What sets Archadeck’s process apart from that of every other deck-building or remodeling company in Central Connecticut? If you say it’s our exquisite craftsmanship, you’d be correct! But before we get to craftsmanship, we differentiate ourselves in another way: Professionalism.
As design/build professionals, to move to the next steps beyond the initial “consultation meeting”, for which we never charge, we will request a retainer in order to continue working with you. Most people assume that their architect, designer, engineer, lawyer, accountant or other professional will expect payment to engage their services. We ask no less.
It’s as simple as that — we offer you the opportunity to “retain” us to design and price your outdoor living project. What we are doing, in essence, is saying, “If you think we are the right company to do business with, let’s get the ball rolling.”
What you are first “buying” is us as professionals. What you will appreciate is that we actually listen to your ideas, concerns and issues. We really want to hear all about the outdoor living project you have in mind. We listen like crazy and ask lots and lots of questions, documenting it all as we go and repeat it back to you to make sure we really do understand what it is you want.
While that first meeting usually takes place at your home we encourage you to visit our office at some point. Many of our clients have told us that they found visiting our facility was invaluable. There you can see all the available material choices, a full-sized deck, a gallery of rails and lots of photographs. You can also take a brief tour of our shop area, where we fabricate custom rails, benches, 3-season porch inserts and, during the cold Winter months, paint or stain porch flooring (if it’s wood, not composite), ceiling materials and cedar siding and fabricate other custom items which are best completed in a controlled shop environment rather than in the field. Having this capability allows us to build all year long. As one of our staff once said: “We don’t hibernate” during the Winter. Our facility is located at 47 North Plains Industrial Rd, Suite B, in Wallingford, CT.
During our first meeting, we will consult with you to determine exactly what kind of outdoor living structure are you looking for and how you envision using it. During our visit we will develop a rough sketch to capture all your ideas and then, once we have agreed on the rough outlines of the project, we can usually determine what a realistic project budget should be. At that point, we will talk some about how that budget range relates to what you’re prepared to spend on the project and get our heads together on a budget that’ll work for you. (Please note: we don’t really expect that most folks go into this with a solid idea of what building projects cost – just what they’re hoping for… This is the time for an open discussion about costs so there are no surprises down the road.)
Once we have established a mutually agreed budget range, if you believe you’d like to take the next step, we’ll put together a retainer agreement based on that budget. Signing the agreement and paying the retainer will trigger the next phase of our process: design and pricing.
Another angle of the design rendering for this Middleex County, CT, project:So, exactly how much is this retainer going to be? Our retainers are typically calculated as 5% of the low end of the budget range, up to a maximum of $6,000. For example: A project with a $30,000-35,000 budget would call for a retainer of $1,500.
When you sign a retainer agreement, you officially become a client of Archadeck of Central CT. At that point, we establish a schedule for your project, even before we have a signed contract — essentially “holding your place in line.” Also, we immediately set a date for the Project Review meeting, which is when we’ll review the final set of design renderings and resulting pricing based on every element designed into your project.
Seeing your outdoor living “dream project” take shape
Of course, between the “consultation” meeting and the “design review” meeting we will have done one – or more than one – designs and renderings which you’ll be able to review “online” by looking at them in a cloud folder dedicated to your project. Often we agree on the initial design we create, but we’re prepared to do as many iterations as it takes to get your project just the way you want it. (On one project recently we ended up creating five separate, slightly different, plans and resulting renderings, showing slightly different elements, different skylights and different colors for trim.)
We don’t mind doing multiple versions of your project plan: Once you are a client we will do whatever it takes to get it right… and we mean it!
Once all the design and material choices are exactly right we’ll develop the final project cost… at which point we can “go to contract”. This is important because we don’t do estimates, we only execute contracts with “firm fixed pricing” based on the final design. (Of course, if you tell us later you’ve decided that the rails should be “gold plated” we’ll add that to the project cost by executing an addendum.)
We’ve had many clients tell us they appreciate the level of effort we expend getting their project exactly the way they wanted it in the design stage. Our process of “designing to a budget” helps clients make decisions about trade-offs during the design/pricing phase.
It may sound rather lofty if we’re talking about a $15,000 deck, but you’d be surprised how powerful this concept is. If you’re looking to have the coolest $15,000 deck you’ve ever seen — and you have a tight budget (especially if you have a tight budget) — you’ll appreciate our approach. We bring the same professional attitude to whatever budget level you’re considering. We don’t look down our noses at any budget range. And we give everyone the benefit of the doubt; the assumption is that everyone who calls is looking for a “professional design/build company” that can be engaged to help you get the project you have in your mind’s eye.
When you approve the final design and pricing, we can then sign the actual contract. At that point, we ask for 15% of that total contract – minus the retainer. (Yes, the retainer is deducted from the final project cost.)
One note about the remaining payments: our progress payments are tied to observable events (called “benchmarks”) that we can all understand. Almost no one (including me) understands what 33% of a deck project is… or 33% of a room. So we have payment points named Retainer, Deposit, Project Start, Frame Complete, Decking Complete, Rails Complete, Roof Framed, Roof Complete and so on. (Please note: A “benchmark payment” isn’t the price of the item it’s tied to – it’s simply a reasonable payment based on the overall percentage of the project completed to that point.)
When we describe our design/build retainer process, we rarely get resistance — and never from other professionals or business executives. Many clients have remarked that they were surprised and gratified that we were candid with them from Day One about everything: costs, timelines, pluses and minuses of various materials, potential for delays due to weather — all of it. We believe communication is the key to a professional working relationship, and that is vitally important to us.