doing business in this town?

This question is simply asking if you are reputable. Work to put together a portfolio as soon as you can. If you are a new independent contractor, include references from previous employers and pic from previous job. Register as soon as possible at the local BBB. And if you get a complaint, work to resolve it effectively with the client.

4. Who are your main suppliers?

Like the question above, this can be a chance to look into your reputation. Do you deal fairly with trusted contractors? Do you save costs by dealing directly with manufacturers and suppliers instead of a middle man?

Each of these questions are important to answer for yourself and your company. Having a ready answer for these – perhaps including them on a FAQ page on your website – helps potential clients feel comfortable with your work. This will give you a foot in the door and a chance to keep your schedule full in the year ahead.

What Are Polymers?

You may have heard of waterproofing solutions (and many other products) being formed from polymers. You accepted that as true and moved on. But you were curious, and now you want to know: what are polymers?

Encyclopedia Britannica defines polymers as “natural or synthetic substances composed of very large molecules, called macromolecules, that are multiples of simpler chemical units called monomers.”

So, essentially, polymers are anything that is made up of other things.

This as a definition seems unhelpful, but it opens a door to an amazing world of possibilities. Diamonds are polymers, and so is rubber. So on the simplest level, it is everything. But there is an important note here.

We can make what we want

It seems unhelpful to say a polymer can be essentially anything, but there is a significant upside. Since we have the technology to imitate nature’s magic, and the wide range of nature’s materials at our disposal, this means a polymer isn’t just the many things we can find out in the world, it can be whatever we want it to be.

That means we can use the components of rubber and make it stickier, or more liquid, or more rigid. We can construct a wide range of products and solutions by making minor modifications to the formula for any given product.

And for a contractor, this means that there is a solution to whatever problem you face.

So while plastics are the one word of useless advice offered in The Graduate, it can be a very helpful suggestion for a general contractor.

What you need is probably already available

While the TV character Red Green famously proclaims “any tool can be the right too for the job,” we know from painful experience that this is not true. Using the wrong tool can cost us time, energy, and potentially cause damage and increase expense.

In the age of polymers and on-demand manufacturing, the world probably already offers a solution for your contracting needs. Do you have a weird joint or a challenge to solve? Do you need to waterproof a hard-to-reach location, or idiot-proof a much-needed waterproofing solution? There is likely already a solution for that situation.

This is why contractors rely on Mar-Flex products. Our polymer-based solutions are designed to save you time and energy while doing the job effectively the first time.