Hiring the Right Contractor for Your Build

Written by Andrew Morrison

Hiring the right contractor for your straw bale construction project could be the most important decision you make along the path to creating your new home. This decision is more important than the size of the house, the layout of the floor plan, the finish materials you choose, and any other choice you make along the way. The only other decision that comes close in its level of importance is the architect or designer you hire to design the house for you.

The reason these two decisions rank number one and two is that they are centered around personalities and human interaction. This is the place where challenges are most likely to arise as interpersonal interactions are often, if not always, heavily weighted by past, personal experiences.

Responding vs. Reacting

For example, have you ever had a bad experience with someone in the past and found yourself reacting to a new situation solely because the person you’re currently working with reminds you of the pervious individual with whom you had the negative experience? It’s not “fair” to the new person, but fair doesn’t come into the equation. You are reacting rather than responding. The difference is that a reaction is completely involuntary, whereas a response is something you have personal and cognitive input in.

What BAGGAGE do your potential contractors bring to the table?

So how does this relate to hiring a contractor? Past experiences may indeed have framed how you make your choices in the present, and they also frame how your contractor behaves in the world. You may be clear that your choice of contractor will be based on your current day interactions with him or her. You may decide to respond to your candidates rather than react to them. However, your potential contractors may be stuck in a world of reaction, or worse.

In this case, the worst scenario is not that the contractor is reacting, but that he or she is predating. It’s not unheard of to encounter predatory contractors; those who have every intention of taking you for a ride, milking you for your full financial worth, and providing you with poor quality work all at once. Sound like a deal that’s too good to be true? Not really, but it’s a situation you could unwittingly find yourself in if you’re not very careful as you approach hiring the right contractor.

The Good News

Don’t worry, there is good news in this article too. Take a look at the following infographic and share it with as many of your friends as you think would benefit from it. It clearly outlines the do’s and don’ts of hiring the right contractor. Review each step, each caution, and each outcome carefully. Picture yourself in each situation and design an approach that fits your own personality. The key here is to really picture yourself making these decisions.

You have my permission to PISS OFF potential contractors

It’s common for many people to feel confident in their process when they read about “the things to consider when hiring the right contractor”, but it’s something entirely different to actually act upon those lessons when faced with the real deal. Why? Most commonly it’s because we are worried that we might upset the person we are considering, or that we might flat out offend them.

Most people prefer to avoid conflict and the idea of offending someone, even someone who has every intention of raking them across the coals, is just too scary. Those people end up in situations that could very easily have been avoided, but instead ruin their experience, and often heavily deplete their bank accounts in the process. Don’t be that person. Stand up for yourself and push back so that you can insure you are hiring the right contractor.

Hiring the Right Contractor

Take Action

Now that you have not only reviewed the steps in the infographic, but also visualized yourself in the scenario actually implementing what you have learned, it’s time to take action in the world. Prepare your list of potential contractors. Ask them the important questions. Review and contact their references. Watch out for red flags. Most importantly, pay attention to your gut instincts and don’t settled for someone that doesn’t “feel” right.

Communication is KEY

Keep in mind that someone that doesn’t feel right probably isn’t right for you. It may not be because they are out to get you. It may simply be because they don’t align with your communication style. This is essential because communication is the key to success when it comes to working with others, no matter what the situation. Even if they do great work, if you can’t comfortably communicate with them, scratch them off of the list and move on. Remember, hiring the right contractor can and WILL make or break your budget, your patience, your happiness (at least in the short term, and perhaps for an extended time period), your time line, and your project’s success. Don’t sell yourself short.

8 Responses

  1. Hello Andrew. My family built a 30×50 straw bale shop on our property in MT In 2000. My mother and I raised the 10′ walls by ourselves. We had friends that came to help us wrap the walls with chicken wire and then we sewed the wire together on either side and we hand stuccoed the entire thing with cement stucco, which was the popular process at the time . We are now back in Oregon on the southern coast in the Coquille area and are considering purchasing property and putting in a straw bale home . Our problem is that neither one of us is physically able to do that heavy labor at this point in our lives . Do you know of any contractors in this area that have experience with Strawbale construction as a whole ? Meaning slab to stucco.

  2. Hi Marissa. Thanks for your continued interest in this amazing form of building. One thing straw bale construction lacks is contractors! I’m working on it by training as many folks as I can, but we are still not quite there yet. You might try contacting Jim Reiland at Many Hands Builders in Jacksonville, OR.

  3. are there any good straw builders in arizona? I am interested in starting a project but need to know if there is a reliable builder. the other question is, if you give the job to a builder, with me and son helping, would that be cost efficient still?

  4. Hi Maria. I am certain that there are quality bale builders in Arizona. I don’t have any names to share with you unfortunately. I suggest you contact the folks at this link to see if they can give you some local knowledge. Good luck!

  5. Hi Natasha. Sorry for the delayed response. As you can imagine, it’s been pretty crazy around here. I do not have any builders that I can recommend in Maine. I would recommend checking out the International Straw Bale Registry when it comes back on line (it’s temporarily down right now). They list bale homes by state and local area, so you can contact the owners of some bale homes in Maine to see who they would recommend. Good luck.

  6. Thank you for the great information! My wife and I are planning our straw bail home in the blue ridge mountains in Virginia. We are just struggling to find a contractor! Might have to do it ourselves haha.

  7. Hi Jeremy. If you can find a high quality GC that has no clue about straw bale, but is excited to learn, then you are good to go. I can teach him/her at a crew training on your project, or at a separate workshop. A good builder will understand the details pretty quickly.

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