When Good People Hire Bad Contractors



Does anyone remember the old commercial on TV where the contractor drives up to a house and switches his car sign to say “Today We Do Windows”?  Because that’s what the customer was buying…not because he was an expert in windows.  I don’t remember all the details, but the message has stayed with me for years…work with reputable people!

via Goodfellas construction

If one balcony is good…two are better?  Not always.  Missing something? Look Again.  An extreme example which is going to cost the contractor and developer some sleepless nights.

via the garden web

Measure twice, cut once….gone bad!  This example happens more often than not and is not limited to tile.

via dog shaming

No explanation needed!  The best intentions get sidetracked by life.

“My wife and I are nearing the end of a bad experience adding onto and remodeling our kitchen.  The contractor we hired is now over a month late finishing the job, has done generally poor quality work, rarely supervises his own crew or subcontractors, and has just generally made this an experience we would never want to repeat.” Kitchen Dad 11/2002

With the utmost sincerity, designers and contractors alike hate to hear comments like this, especially those of us who cherish our clients and make their projects our priorities.  No matter the budget of a project, spending money for inferior work is costly and a painful memory.  More than anything, the excitement and anticipation of your finished project has been dashed.  It’s a shame and we are truly sorry.  We’d like to share info to consider the next time you embark on a project.

The philosophy in our firm is that of a triangle. At any given time our Client is the most important team member.  The top of the triangle.  The ultimate “boss”!  The one we strive to please…always.  However, day to day, detail to detail, it is up to us, the Designer and the Contractor (or subcontractors), to discuss, plan and implement the project so that all the clients goals are met.  It is essential for us to work together seamlessly.  The end result are the “ah ha” moments you will enjoy in your home for a long time.






Today, let’s talk with a firm who shares many of the same philosophies as we do and will make sure you have projects like these!

Acadian Builders- Naples , Fl

Ken Smith is a Principal of Acadian Builders, a True Custom Home Builder & Luxury Remodeling Firm in Naples, Florida.  Founded in 2002 by Ray Allain, State Certified General Contractor, Acadian specializes in providing their clients with an artisan level of finish.  Acadian Builders’ projects are best known for high quality wood doors, cabinetry & millwork produced in their very own private mill shop.  Uniquely, Acadian Builders employ their own staff of furniture-grade finish carpenters, who also oversee their construction and remodeling projects.  Whether the style is transitional, chic, or ultra modern, Acadian will deliver an aesthetically superior finish.    

An Acadian Project

Laurel – Good designers know that choosing the right builder or remodeler for a project means more than just picking ‘a contractor’.  Tell us what a client should be looking for.

Ken – Sure, first and foremost, it’s a relationship.  Whether the client is building a new home or remodeling their current one, it’s important that they choose somebody whose personality and communication style is a compliment to their own. Building and remodeling is a very personal experience, so they should choose somebody that they enjoy speaking to, look forward to seeing, and that they can envision trusting.  A good test is that if you can’t imagine that you’d ever become friends with this person, then it’s not a fit.

Laurel – We also know, not all general contractors are created equal.  Will you share a few particular “red flags” to watch for?  What sort of criteria should a client use?

Ken – Of course.  The decisions that a client will make during the early development are so important to being able to expect a quality result at the end.  The first and most basic requirement is that a client only consider licensed General Contractors or licensed Building Contractors.  Great subcontractors simply won’t work for unlicensed folks, and so this decision alone will relegate the client to getting second or third tier subcontractors.  Great workmanship only comes with great tradespeople, and they only work for legitimate contractors.  However, licensing is only a start, there is more criteria to consider after that.


The Acadian Talent

Laurel – Other than proper licensing, what else does a client need to consider?

Ken – References and experience.  It’s important to call at least three references. Ideally, a past client of from three to five years ago, another that is a current client, and lastly, a reference from a project similar to this one.  Whether it’s a kitchen remodel, an addition to your home, or a custom home, ask for one of the references to be from a project similar to yours.

Laurel – Licensing, personality fit, communication skills, references and similar experience.  What about cost?

Ken – Money always matters of course, but cost issues are resolved much easier when you have the right person onboard to begin with.  When you’ve already chosen the right contractor, then it’s easy to discuss budgets, subcontractor’s costs, and all other things that are relevant to a successful project.

Laurel – Is using an interior designer on a project always necessary?  Be honest!

Ken – Yes. For a room to be great, thoughtful interior design is essential.  It is the single biggest differentiator between amazing spaces and average rooms.  It’s not the products used or even the budget spent that makes a room special, it’s the touch of a professional interior designer!

Amber Frederikson
An Acadian Project photos by Amber Frederiksen
Amber Frederikson
An Acadian Project photos by Amber Frederiksen

Laurel – What are your thoughts as to whether or not interior designers should become familiar with all aspects of a general contractor’s job.

Ken – I believe that an interior designer’s time and energy is better spent exploring new products, repurposing the old, and in finding inspiration in the world around them.  There are so many different techniques and products being used all over the world, and it is the interior designer that can introduce these new and exciting things to us.

Laurel – What are the benefits to clients when interior designers include the entire team in project discussions early on.  At what stage should this happen?

Ken – In my experience, the sooner the team is assembled to begin working together, the better.  We each have different experiences and resources that are a benefit to the client.  The contractor can provide real-time budget analysis and cost feedback, which often allows for more daring designs to be explored.  Most valuable is the camaraderie that develops between the client, the interior designer and the contractor.  This is the relationship that will accompany the entire project.

Laurel – In what ways is the contractor responsible to reinforce the design intent as much, and in as many ways, as possible?  How is this done?

Ken – The contractor should be the brush, not the artist.  Too often, a contractor will undermine a designer’s intent by recommending alternatives to the client directly without first consulting with the designer.  My value to the client is greatest when I honor the design, and seek the solutions necessary to execute it rather than alternatives that dilute it.

4Cowherd Great-Room
An Acadian Project photos by Amber Frederiksen
8Cowherd-Kitchen toward East
An Acadian Project photos by Amber Frederiksen

Laurel – What is the best way to keep communication lines open of all the intricate details throughout the project without burdening the client?

Ken –  A written finish schedule and a good set of drawings is vitally important to have a successful project.  There really is no substitute for a good set of plans. But communication doesn’t end there.  Every project has things that either need to be modified, or opportunities where things can be changed for the better, and this is where working together as a team is essential.  Each client will set the mode for how they would like to be involved; from completely hands on to call me when its done!

An Acadian Project – Made in America Strong!

We are ready to be the team you can depend on!

For More Info On Acadian Builders – Click Here

Note:  The example photos of “bad” projects were featured on the sites we credited with the same theme of why it is important to hire the right contactor.  These ARE NOT photos of their projects.

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