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How To Earn Your General Contractor License in Texas

General Contractor License Texas

Being a general contractor is appealing to many different types of people. People who like to work with their hands, people who have a skill for task delegation, and people who garner satisfaction from seeing a job through to the very end all flock to the trades, and many of them eventually become general contractors. 

It’s also easy to imagine that many general contractors get into the business because of job security. In addition to making an above-average income, general contractors’ job growth projection through 2026 is 11%

And if you are one of the people who want to be among Texas’ fine general contractors, you probably have some questions about the process. Luckily, obtaining a general contractor license in Texas isn’t as hard as it is in other states. But the process is still riddled with red tape and bureaucracy.

In the following post, Contractors’ Society of America will be helping all the hopeful general contractors out there by answering some of the questions associated with how to get a general contractor license in Texas. 

Can I Use my Contractor License in Another State?

While some states have contractor license reciprocity agreements (meaning that you can obtain a contractor’s license in a state other than the one you became licensed in without taking another test), some do not. At the time of this writing, Texas has no such reciprocity agreements with other states. 

Furthermore, “state jumping” is not allowed. State jumping refers to when you get a reciprocal license in one state and then go to another state and obtain a license there and the merits of the reciprocal license you got in the previous state.   

Do I need a General Contractor License in Texas?

The short answer is no. Texas does not require any testing or specific licensing if you want to operate as a general contractor. But there’s always a short answer and a long answer. The long answer is that while Texas doesn’t require anything to operate as a general contractor, some cities within the state might. 

Of course, it gets complicated for many general contractors. The city you are working in may have its licensing requirements. But to get your general contractor business set up in Texas, there aren’t any specific licensing requirements. 

Contractors that need a License in Texas

Chances are if you are a general contractor, you probably offer other services that do require state licensing. For example, if you plan on providing plumbing, HVAC, or electrical services in-house, you will need to obtain a license for those services. Of course, if you plan on subcontracting all of those services out, you won’t have to worry about getting those licenses yourself. You must be sure that any subcontractor you are working with is fully licensed and insured.

Do I need General Contractor Insurance in Texas?

Again, the short answer is yes. If you are working for public clients, the state requires that you have workers’ compensation insurance. Workman’s comp protects your clients and your employees should they get hurt on the job. The workers’ compensation insurance will foot the bill for any medical costs. 

And yet again, there is a longer answer. You may also need a builder’s risk insurance and put up a surety bond to work with some clients or in certain cities in Texas. The surety bond protects the client if they fall short of building codes or a project is left incomplete. The builder’s insurance protects against any damages that may occur during any given project. 

Some cities may require you to have all of the insurance types mentioned above to get your work permit. The best way to find out which Texas cities you will need a license and insurance in is by visiting the Texas Municipal League’s website and clicking on the specific city. That link takes you to a city-specific website that lists general contractor licensing and insurance requirements.

Get your Career Started

If you are ready to start your journey as a general contractor, why not become a member of Contractors’ Society of America. We provide you with the valuable resources you will need throughout your career. Plus, we offer unique networking opportunities for contractors of all kinds so you can find quality subcontractors or pick the brains of industry leaders. 

Should Contractors Be Bonded and Insured?

Should Contractors Be Bonded and Insured (Blog Cover)

Should contractors be bonded and insured? Well, only if you want to win the most customers possible. Savvy homeowners will know the difference between liability insurance and a bond. And if a contractor isn’t bonded, they may very well stay away from them. 

So the short answer to these questions is yes. All contractors, whether you fit pipes, install electrical boxes, hang drywall, or shingle roofs, should be bonded and insured. But for those of you with inquiring minds, Contractors’ Society of America will be explaining why you should be licensed and bonded as a contractor. But let’s start with the basics.

What is the Difference Between Being Insured and Bonded?

There is a common misconception that insurance and bonds are essentially the same things. That isn’t the case. In straightforward terms, a surety bond protects contractors’ customers while liability insurance protects the contractor. 

A surety bond is a certain amount of money that a contracting company puts up to a surety bond company. If the contractor fails to follow local building codes and regulations, leaves a job incomplete, or detriments the property, the consumer, can go after the company’s surety bond. 

The bond protects the customer from an ill-intentioned company and keeps contractors honest. On the other hand, insurance means that you won’t be on the hook if a contractor is injured while working on your property. 

There are different insurance types that a contractor should carry, like liability and worker’s comp. Still, these policies are more to protect the contractor and his/her company more so than the customer. 

On the consumer end of things, there is one significant difference between insurance and bonding. As erstwhile mentioned, a bond will protect the customer if the contractor fails to follow building codes. Adhering to regulations is very important.

Say, for example, you hire an electrician to wire a room you recently added to your house. The project goes off without a hitch; you pay the contractor and say goodbye. But a few months later, your new addition doesn’t pass inspection because of faulty wiring. 

