Understanding the Value of a Great General Contractor

Randy and Steve from Veenstra & Sons Understanding the Value of A Great General contractor

Avoiding a remodeling horror story

Whenever I pass by a home under construction,  I think to myself “I wonder how is that job going”. Odd question right? Well I am sure you have heard stories of great remodels, (check out my testimonial page) and also of horror story remodels. What separates the two? In my opinion, it is the team you hire especially the General Contractor.

Right now the remodeling business is experiencing a boom. Just drive down any street in the neighborhood and you stand a good chance of finding a home under renovation.  If you have ever worked with Thyme & Place Design, you have experienced what a client recently expressed as “achieving kitchen nirvana”  My team and I are totally committed to providing our client with the best experience during their remodel. How do we create that experience? It all starts with my team.

Key qualities to look for in a General Contractor

As I say in Our Story “Together we work to bring the highest level of craftsmanship, quality and integrity to ensure your complete satisfaction with your remodel. We carefully schedule each project individually, so we are with you every step of the way. Starting from our first meeting to project completion we are there. ” Right now you are thinking “okay what does that mean?”  It is all about understanding the value of a great general contractor..

It’s not just about the price

Benjamin Franklin famously said “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”

I often use this quote when discussing the costs of construction with clients. When a client comes to me, they are looking for my designs but also want  me to oversee the construction of the project as well. While I do have the experience of running a job, I prefer to partner with a construction team that has the same mind set as I do regarding the total package of a luxury remodel.

That construction team is lead by my General Contractor Randy Veenstra of Veenstra & Sons. We are on the same page when it comes to the type of work we do and how we do it. Everyone on the project is fully invested in the final project outcome. They bring highly honed skills to their trade. I count on them to bring my vision to life. Those years of experience and skills come with a price.

Not all workmanship is the same.

Allow me to share a true story. I had been working with a client on several larger projects. When they wanted to complete a small basic bathroom remodel, they asked if I would design the space but work with a different contractor. This is something I try to avoid. I put the bar pretty high on the work that supports my designs. After several discussions, I relented. Plans were prepared, selections were made and I met with the contractor and the client to carefully review everything.

Once the job began, a different set of tradesmen appeared none of whom had been briefed on the project. I will spare you the tale of woe but I knew things would not go well.  Poetic license was taken on some design details. Tile had to be redone to correct poor installation.  Finally I had to explain how to frame a medicine cabinet opening. In the end, the bathroom did turn out very nice but I would have preferred to skip the aggravation. When the client wanted to move forward on their next project we agreed to use my team. 

It all starts with the foundation set by the general contractor

When clients review my portfolio they see beautiful work which is what they want in their homes. I always tell my clients, the quality of my work is all based on the foundation created by my general contractor. If walls are out of square and floors are out of level nothing is going to come together. We work on every project to make sure all the details are considered and everyone working on the project understands what they need to do. Plumbing specifications are documented to work with tile layouts. Electric and lighting designs are planned and reviewed.  My tiler whom I refer to as “maestro” is one of the best. Besides being our lead carpenter,  Steve  a.k.a “Stevie Wonderful” can do just about anything. 

All of these trades work together under the watchful eye of Randy. He is an amazing contractor as well as a collaborator on every project. This careful coordination of all these moving parts is like conducting an orchestra. Wrong notes do stand out. Miss steps are costly in time and revenue. Unfortunately you never really understand the value of a great contractor until you have had to work with a not so great one. I am very fortunate to have been able to collaborate with my general contractor for 18 years.

Here are my ‘tips from the trade” for what to look for in a Great General Contractor

  • Visit a job site they are working on. Our job sites are kept debris free and broom swept daily.  There is nothing worse than old lunch remnants left laying around inviting vermin.
  • Make sure they are insured and licensed. Accidents do happen you don’t want to be the one left responsible.
  • Have a clearly defined contract including scope of work, clear specifications, and payment schedules.
  • Have defined time lines and areas of responsibilities 
  • Get referrals and actually see the work they have done. 
  • Don’t look for the “cheapest” price. Remember Ben Franklin’s words.

The process of remodeling your home is fun said no one ever.  Having the right construction crew can make all the difference. Before you begin, have a plan in place and review your expectations with your contractor. The completed project, when done right outweighs all of the inconveniences.

Happy remodeling!



Sharon L Sherman ASID CID CKD  founder of Thyme & Place Design, Thymeless Home Decor and Thymeless Well Being is a business owner, designer and Reiki Master located in New Jersey. Her award-winning designs and editorial comments have been featured in Kitchen & Bath Design News, Woman’s Day, Country Decorating, Design NJ, New Jersey Home Magazine, 201 Magazine, The Best of Bergen, Savvy Living, The Vue, The Record, The Star Ledger, Bergen Magazine and Aspire as well as several books.

Her Blog “Tips for the Trade” has appeared in digital form on Sivanaspirit.com, DesignNJ.com and KBBonline.com, She has also appeared on HGTV’s My Big Amazing Renovation and episodes of House Smarts with Lou Manfredini.  

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Sharon sherman

My award-winning designs haven been featured in multiple magazines, industry publications and on television. That’s nice affirmation, to be sure.

But perhaps the greatest accolade I’ve received is the repeat engagements with so many clients, project after project, year after year.

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