Need magic words to get contractor to do a job.

rosiewMarch 25, 2013

I hope some of you can give me advice. I'm not doing well getting prospective contractors to 1)come see the job, or 2)get back to me with proposal/pricing.

Planning a pergola to span 14x28' plus 10x10' patio. One guy did give me a price, but indicated he'd only be using nails. Uhoh. The pergola will be built using 10' fiberglass reinforced pillars on 14' centers. The beams that tie into the house will be about 17' l. Advice from an architect, not local, is that the entire thing be tied into the roof rafters. I'd settle, at this point, for a contractor who would just do this part, which will be a bit tricky. The rest should be fairly straightforward. Looking at using glu-lams for the header bases which go into the rafters, supported by I don't know what.

Short story: I'm small. I'm old. I can't do this myself. I am ready, having been saving money for a good while.

Advice, comments, questions gratefully anticipated. I'm in the north metro Atlanta area, Sugar Hill to be specific.

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"Advice from an architect, not local, is that the entire thing be tied into the roof rafters"

I think this may be the problem. You are telling the contractors how it should be done, not handing them a set of plans. It seems like the architect made this assertion, without actually drawing up some plans (or even visiting the job site).

If you want it done a certain way, make some drawings. Do not expect the contractor to be a designer, draftsman, or participate in this back and forth process. Do not expect this, unless you want to pay for this professional service. The contractors you have called may not offer such design services.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 3:59PM
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aidan, thanks for responding.

I have made drawings. The people I consulted about how to insure stability were the products specialists at my column's manufacturer first. They thought it should be tied in. I can talk with him again asking for clarification.The conversation with the architect was on a different subject entirely, but I did ask his advice. My concern was primarily what size lumber to use for this fairly long span to assure I won't get deflection Said architect is NOT INVOLVED. The architect made his assertion factoring in what he felt should be done to give it complete stability. I may be dealing with over-building here. Perhaps the pergola can be free standing.

I expect to pay for this job to be done correctly. What exactly that is, I assume, still needs to be determined.

Writing to y'all, hoping more will share their expertise.

The pergola will add a lot of livability to my patio which is in full N. GA sun until 4 or 5 p.m.

Hope my response will trigger some discussion.

Thanks, Rosie

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 4:58PM
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Don't feel bad about calling too many contractors. You want to have 3 good bids. That means the bids you consider are from contractors that you would really want to work with. If you take away 2 of the 3 bids because you don't feel the contractor is right for you, make more calls until you have at least 2 solid, comparable bids.

To find these good contractors, you will need to actively seek recommendations from friends, neighbors, church people, or some sort of community support network that you belong to. To call blindly, or by looking for advertisements, listings, etc., will not get you in contact with the right contractor. The best quality contractors with the most competitive prices do not spend money on advertising, or try to solicit for bids. This would raise their cost of business significantly. Instead, they have a steady supply of work lined up from referrals. For that they can offer a very competitive price.

Best indication of quality is to check on some work the guy did a couple of years back. That is why referrals are the best. The person referring you can show you something the contractor did.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2013 at 5:38PM
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Aidan, will jump on this. Need to end this cycle of frustration. And I will reach out to other sources for recommendations as you suggest. Think I've been too polite - ask for a bid, then sit and wait and wait and wait. Started this in January. Hoped to purchase needed PT wood and store in garage stickered to get the drying process off to a head start. That way I could get paint or stain on it soon after construction. Obviously that hasn't happened.

I'm being cautious for several reasons. Want this done right of primary concern. And I'm not a trust fund client.

Any tips on getting a contractor to return calls?

Wryly grinning, Rosie

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 7:14AM
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You might not have identified the right contractors.

I suggest going to a couple high quality building suppliers / lumber yards, esp. ones that supply a good variety of deck and fence materials. (If they have a showroom, that's a good sign.) Ask for a couple recommendations at the sales counter.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 8:38AM
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What you suggest is how I started this process. There are other very good building suppliers nearby and I will contact another one or two of them.

Thanks for this nudge.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 8:44AM
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Another angle is to contact a landscaping designer or upscale landscaping firm. They could do the patio and make a referral for the pergola.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 11:22AM
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Or ask a top-notch garden center.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2013 at 11:23AM
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