In this case, the electrician’s insurance can’t help the consumer at all. But the bond can. The customer could file a claim against the company and go after their bond money to help cover the cost of rewiring. 

Do you Need to be Bonded?

The tricky thing about bonding is that some states require it to get your contractor’s license, while others are laxer on the rule. Here is a full list of which states require a bond, but it’s best to contact your local licensee board for specific regulations. 

That’s because some states require a bond for some trades but not others. The county you are operating in may be a determining factor as well. For instance, if you are a contractor in Montana, you may be required to be bonded in one county but not the neighboring one. 

Do you Need to be Insured?

Again, the short answer is; absolutely. Different states have different license laws. Some require insurance for you even to get your contractors license. But in general, you will need at least some basic insurance to obtain your contractor’s license. 

But apart from the requirements, not having a full complement of insurance as a contractor can cost you customers and income. That’s because some home owner’s insurance policies require that the homeowner works only with insured, licensed contractors. 

So, for example, a homeowner could have their insurance voided if they knowingly work with a contractor who is not insured. For this reason, many savvy property owners will stay away from contractors who don’t carry a full complement of insurance policies. 

Final Thoughts From CSOA

In the end, the bonding and licensing process benefits both contractors and their customers. It may seem like a hassle for a contractor to pay into a surety bond every year, but it keeps your work honest, which in the end is suitable for your business. 

On the flip side, it can be a chore for the consumer to obtain multiple estimates from different contractors (as is the smart practice) and to make sure they are all fully licensed and bonded, but in the end, it’s worth the effort. 

But whether you are a consumer or contractor, we can make the process more comfortable with the wealth of resources we offer here at Contractors Society of America. Reach out to us today.

7 Best Construction Management Software Tools

Construction Management Tools (Blog Cover)

Taking a firm charge of any construction project can help tremendously. Knowing what the project goals are, setting exact performance parameters, and selecting project participants are a few of the challenges of successful construction project management. 

It’s a full-time job, which is why many construction companies hire experts to deal specifically with project management. According to TrueLook, some of the biggest challenges regarding construction project management include hazard management, jobs going over budget, and poorly defined goals. 

And of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. That’s why the construction project management software has been booming as of late. Experts estimate that the construction project management software industry will be worth well over $2 billion in just eight years – which is double the $1.2 billion it was worth in 2018. 

Construction management software could be your solution if you want to increase productivity and job success but don’t want to create a new salaried position within your company. Many of our members here at Contractors Society of America utilize construction management software successfully in their own business. But how do you know which would be best for your company? According to our members and community, these are the best construction management software tools:

1) CoConstruct

CoConstruct is a great management tool to use if you run a design-build firm. That’s because it’s incredibly adaptable. While other software more or less locks you in as soon as you set a timetable, materials list, and schedule, CoConstruct allows you to make changes on the fly. Some of its best features include tracking changes in orders and material expenses and single-entry estimating – making it easier to provide clients with estimate service.

2) Field360

Field360 is perhaps the best field management software on the market. The problem is it’s not widely available for distribution. Very few people even know it exists, and we are probably five years away from its market boom. When it hits, everyone will be changing its name. Contractors looking to get a slight edge on competitors may dig for more information about the hidden gem but don’t hold your breath.

3) ProContractor

ProContractor is geared more towards the financial management of projects. One of the coolest features it comes with is the profitable project management feature, making it much easier to see what you will net at the end of any given project. By merit of this useful feature, ProContractor is also extremely helpful for submitting bids. It will help you streamline the bidding process, know what you stand to make and gives you the best chance at a winning bid. 

4) Projectmates

Projectmates is a more comprehensive suite of tools for managing all aspects of the job – financial and performance. It comes with integrated tools like a document manager that stores plans, contracts, status report documents, and project photos neatly and conveniently. There are also scheduling tools you can use to help manage your team and the workflow. And there is a helpful capital planning tool to help you keep an eye on your bottom line and draw up estimates.

5) WorkflowMax

WorkflowMax is another comprehensive software suite best known for its client management tool, conveniently organizing client information, contacts info, and categorizing projects according to the client. WorkflowMax is also a handy program to track the time spent on jobs and keep an eye on how much the job is costing/making. But perhaps the best thing about WorkflowMax is that it virtually eliminates the need to cobble together management tools from other software providers.

6)Procore

We get asked, “what is Procore construction software?” a lot. T7his is a popular construction management software package because it automates many tasks like document delivery and team member revisions. Procore offers an easy communication platform so you can keep in touch with all the key players of a project. Procore is best suited for companies that already use (and want to keep using) other management tools because it can sync with many other popular construction management software tools. 

7) GanttPro

GanttPro is a great tool to use, especially if you are already using Gantt Chart. With the GanttPro software suite, you can easily breakdown projects into subdivisions or sub-tasks. The subdivision is an invaluable tool for contractors who regularly take on large-scale or nuanced projects. You can use GanttPro to define clear timelines, goals, schedules, and job parameters among the subdivisions. GanttPro also archives jobs so you can audit the work you have already done to see what needs to be improved. 

