Choosing a Fencing Contractor
You want a fence and have decided you would like to hire someone to install it for you. With so many fence contractors available it can seem overwhelming to know who to hire. Believe it or not, you are in a great position. It’s time to start calling and getting estimates on your project. While you are receiving prices from different contractors, it also gives you the opportunity to interview each contractor. Let’s face it, you have a job to offer and you are looking to employ someone to complete it. You want the best person for the job.
What you will find is contactor’s have different ways of doing estimates and different ways of installing fences. There are also some things you will want to make sure a contractor has before hiring them. When you start calling to receive estimates, you will find there are different ways contractors give estimates. The two most common ways are on site or by phone or email. An on site estimate is when a contractor comes to the property, measures it, talks with you about the project, and gives you a price to install it. A phone or email estimate is when you provide the length of the fence and the details, and the contractor gives you a price based on the information you provided. Both have pros and cons. An on site estimate gives you the opportunity to meet the contractor face to face. You can walk with the contractor while he measures your yard and ask questions and go over areas that may present problems, such as a large tree on the fence line or a drainage ditch. This will also give you an opportunity to see what kind of vibe you get about the contractor. A gut feeling can go a long way.
An onsite estimate may also give you an opportunity to see pictures of previous work and a sample of the materials used. The final price may be slightly higher than someone who only does phone estimates. While the on site estimate is usually free, there is cost in gas and time and is usually incorporated into the final fence price. A phone estimate is a fast way to get a fence price. You call with the measurements, how many Gates, and any problems you may see, and the contractor gives you an estimate. If this is the only way the contractor gives estimates, the final price may be slightly less. However, this does not give you the opportunity to meet the contractor before you hire them. The way you like an estimate done is up to personal taste. It’s almost like going out to lunch. You can go to a restaurant, go up to the counter, order, wait for your food, take it to the table and eat. Or you can go to a restaurant and sit down, someone will take your order and bring you your food, and you eat.
You know the sit down restaurant will cost a little more, but you are willing to pay for the service. Another thing to consider with fence contractors is how they install your fence. At this point not the techniques or craftsmanship, but if they sub their work out, have in house employees, or if the owner installs the fence themselves. Sub contracting work out means the fence company you hired hires another fence company or fence builder to install the fence. In house employees means fence builders are paid hourly or by the foot and work primarily for that fence company, and an owner install means the owner of the company also installs fences. Like everything in life, there is good and bad in each way. Companies that sub their work out have the opportunity to find the best installers available. They cut costs by avoiding payroll taxes and knowing exactly their labor costs. The downfall is these companies rely on contractors that work for many companies and may find scheduling issues, they rely on the sub contractors insurance, and the craftsmanship can vary due to different contractors using different techniques to install. The main benefits of in house employees are scheduling issues are minimal since the employees only work for the one fence company, and the way fences are built tends to be more uniform. The cons include the company usually pays an in house employee less due to payroll taxes. Employees who make a sub standard wage may not be inclined to go the extra mile. An owner install, or owner operator, may bring the most detailed work. Let’s face it, the company owner carries all the weight on his or her shoulders, and will make every effort to make sure the fence is the best it can be.
This is usually done by smaller companies. While installation may be top notch, it does not leave as much time to meet with potential clients so it may take longer to find a mutual time to meet. Whether you like the on site estimate, the phone estimate, the sub contracting, in house employees, or owner installs, there are a few things you must make sure of before hiring a fence contractor. The first and most important is insurance. General liability and worker’s compensation insurance is an absolute must. General liability insurance covers any damage to your property caused by a fence contractor. If any damage occurs that the contractor can not afford to pay for out of pocket, the insurance policy kicks in. For example, if a contractor is using an auger to dig a hole next to the house and cracks the foundation, you will expect them to take care of it. If the contractor does not have the funds to pay for the damage and does not have insurance, you may have to take them to court.
Even if you win the court case, the contractor may still not have the funds to pay for the damage. There will be a judgment against him, but your foundation will still be cracked. Forget the hassle and require proof of insurance. Workman’s Comp is even more important. For instance, if someone gets their leg caught in an auger and has to under go surgery. Since this happened on the job, the employee will look for the employer to pay the hospital bill. Not many people or companies can afford this type of bill. The bill will go to collections and the collection’s attorney will find out this accident happened on your property. You or your home owners insurance may be sued for the medical expenses. You should also check the contractor’s references. Ask questions that are important to you, such as quality of work and reliability. Check with the better business bureau to see if the company is registered and has any complaints. Check with the Secretary of State and see if how the business is listed and if all dues are current. Before hiring anyone to build your fence, do your homework.
Meet with them and see if they can answer your questions and if you get a good feel about them. Ask if they sub contract their work out, have employees, or if the owner installs. Insist on seeing insurance papers. Ask for references and call them. You can check the Better Business Bureau and Secretary of State online. Take a little time to familiarize yourself with the company you like. Remember you are the employer looking for the best person to hire for your job. You will find taking the time to do this will save you headaches in the future.