Starting any large-scale construction project, or retrofitting or upgrading an existing facility, is a major investment and undertaking with equally highly risks. There are countless complexities to negotiate, costs to account for, plus regulations and safety measures to consider. 

One of the keys to navigating these challenges and ensuring a successful build is selecting a capable and knowledgeable mechanical contractor. With a good contractor, you can be confident that your build will be high-quality, with systems that stand the test of time, staying on time and budget all the way. 

We’ve created this article to highlight some of the points to consider when choosing a contractor, in an effort to show how here at Total Mechanical Incorporated we offer the highest-value mechanical contracting in the Pacific Northwest.


What to look out for:

As commercial construction has grown more complicated, contractors often end up bidding on incomplete plans. This often leads to highly optimistic quotes, which end up as surprise costs and wasted time. Most change orders originate at the initial planning phase, when assumptions are made based on incomplete plans and resulting work and expenses aren’t budgeted for beforehand. This makes careful planning and comprehensive design a must for successful builds. 

Our approach:

We are the single source for project planning. When asked about what makes a Total build different from other contractors, TMI Project Manager Dan Binder highlights planning as “It’s the value we add to the process and the project.” 

By the time we bid a project, we have already completed the design, engineering creative solutions to potential problems along the way and budgeted out each expense. Phasing and scheduling are organized ahead of time, code and functional compliance are reviewed, and procurement plans are made for specialty equipment. It’s time consuming, and a loss if we lose out on a bid, but we actually enjoy the process because it’s where our expertise really shines and it’s how we ensure the best build possible. We call this process Pre-Construction Intelligence, and it’s what sets a Total bid apart from the competition. We don’t bid partial projects, we bring comprehensive plans to the table and so our bids are accurate and complete. 


What to look out for:

As we outlined above, a major pitfall in the mechanical contractor bidding process is incomplete plans. Often, this can lead mechanical contractors to severely underbid, providing an attractive offer that doesn’t accurately represent the work that needs to be done. This regularly leads to constant change orders on site, meaning costly system redesigns and extended timelines. While the initial quote might be low, overly optimistic contractors can end up costing much more than stated budget. 

Another watchout is if a contractor is unaccustomed to tackling a challenging build. Inexperience can lead to delays, mistakes, clashes with other subcontractors and at worst, a Mechanical Contractor bowing out of a project, which can shut a project down as a new contractor is secured and causes headaches in both the timeline and balance sheet.

Our approach:

Total Mechanical has a reputation as a high-quality, high-cost company, but while Project Manager John Downing agrees with the first part, he vehemently rejects the second. “We’re not expensive, we’re the right number.” He explains. “We spend the time to figure out how to put the systems together, so they work.”

Total Mechanical’s pre-construction intelligence ensures maximum-accuracy bids that other mechanical contractors can’t match. When we bid higher, it’s because we know our number is correct, actually the most efficient in the long run. Ensuring a pipe is the right spot before you walk onto the build site can save thousands of dollars and weeks of labor. Paying for airtight engineering and quality construction is really the economical choice.

We also pride ourselves on a track-record of tackling the most challenging builds by planning and solving for problems before they happen. In fact, one of the best compliments we ever received was from a client who told us when they have a particularly difficult job they say, “This is a Total job.”

Breadth of Experience

What to look out for:

Many mechanical contractors are experts in one particular kind of build. This can be useful for highly specialized projects, but it can also indicate a lack of innovation and limited capacity for unique problem-solving. With the building industry constantly changing, and new standards such as LEED becoming the norm, the best contractor to hire will be the one with the greatest range of experience.

Our approach:

We are motivated to take on any challenge, constantly applying our knowledge to new situations. Total builds have included medical healthcare facilities, educational campuses and stadiums, commercial buildings, military bases, central mechanical plants, light industrial facilities and more. Every project increases our knowledge and capability. For example, providing ventilation for a blast-proof ammunition storage makes us more effective at routing medical gas in a research hospital. Our unparalleled planning and attention to detail keeps Total Mechanical cutting edge in every field, and allows us to excel on any project.

Design Build vs. Design Assist

What to look out for:

If you are hiring a Mechanical Contractor to lead a job, you need one with Design Build experience. If they are expected to work with a Lead Contractor they need to be comfortable with Design Assist. Having clear expectations when hiring a mechanical contactor is vital for a successful build.  

Our approach:

TMI is equally comfortable leading a project or working as a subcontractor. On a design assist build, we collaborate effortlessly with engineers and other subcontractors to make the most efficient project possible. Our planning and scheduling ability makes Total Mechanical a major asset during the initial phases, and our experienced workers are accustomed to negotiating between multiple contractors on challengings worksites. So much so we’ve been called a “true Trade Partner” by lead contractors who hire us regularly. 

On Design Build projects, our deep infrastructure outperforms all competitors. From dedicated engineers to high-level planning and review to in-house production capabilities, Total Mechanical is a contracting powerhouse. We take pride in our ability to perform with confidence on every aspect of a build, and implement our engineering staff to maximum value. “We like to shine.” quips TMI contractor John Downing. “On jobs where it’s already designed, there’s nothing left to do.”

Ability to Collaborate

What to look out for:

Most mechanical contracting firms are passionate about their work, which is absolutely a desirable trait. Unfortunately, when subcontracting, this can lead to a mentality of ‘my part of the job is the most important part.’ When a contractor doesn’t play well with others, it can lead to confusion and overlap on site, slowing the build and adding avoidable cost. A good contractor will be able to communicate clearly and cooperate effectively, becoming more than its part in the sum.

Our approach:

Our value stems not only from our ability to design and execute builds, but from our ability to enhance others with our resources and knowledge. When it comes to successful partnerships, “it’s the things you don’t see,” says Kirk, a Union plumber and pipefitter with the company. Kirk has been a licensed plumber for decades, but went back to receive a pipe-fitting license to better negotiate between union workers. Other aspects that make Total a uniquely effective partner are baked directly into our roster of services. Total Mechanical’s planning and scheduling ability provides an excellent resource on builds of any size, and our in-house fabrication shop means time and money saved on outsourcing production. It is our commitment to going the extra mile that makes our company uniquely valuable.

Quality Craftsmanship

What to look out for:

Most work looks good the day it’s done, but the real test is how it holds up over time. The true quality of the engineering isn’t going to be evident until months or even years down the line when systems need maintenance and replacement. Making the up-front investment in a contractor with a reputation for lasting quality will return dividends in saved cost years after the build is complete.

Our approach:

We have always centered our company around creating things that last, both in the systems we build and the partnerships we foster. Dan Binder says it best: “We’re not trying to make an extra $10,000 on that one project, we’re trying to make sure we have a long-term relationship with that customer.”  This ethos of longevity extends beyond a single project with Total Mechanical’s dedicated service department. Our team ensures that that Total jobs earn their name through consistency and quality, and that every system is built to last.

Make Total Mechanical Your Partner

If you’re looking for a mechanical contractor in the Pacific Northwest, the choice is easy. Total Mechanical Inc. has decades of experience working on  diverse builds from Seattle to Salem, and our longstanding relationships with our clients speak for themselves. We believe in pairing detailed engineering with committed partnership, and providing an unparalleled value. Make your next project a Total Project.