Keep it in Perspective

So what is the best construction management software of all seven that we have highlighted? That will depend mightily on what your specific needs are. For instance, if you find financial planning to be your biggest challenge, ProContractor would be incredibly helpful. But Procore is one that came up a lot when we were pooling insight from our contractors here at Contractors Society of America. 

At any rate, keep things in perspective. Be honest about areas of project management that you are struggling with and make a choice accordingly. And for more tips and resources, contact us here at Contractors Society of America. 

How to Manage Construction Vendors for Ideal Results

Manage Construction Vendors (Cover)

How you manage construction vendors says a lot about your business. The manner you choose, communicate with, and work alongside your vendors could mean the difference between project success and complete chaos. It can also affect how customers view (and review) your business. 

And the bigger your business is, the more vendors you are likely to have. We have seen contractors struggle to manage multiple vendors across different projects. Today, we want to share some of the best tips that we have seen work well for contractors regarding managing construction vendors. 

Instead of dealing with delayed projects and angry clients, please read Contractor’s Society of America‘s guide on managing construction vendors.

Establish A Strong Line of Communication from the Start

First things first: when selecting material suppliers, you should establish a strong line of communication. But it’s not only about providing your contact information and even alternate contact information (although those things are important to do). It is also essential to establish what your goals are for the partnership. When onboarding a new vendor, make sure they understand the scope of the projects you typically face.

Onboarding should also entail discussions about how the vendor intends to deliver reports should a client require them. And if you want your vendor to use the same project management platform as your company, be sure to provide them with all the information they need.

Also, be sure to define your expectations clearly. Tell any potential vendor how often you would like status reports and the method(s) you prefer to receive them. 

Evaluate the Performance of your Vendors

Taking inventory of how your vendor is performing is crucial for the overall success of your company. Some contractors assume that their suppliers are doing an excellent job if projects are getting done on time. But improved performance is usually attainable in one way or another. So you need to gather specific information on your vendors and review it regularly. 

  • Ask your Crew – A great source of information on how your vendors are performing is your crew. Ask them what they think of the vendor if supplies are making it to the job site on time, what condition the supplies are in when they arrive, and their interactions with the suppliers. 
  • Evaluate Safety Issues – When evaluating your vendors’ performance, be sure to compare the way they operate to your safety procedures. Are they following the safety protocols you set forth when you hired them? If not, you could be risking dangerous accidents and potential lawsuits. 
  • Flexibility – Have you had to change a supply order? If so, how willing to accommodate were your vendors. The fact is you will need to make changes (delivery location, method, materials, etc.) from time to time, and your vendor needs to be able to adapt.

Document Performance

Keep notes or official reports on how your vendor is performing throughout your professional relationship. This point is especially important when a vendor makes a mistake. Nobody intends to mess up, but it happens from time to time. When it does, it’s important to document certain aspects of the failure. 

For one thing, you need to identify which vendor made a mistake if you work with multiple suppliers. It also helps determine the impact of the error i.e., missed deadlines, injury, or lost clients. Documenting the vendor’s reaction and explanation of any incidents is also essential. And when something doesn’t go right, don’t assume that it was the vendor’s fault. Take an unbiased look at any incidents so you can determine whether the responsibility lies with your company or the vendor. 

Collect Financial Data

Chances are, vendor costs are a big part of your company’s budget. To make sure you are getting the best value for your money as possible, gather and evaluate critical data such as:

  1. 1) Itemized Materials – Itemize the materials that your vendor supplies to make cost analysis easier.
  2. 2) Pricing Breakdown – Request that your vendor breaks down in detail the prices for items and services
  3. 3) Discount Information – Be sure to calculate any discounts you may be receiving for large orders. And make sure you are receiving any applicable discounts as well.

Helpful Resources for Contractors

Good help is undoubtedly hard to find. But here at Contractors Society of America, we do our utmost to provide your contracting business with the resources it needs to succeed. Help with construction vendor management is just the beginning. We have a wealth of resources specifically for contractors, including industry studies, networking opportunities, and more. Grow your business and become a member today. 

4 Issues That Can Limit Swimming Pool Contractors’ Success

Swimming Pool Contractors (Blog Cover)

As a swimming pool contractor, you face some unique challenges. You must select your market very carefully and be aware of the best times to push your services. There are a lot of hurdles you have to leap over to make it in this industry. But whether you are just starting or are a seasoned vet, it’s helpful to stay mindful of the most common issues that plague pool builders. 

In the following post, we will be talking about the most common issues that can limit a swimming pool contractor’s success. And if at any time you want to learn more about what you can do to expand your business, improve your services and reach more people, get in touch with us here at Contractors Society of America.

