“There are a number of home improvement projects that are big enough to be painful if they are mismanaged but small enough that a typical General Contractor would not be enthusiastic about managing,” says Tracy Lust, owner of Yankee Classic Floors of Madison.
“Flooring is a good example of projects that need management, but often does not receive the attention it deserves, costing the homeowner more in the process. Some issues are obvious. Some issues are not as obvious,” Lust adds. It starts with the homeowner. Many times, they act as their own general contractor, but may not know all of the elements of the project needed to manage it effectively. At that point, the homeowner may call in a professional contractor after things have gone awry, and, unfortunately, the contractor then has to fix whatever was done incorrectly, costing the homeowner more than if he/she has hired a professional contractor in the first place.
Specialty contractors use their unique experience to identify existing conditions before projects are started to ensure a superior outcome. If there are no hitches in the process, there is no reason a project can not be completed successfully.
There are many moving parts which are interdependent in every project. A typical project involves at least four components that all have to work together in order for the project to be completed successfully. They are:
#1: The Homeowner
Homeowners are rarely knowledgeable enough in all of the aspects of carpentry, construction, installation and flooring materials to manage a project effectively from start to finish. This lack of knowledge and familiarity with the process can be magnified, especially if the homeowner is responsible for coordinating people, schedules, and specifications.
Some retailers are very knowledgeable and some are not. Most never visit the site that is being improved, so the look and feel of the room or space is generally not known. They rely on the homeowner for direction in helping select the product(s) to be installed. Since they have not seen the sub-floor or other factors that could create issues with the process, they can’t effectively troubleshoot in planning and product selection. This may result in incorrect purchasing and installation of products.
The installer has one job — installing. Installation specialists get paid on a piece-by-piece basis and are focused on minimizing installation time. However, if the wrong type of product was selected for the sub-floor at the site or there are defects with the flooring (in wood for example), it is not their responsibility to change the project or it is not in their best interest to do so financially.
Manufacturers process huge amounts of flooring. In general, they indicate the level of quality of the product they are selling. However, if even the slightest problem is noticed after installation, the manufacturer is absolved from responsibility. Quality checks early in the process and having leverage with the manufacturers after the fact are important elements of what a specialty contractor can do.
The Missing Link
Specialty contractors serve as a general contractor geared to work with specific types of projects. From start to finish, they supply experienced eyes on every facet of your project. They see the site, observe what the feel of the room is like, review the sub-floor, note construction/carpentry issues related to the installation plan, the finishing or thresholds, and assist in selecting the appropriate flooring material given the sub-floor conditions.
“But,” adds Lust, “A specialty contractor can only run the project smoothly, help you avoid problems and save you money if they are involved in the beginning of the process. We get much more satisfaction managing a project well in the first place rather than correcting a mistake.”