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Only a “certified” James Hardie contractor can install my siding. True or False?

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Prior to my life as a contractor, I worked for James Hardie Building Products as the regional account manager for Kansas City.  On a regular basis, I would get asked for a list of the certified contractors in the area.

Like most building product manufacturers, James Hardie did not have a certification program for their contractors.  There are a number of different reasons but the main being that they didn’t want to be liable for the installation quality by a 3rd party.  Elite Preferred and Preferred James Hardie contractors are not certified by James Hardie.  This designation is comparable to an airline or hotels loyalty and rewards program.  To achieve these levels the only requirement is that you buy a certain dollar amount of James Hardie products each year.  There is no requirement to actually install their products correctly or provide a great customer experience.

So, how do you decide which contractor is qualified to install James Hardie siding on your home?

Unfortunately, there is no short answer.  Anyone can walk into a Home Depot or Lowes and purchase James Hardie siding and start installing siding.

Shawn and Stephen, co-owners of Canes, have a combined 16 years working directly for James Hardie.  We’ve seen the good and the bad from the contractors in Kansas City.  Because of that, we have put together this list of questions that you need to be asking ANY contractor you choose to work on or in your home.

What is their experience working with the products you are having installed and do they stand behind their work?

You get better and more efficient at installing building materials the more experience you have doing it.  You don’t ever want to have a contractor “practicing” on your house. If you do an online search for the top siding contractors in Kansas City or Overland Park, you will find hundreds of companies saying they are Hardie experts.  But how many James Hardie siding jobs do they actually install every year?  2 jobs, 10 jobs, 30 jobs?  Do they use the same installers for every job?  How much training have their installers had from James Hardie?

At Canes, we have used the same installers for over 7 years.  We have twice-yearly installation training with the James Hardie rep to make sure we stay on top of the latest installation guidelines.  We install enough James Hardie Siding every year to cover 500 houses!!  When you install that much siding you get really good at it and you buy a lot of products at bulk pricing!  Our shop in Olathe looks like a James Hardie warehouse!

You also want to ask how long the contractors' workmanship warranty is and what does it cover.  Almost all product failures come from being improperly installed and most issues will arise within 5-10 years.

That is the main reason that we offer a 15-year workmanship warranty.  If we installed your products wrong we will fix it, no questions asked.

Is the contractor licensed and do they have workers' compensation insurance?

In most parts of the Kansas City metro, a building permit is NOT required to replace your siding. But there are several cities that you do need to have a permit.  To pull a permit you need to have a Johnson County Contractors Class C or better contractors license.  To see if your contractor has a valid license you can verify on the Johnson County website.  Here is the link: https://cls.jocogov.org/clsCourseReg/searchcontractor.aspx

Having a contractor license doesn’t automatically make you a high-quality siding installer but it does tell a story about how the contractor views their company and how invested they are in their craft.  Do you really want to take the chance that your project will grind to a halt because your contractor couldn’t pull a permit?  If the contractor is willing to cut that corner what else are they cutting corners on?

You also want to verify that the company you are hiring carries its own workers' compensation insurance.  Some companies rely on their subcontractors to carry the workers' comp insurance.  If someone is hurt on your property and they don’t have a valid or up-to-date insurance policy it will be a horrible experience for you both emotionally and financially.

What will the communication be like before, during, and after the project?

One of the most important factors in any home improvement project is communication.  Most homeowners' frustration with their project comes down to a lack of communication.  If your contractor is ghosting you BEFORE you even sign a contract and give them any money, what are they going to be like after you give them a deposit check?  That is your sign to trust your gut instinct and run!

If the contractor is an owner / operator / one man show it might be challenging to get a hold of them to communicate during the project because they are wearing so many hats.  They are meeting with new customers, coordinating sold projects, paying invoices, picking up material from suppliers, servicing past projects and the list goes on and on.

This is a big one and one of the main reasons I cofounded Canes Exterior Transformations vs starting a company by myself.  To be part of a team where each person has their strengths and key areas of expertise allows us to communicate at a high level with our customers and provide customer service at a high level that we expect.  Stephen and Scott handle the sales and marketing, Shawn, Colby, and Derek are the product experts and Chance handles all of the financials so that we run a healthy profitable business that is built to serve our customers and community for many years to come.

What processes and procedures does the company have in place to ensure a high-quality installation?

I can tell you from experience from working with James Hardie that there are some very talented, high-quality subcontractors installing Hardie siding in Kansas City.   That being said, there still needs to be an oversight from the contractor you hire on how your project is being installed.  They are the ones you are paying and they are the one you will be calling when there is an issue.  The subcontractor is motivated to finish your project quickly not necessarily perfectly.  At Canes, we use a 72 point installation audit checklist that was developed for James Hardie technical fields reps to use when inspecting job quality.  That's one of the many things that we have carried over from our 16 years of experience working for James Hardie.  We use this checklist every time we are on-site at a project and all of these forms are documented and included in our homeowner warranty packets at the end of the project.

When in doubt…trust your gut! 

As humans, we have very good internal systems designed to alert us when there is danger.  If you are getting bad vibes from the contractor.  Trust yourself and find someone else.  There are many high-quality contractors in the Kansas City area and your project is too big of an investment to use someone that you don’t get a good feeling about.  Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us, we would love to quote your siding project!

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