1) Cost is a Factor

There are many neophyte pool contractors out there that think they are going to break into the market and make a name for themselves by outpricing the competition. And while undercutting costs may earn you some initial business, you will likely have to cut corners to stay within budget. And in the pool contracting business, shoddy work shows quicker than in other contractor industries. Pricing too low can cannibalize your own business. You will earn a reputation for sub-par work, and that initial rush of customers you got will dry up once when people perceive your company as low-quality.

The fact is that people prefer quality when it comes to pools. And while pricing your work at an average or even premium price may make finding initial customers harder, it is more sustainable in the long-run. Carefully consider the average price for building a pool in your market. Do your best to offer low prices but never opt to do shoddy work. 

2) Lack of Experience

Just because you own a backhoe doesn’t necessarily mean that you should get into the pool building business. There is a perception of this work that it is easy. This perception seems to be especially prevalent when talking about fiberglass pool installation. But many pool contractors fail because they lack the skill and experience. 

Contractors get into the business, thinking they have all the tools and equipment they need – which they very well might. But they don’t realize that this is serious work that requires a lot of know-how and precision to do well. 

For instance, a lot of general contractors consider offering pool building service. They ask us, “can a general contractor build a pool?” and the answer is almost always no. First of all, if you have never installed a pool before, you aren’t likely to be very good at it at first. Second of all, most states require a separate license for any specialized contracting work over $500 – this includes pool building.

3) Failure to Adapt

For some reason, the pool building industry seems to be one of the slowest to adapt to the digital age changes. Pool contracting businesses that have been around for decades are finding that their customer pool (no pun intended) is shrinking because they are not taking to the internet to market their services and educate the market.

Nowadays, people want to work with contractors who have some authority in their field. And the way they find these authoritative companies is the internet. If you are not utilizing content marketing or social media to help establish yourself as an authority in the pool contracting business, you will likely lose out on customers. 

4) Unfocused Business Plans

When it comes to swimming pool contractors, you have to find your niche. Most consumers think that all swimming pool contractors are more or less the same and that hiring one isn’t much different than hiring another. Establishing yourself as an expert in one or a few pool building aspects is essential to your success.

If you can make yourself stand out to consumers in one way or another, you will be setting yourself up to thrive. Think about the unique skills or areas of expertise you and your team possess. Are you exceptionally skilled at building vinyl liner pools? Are you the best at constructing concrete pools? Do you have an in-depth knowledge of above-ground pools? Do you emphasize customer consultation to help them decide which pool system is right for them?

Ask yourself these and similar questions and begin focusing your efforts on promoting what it is that makes your business unique. Too many pool companies get lost in the seemingly indistinguishable mix of contractors and end up failing. Don’t let this happen to you.

You can count on us here at Contractors Society of America to provide you with the necessary resources for your business’s success. Become a member today.

4 Healthy Lunch Ideas for Contractors On The Job

Lunch Ideas for Contractors (Cover)

Being a contractor, you have a unique problem on your hands. While most of America is struggling with weight gains that come from sedentary lifestyles, you may be finding it hard to get the calories you need every day while on the job site. And perhaps you got into the trades partly because you knew it would be a good way to keep fit while you earn your living. But there is a fine line between keeping fit and wrecking your body.

It is no secret that the trades are demanding. It is estimated that remodeling contractors burn 410 calories per hour, masonry contractors burn 548 calories per hour and if you are just using heavy hand tools throughout the day, you are burning 637 calories per hour. To put those figures into perspective, consider the fact that the average office worker burns only 68 calories per hour in the course of their work. And in case you were wondering, it is recommended that most healthy men intake 2,000-3,000 calories per day and healthy women should intake 1,600 2,400 calories per day.

So as you can see from the figures, as an average contractor you are probably burning off way more calories than normal. Now most people would just figure to eat more food to correct this imbalance. And while principally that assertion isn’t wrong; it can be detrimental to your health.

Just because you are making up the calories that you are burning on the job site doesn’t mean you are doing your job any favors. That’s because you can be getting enough calories from your food but certain foods have too many saturated fats, carbs and sodium. And too much of these can spell disaster. In fact, too much sodium alone can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. 

So you have to be careful about what you put into your body. You can’t just intake calories willy-nilly and think you will be fine. And as a contractor of any kind, you should know that there are certain foods that will help you perform better. 

It’s challenging learning what those foods are. And the harder part is working them into your busy schedule. So in the following post, Contractors Society of America wants to share some lunch ideas for contractors that will not only help you refuel after excessive calorie burning; but help you regain calories in a healthy way. 

1) Protein Shakes

Protein is as important to a construction worker as it is to a body builder. Your body needs ample protein to rebuild muscle tissue that is being broken down when you exert energy on the job. We talked to many of the contractors in our community and so many of the swear by protein shakes. They like them because they are quick, easy and provide enough protein to get them through the day. While they should not be used to replace your entire lunch, they are a great way for busy contractors to get the protein they need; and all you have to do is throw a small carton in your lunch box.

