Building a steel self-storage facility is a big project and, even though pre-manufactured steel buildings are relatively easy to construct, you need to choose a good contractor to ensure your facility is erected as planned.
Hiring a contractor is one of the most important items on your checklist, right up there with selecting a steel building in the first place. Do your due diligence and identify a trustworthy and skilled contractor so you can start renting those units as soon as possible.
Hiring a contractor is much like hiring any employee. You want to look for experience and references, communication skills, the services offered, and an air-tight contract. Plus, everything still needs to fit your budget.
Ask for references and examples of completed projects
Get proof that the contractor you are considering has completed other steel self-storage projects by asking for references and actually calling them to find out how their project went. Drive by to take a look; get a tour if possible. Learn how easy it was to work with this contractor and whether previous customers were satisfied with the work.
Don’t forget to research online for fraud or other wrongdoing associated with this contractor. Most people are not silent if they feel they have been ripped off, so you should be able to find a review on sites such as Angie's List or NextDoor.
Subcontractors and suppliers are other great sources of information about contractors. They can tell you about their experiences working with the contractor, particularly with timely bill and invoice payment. If your contractor has bad credit, not only will he have difficulty sourcing subcontractors and materials, he may be willing to run off with your money.
Other things to find out:
- The years of experience in constructing self-storage facilities
- Whether the contractor has experience in erecting a prefabricated steel building
- If the contractor understands the local environment including the soil, prevailing weather, and the local building code
Are you planning a green project? Specialized experience in energy efficient building products and methods will come in handy. Find a contractor who understands LEED ratings, ENERGY STAR programs, and the optimal use of materials, light, ventilation, and insulation.
Consider communication skills
You and your contractor need to be able to communicate clearly and honestly. Miscommunication results in expensive rework or a project that does not meet your expectations. Both of you must understand the other.
Be honest with your contractor about your needs and, more importantly, what you do not think is going well. Feedback is an important part of a working relationship, and your project is too expensive and important to leave to chance.
What services does the contractor offer?
Be honest with yourself about your abilities to contribute to the construction process and the amount of time you can commit to the project. You won’t save money or do yourself any favors if you don’t have the know-how to pull off the project or you simply don't have time to coordinate everything yourself.
Most self-storage facility owners have never built a steel building bigger than a garden shed. If you wouldn’t hire a contractor with your level of knowledge, maybe you shouldn’t be running the show either.
Do educate yourself about your project requirements and learn the language, so you understand what's going on.
Get a contract
Never, ever make an agreement without a written contract. A contract protects both you and the contractor. Read it carefully to make sure you understand each phase of the project. The contract also tells you who is responsible for each activity.
A contract is a legal document that provides details on:
- The scope of work
- Scheduling and timelines
- Change orders and rework
- Deviations from the plan, budget, schedule, or materials
Everything is nailed down, so there is no misunderstanding about responsibilities or when the work is expected to be complete. The construction contract contains all the project details, the responsibilities of the contractor, and the cost.
The contractor should be the one responsible for putting the contract together and for the subcontractors required for your project. If the contractor does not want a contract, run the other way and find someone else. If he is reluctant to put the subcontractors he recommended on his contract; he should not be recommending them for your job.
If it wasn’t clear, never work without a contract. A handshake deal will do you no good if you have to go to court for any reason. Also, the contract must be signed by all parties before any work is performed.
It's understandable to be careful about your money; it's your budget, and you should know how much you can safely spend. However, you also get what you pay for.
- A lower price often means you only pay for labor and materials
- A higher price can reflect higher quality materials and professional services
If the price quoted is much lower or significantly higher than the others, take the time to understand why. Storage facilities built on the cheap will not last. Corner-cutting now can cost you way more than you saved in future repairs.
The contractor should be willing to answer any questions you have. If you feel like you are being brushed off or the contractor is unwilling to consider changes, you may have the wrong person for the job. There is nothing wrong with going with your gut, either. If you don’t like someone, you won’t work well together.
The right steel self-storage facility contractor
There are over 700,000 general contractors in the US. Even though a fraction of those have skills in steel construction, you should be able to find someone you can trust and work with. You also have access to more information than ever before with online rating sites, websites of professional associations and organizations, and the website of the contracting company to research.
Word of mouth is still one of the best ways to find a good contractor. Ask others in your industry for recommendations and follow through on your homework. Make sure you are getting everything you pay for, and you will have a metal self-storage facility you can be proud of.