2) Pasta

Pasta is another lunch idea that came up a lot when we pooled our own community of contractors. Tradesmen like the fact that you can prepare a bunch of pasta pretty quickly on a weekend and pack it for lunch a couple or every day of the following week. But you can’t just cook any pasta. The most important thing to remember when preparing pasta for lunch is that you choose a whole-grain pasta. Whole-grain pasta is lower in calories but higher in beneficial minerals and fibers to help keep your digestive system healthy. Plus, you can easily make up the calories by adding some sausage, mushrooms and bell peppers to your pasta.

3) Chili

Chili is another favorite because it’s simple to eat on the job site. Chili with navy bean, kidney beans or adzuki beans is preferable because these beans are high in protein. In fact, adzuki beans can pack up to 37 grams of protein in a single cup! Be sure to add some ground beef, onions or any other protein/vegetable combo you prefer.

4) Combo Snacks

What is a good lunch for a construction worker? That question has a lot of answers because everyone is different. But basically, you are going to want anything with a lot of protein, a decent amount of calories, and minimal sodium. To that end, a healthy conglomeration of snacks isn’t a bad idea. Consider throwing some trail mix, a banana, maybe a couple of protein bars and a small sandwich (with whole wheat bread) into your lunch box for a healthy hodgepodge lunch.

Other Lunch Tips for Contractors

Fast food is a mainstay at on the job site. Why? Because contractors are very busy people and sometimes you just need something that will fill you up fast. But as much as possible, avoid fast food for lunch when you are on the job. Here are some of the tips that our contractors live by:

  • Meal Prep – This is a huge one that not only saves a lot of time; but a lot of money too. Prepare one or two big meals on Sunday before the work week that you can easily store in the fridge and bring with you to work throughout the week. Pasta, chili and even pizza (opt for thin crust or whole-grain dough) are great meal prep ideas because they will keep all week and easy to pack.
  • Stock up on Healthy Snacks – Make a Costco run and get protein shakes, protein bars, nuts, yogurt, vegetable platters, or any other healthy snack you prefer. 
  • Carefully Review Menus – If you receive a restaurant gift card as a gift or someone takes you out to eat, make sure to identify nutritious menu items.
  • Take a Lunch – This may seem simple and overdue but it can’t be overstated. Taking a lunch you prepared at home will almost always be healthier than eating out.

We are always posting helpful articles specifically for contractors, and we have a wealth of resources to aid your business too. Become a member today.

How to Become a General Contractor in 2020

Independent Contractor

The prospect of becoming a general manager may be appealing to you if you are good at delegating work, finding the right fit for specific jobs, and are the type of person who can see the big picture. General contracting is a great responsibility but for the right kind of person, it can be a very rewarding profession. General contractors don’t do too badly in the financial department either. The average yearly income for a general contractor in the United States is $89,711 with an average of $6,750 in additional overtime pay.

And of course, if you are really good at your job and win high-paying bids, that number can certainly go up. But it takes a lot of time and dedication in addition to natural acumen to excel in this line of work. But as the ancient Chinese proverb goes, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Before you can begin thinking of tackling large construction or renovation jobs, you need to know where to begin. 

In the following post, we will share with you a basic guide on how to become a general contractor. Be advised that the specific rules and requirements will vary from state to state. But most states have similar guidelines. 

  • Education and Experience – One doesn’t simply up and become a general contractor overnight. There are two main paths to becoming one: you can either pursue higher education or you can gain experience in the construction industry. If you wish to go to school, construction management and civil engineering are very helpful subjects to study. You can also gain hands-on experience by getting hired by a local construction company. Be advised that no matter which route you take, you will need to set aside 3-5 years before you can really start applying as a general contractor. And in general, the best general contractors will have both college degrees and hands-on experience in the construction industry. 
  • Take the General Contractor Exam – In most states, you will have to pass an exam to get your general contractor’s license. This is going to require a good amount of studying. In most states, this is a multiple choice quiz that includes technical construction knowledge as well as business and tax questions. You can find out where and which local government body administers the test with a quick Google search. But in general, you will need to pass this exam before you can even apply for a general contractor’s license. If you need help studying, there are plenty of free online resources you can take advantage of like practice exams
  • Meet Bond Requirements – In some states, you will have to acquire a licensing bond and a performance bond. A licensing bond is a certain amount of money you will have to put up to guarantee that you will adhere to the local statutes and regulations set out for general contractors. A performance bond sometimes called a contractor’s bond is a separate amount of money you will have to put up to protect your clients should you fail to meet your contractual agreements or fail to finish the project – sort of like insurance. In most cases, you will have to put up one or both of these bonds before you apply for your general contractor’s license. 
  • Apply for your License – Once you have met the experience/education requirements, passed your state, city, or county general contractor exam and acquired the necessary bonds, you are finally ready to apply for your general contractor’s license. In most states, this means filling out a written application and providing a number of documents that can include your exam results, your driver’s license or birth certificate, background check results, your bond documentation, your proof of insurance, and proof of financial responsibility. 

Other Considerations for General Contractors

Becoming a general contractor isn’t all filling out forms and taking tests. There are a lot of practical considerations you must mull over before and during the process. 

  • Time – Here at Contractors Society of America, we get asked the question, “how long does it take to become a general contractor?” a lot. And this is an important consideration to analyze because it can take anywhere from 5-10 years to get your general contractor business up and running. Some people simply decide to work in the trades until they feel they have the knowledge to become a general contractor which can take many years. 
  • Getting Started – The general contracting business can be brutal for beginners. You will need a lot of resilience and gumption not to get discouraged because chances are, you won’t be winning a lot of high-profile bids when you first start out. And that’s perfectly ok. Something our members tell general contracting newbies when they ask “how do I get started as a contractor?” is to not shy away from smaller bids – even if you think you can handle more. Overseeing small home renovations and construction projects is a great way to build your reputation and value as a general contractor. 
  • This Work is a Learning Process – Another important thing to understand about general contracting is that it is a ceaseless learning process. You have to understand that pretty much every project will present you with a new challenge and you will have to learn and adapt on the fly. You have to be open to accepting new challenges and committed to learning on the job – even when you think you have seen it all. 

General Contracting is Rewarding

It sounds like a lot of work – and it is. But general contracting work comes with great rewards if you stick it out, are committed to improving and have a passion for seeing projects through to the end. Here at Contractors Society of America, we are dedicated to our community of professional contractors. We hope our guide on how to become a general contractor has been useful for you. Once you get your license, become a member of our community!

4 Ways to Mitigate Customer Complaints as a Contractor

Contractor at Work

You know how the old adage goes: you can’t please everyone. This is especially true as a business owner. The fact is that you are going to run into customer complaints at some point. It doesn’t matter if you run an impossibly tight ship and take every precaution to meet the total satisfaction of all your customers; some customers simply cannot be pleased. 

And at the end of the day, that’s ok. Most people don’t expect perfection and are even wary of it. If you are worried about a few bad customer reviews of your contracting business, you may not have all that much to worry about. Recent data suggests that consumers don’t actually trust businesses with perfect review ratings. In fact, the current ideal star rating is between 4.2 and 4.5 stars. The reason for this is that most consumers are aware of the fact that reviews can be manipulated. So when they see a perfect 5-star rating, they tend to think that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

But don’t take that as license to start giving up all your customer service efforts. You should still try to deliver exemplary service every single time. But customer complaints are unavoidable. So in the following post, we are going to be talking about the best ways to mitigate customer complaints, how to manage bad reviews and answer some common questions related to customer complaints. Let’s start with the basics

Why do Customers Complain?

Why do customers complain in the first place? To truly answer this question one would need a degree in psychology. But on the surface, there are many reasons why a customer may choose to lodge a complaint against your contracting business. Here are a couple of reasons why and what you can do as a contractor:

  • Perceived Quality – Some customers simply have unrealistic expectations. No matter how finely crafted the product is, it may not live up to the lofty expectations of the customer. This is why it’s important as a contractor to have pictures and a comprehensive portfolio of your work so the customer can see what they can expect. Be honest with your customers. Don’t promise anything you can’t deliver. Make sure to set realistic goals for the project and don’t take on any projects that you can’t handle.
  • Unavailability – Communication is key in the contracting business.  Whether you are a roofer, electrician or an HVAC technician, you have to let the customer know what the project will entail, how it is progressing and be there to field their questions and concerns. A customer will feel wronged if they can’t get their questions answered. Make sure that your customers have multiple ways to get in touch with you. And even if you can’t field all their questions yourself, try to make sure that someone on your team is available at all times to speak with customers. Oh yeah, and it helps tremendously if the team member you appoint to speak with customers is knowledgeable of the specific project.

What are the Most Common Customer Complaints?

As a contractor, you are probably going to hear the same kinds of complaints throughout your career. The most common types of customer complaints for contractors have to do with:

  • Long Wait Times – Having to wait too long to talk to a representative is a very common customer complaint for contractors. That’s because a lot of contractors overlook having an ample office staff when they first start out.
  • Follow-up – As a contractor, it’s important that you be available to your customers even after the project is completed.  One of the most common complaints contractors of all kinds get is that no one was available to talk to after services had been rendered. 

Ways to Mitigate Customer Complaints

Want to avoid customer complaints altogether? While there is no way to totally avoid customer complaints, take a look at our list of tips for mitigating as many as possible:

1 – Understand your Business – If you offer emergency roofing, HVAC , plumbing or other emergency contractor services, be aware that the people who call you don’t want to have to call you. They may be in a panicked state and therefore, more irritable. It is important to understand the nature of your business and the types of people you will be dealing with most of the time. Be empathetic, put patient technicians on the job and focus on friendly service. 

2 – Avoid No-Shows – Customers hate contractor no-shows. If you say you will be there, you better be there if you want to avoid a nasty customer complaint. So don’t stretch yourself too thin. And if for some reason you still can’t make it to a service call, be sure to let the customer know. You would be surprised at how appreciative a customer can be of a heads-up phone call.

3 – Respond to Bad Reviews – So you’ve got a bad review. You have failed to mitigate a customer complaint. It’s not the end of the world and believe it or not; you can use that negative review to mitigate future complaints and even get rid of the review altogether. Google data shows that 33% of customers who received a reply from a business they negatively reviewed posted a positive review as a result and 34% deleted their original negative review. So it is very important to reply to any negative reviews your business may receive. 

4 – Do What you Say – Finally, it is very important as a contractor to live up to your promises. Never take on projects that you aren’t sure you will be able to complete on-time and within budget. Projects hit snags. Unforeseen issues arise on the job. It’s natural. But when they happen, communicate the issues to the customer clearly and promptly.

And of course, offering the best possible service you can is an effective method for mitigating customer complaints. For more helpful information and contractor resources, become a CSOA member today.

How to Tell if a Wall is Load Bearing (2020)

How To Tell if a Wall is Load Bearing (Blog Cover)

When people inquire about how to tell if a wall is load bearing, they often overlook several important factors. At Contractors Society of America, we don’t like to cut corners. Instead, we like to provide accurate and up-to-date information that helps individuals succeed in their ventures throughout the United States and abroad. We believe that knowledge should be shared to empower people like you to learn and grow in your profession or to perform DIY tasks in your home or commercial property.

So what’s the deal with these walls, anyway? A load bearing wall will handle the floor weight or roofing system of the property. Walls that do not bear loads hold only its own material. These walls are known most commonly as partition walls. Whenever a renovation takes place, the contractor or DIYer must determine whether their wall is in fact load bearing. Removing a load bearing wall mandates that structural integrity must be replaced and accounted for. If not, your entire property will collapse.

Here at Contractors Society of America, we have a comprehensive directory of roofing, remodeling, and construction contractors. So for this article, we surveyed our own members. We asked them what their best tips were for telling whether or not a wall is load-bearing with the naked eye. But let’s start with the basics.

Why is Identifying a Load-Bearing Wall Important?

As you have probably already gathered, a load-bearing wall is any wall in a structure that helps transfer the weight of the roof or upper floors down to the foundation. They essentially hold the structure up. So you can’t go tearing down load-bearing walls willy-nilly. Here are just a few reasons why:

  • It’s Very Dangerous – If you tear out load-bearing walls during renovation or remodeling, the roof could start sagging and eventually fail. A sagging roof is more prone to leaks, water damage and puts undue stress on the rest of the structure. In extreme cases, the entire roofing system could collapse putting everyone inside the structure in harm’s way and causing thousands of dollars in damage. 
  • You Could Incur a Fine – In almost all states, a permit is required to tear out any load-bearing walls. So if you tear one out without getting a permit, you could risk a hefty fine from the local building authorities. How would they find out you ask? While it’s true that you could probably get away with tearing down a load-bearing wall without a permit in most cases, you better hope that you never have to sell your house. A building inspection will surely reveal the absence of necessary load-bearing walls which among other consequences, could flag local building authorities and result in fines.
  • It Damages your Home – Removing a load-bearing wall doesn’t just put stress on the rest of the structure; it can have aesthetic repercussions as well. Removing a load-bearing wall will usually damage the drywall and ceilings under the weight of the roof. The whole structure will have to contort to a certain degree which almost always results in cracked drywall and ceiling stucco.

The consequences of removing a load-bearing wall are far-reaching. Doing so can affect your ability to sell your home, your wallet and can put you and your family in danger. Now that you know why being able to identify a load-bearing wall is important, let’s get into how to tell if a wall is load bearing.

Tips for Identifying a Load Bearing Wall

Before we begin, it cannot be stressed enough that when you are in doubt, you need to call a professional. While there are certain ways to identify a load-bearing wall yourself, it is always advisable to seek the help of a professional to be on the safe side. With that caveat addressed, here are some helpful tips on how to tell if a wall is load bearing provided by our expert community of contractors:

  • Check the Floor Joists – If possible, take a look at the studs in the wall in question. If the wall is aligned parallel to the floor joists of the above floor, then that wall is probably not load-bearing. But if it is aligned at a perpendicular angle to the floor joists of the floor above (or the roof) then it is most likely a load-bearing wall. But, keep in mind that walls that run parallel to above floor joists can still be load-bearing. If you can see that the wall in question has an above wall situated on top of it, it is load-bearing.
  • Check for Structural Walls – Engineers, architects, and contractors usually refer to load-bearing walls as “structural walls.” And the best way to locate the structural walls in your building is to refer to the blueprints. If you have your blueprints handy, then you have access to the easiest way to tell if a wall is load-bearing. If a wall is marked with an “S” in your blueprints, that means the wall is load-bearing. “S” in this case stands for “structural.” If you don’t have your blueprints, you can request them from the contractor who built your home or from the county clerk. 
  • Check the Foundation – If you have access to your foundation (usually through an unfinished basement) take a look at where the I-beams or multi-board wood beams are situated. Structural walls are usually built on top of these beams.
  • Check the Ceiling – If you can, take a look at any weight supporting beams that run through it. These beams are installed to help bear the load of the roof or upper floors and structural walls are usually built underneath them. If the wall in question does not run under this beam, under a wall in an above floor or any type of post, it is most likely not a load-bearing wall.
  • Check for Knee Walls – If possible, have a look around in your attic. In particular, check to see where, if anywhere, the knee walls are installed. In most cases, load-bearing walls are built underneath knee walls in the attic. 

Last but not least, please be aware that if the wall in question is an exterior wall, it is almost certainly a load-bearing wall. So definitely don’t go knocking down any wall that shares a side with your front, side or backyard.  We hope that you have found our guide on how to tell of a wall is load bearing helpful. For more helpful tips or for professional assistance with your renovation project, contact CSOA today.

6 Window Treatment Tips for Contractors

Window Treatment Tips (Blog Cover)

Looking for window treatment tips? As a contractor, it can be very difficult to meet the needs of your customers when they don’t know exactly what they want. Even worse is when they think they know what they want but their expectations are unrealistic. We hear this a lot from the construction and renovation contractors in our network: clients often overlook their own budgetary constraints and fail to look ahead to the finer details of home-building.

This usually results in delays in construction and at worst, conflicts with the contractor. So we talked to several of our contractors and picked their brains as to what makes a construction or renovation job go smoothly and surprisingly enough, one topic we heard over and over again from them was window treatments.

Window treatments almost always go overlooked by homeowners and investors. They are just one of those things that people don’t think about until they have bare windows staring them dead in the face. So today we thought we’d do two things: share some window treatment tips that contractors can use themselves and share some window treatment tips that contractors can impart to their clients to help jobs go smoother. Preparedness is essential to a job well done and a happy, loyal client so take a good look at these window treatment tips.

1) Plan Ahead of Time

Of course, things like flooring and roofing material should come first but you and your client should start thinking about window treatments as early as possible. Planning ahead will let the client see how far their dollars can really stretch, inform their window treatment decisions. 

2) Know your Options

There are a ton of options when it comes to window treatments and the average consumer isn’t aware of the array of choices until they start building or renovating their home. There are blackout curtains, sound dampening curtains, mini blinds, vertical blinds, plantation shutters, cellular shades, roller shades, motorized shades, and many other options to consider. As a contractor, you should take some time to familiarize yourself with the many choices that are available so you can help your client make a decision.

3) Plan at the Electrical Phase

If your client knows that he or she wants motorized shades, be sure that they know that there are a couple of different sup-options. Do they want battery powered or electrically powered motorized shades? If they want battery powered then there won’t have to be any electrical routing. But the disadvantage to battery powered motorized shades is that they need to be replaced often. Electrically powered motorized shades can be plugged into an outlet but there is even a downside to that method as well: you will most likely see a cord running from the shades to an outlet. The cleanest look when it comes to motorized shades comes when you run the electrical wiring of the cords inside the wall to a converter in the utility area of the property. If this is the option your client chooses, the best time to do the work is when you or the electrician is setting up the wiring for the entire house.

4) Wood Blocking

This one is strictly for the contractors. Before the drywall goes up, be sure to install wood blocks in between the framing where the window treatments are to be hung. Installing these blocks will make it easier to install a variety of window treatments and make the installations much more secure – as opposed to just hanging brackets on drywall alone.

5) Recessed Headers

A little of forethought can afford you the opportunity to utilize recessed headers for window treatments. Recessed headers offer a clean, seamless look to many types of window treatment. They essentially hide the top header of blinds and curtains so that all you see is the material. Recessed headers are also convenient for hiding any electrical wiring of motorized treatment products.

6) Know your Budget

This one can’t be stressed enough. Take some time to familiarize yourself with the typical prices of different types of window treatments so you can inform your client whether their selections are fiscally feasible or not. According to Homeadvisor, the average cost for window treatments is $602. But custom drapes and curtains can cost as much as $3,000 and that’s before installation. The average cost of motorized shades is $320 per unit before installation. Having the average prices of different window treatment options at the ready will help your client make a wise choice and help the job go as smoothly as possible.

For more window treatment tips, contractor resources or to become a member of our prestigious contractor’s network, contact us here at Contractors Society of America. Our business is to help contractors of all kinds operate, thrive, and remain safe so talk to us today!