3 Contractor-Hiring Mistakes [Text]
At JEB Design/Build, we like hearing about experiences our clients have had with other contractors. It’s valuable for us as professionals to understand what they liked and didn’t so we can be sure our firm is a good fit for them, and so we can continue to improve our services. Unfortunately, we often hear the same complaints over and over. Here are the most common issues so you can avoid running into them.
Clients often tell us they have already tried—and failed—to get in touch with three, four or even five other contractors before they dialed our number.
The truth is, many contractors simply don’t bother returning phone calls, making get-to-know-you appointments or following up on an initial conversation. Maybe they’re busy with another job now, or they’re not in the mood for work on the day you call, and they simply never get back to you.
Or maybe they do return your call, but not for two weeks or two months. They get back to you when it’s convenient for them.
Our advice: If a contractor doesn’t take the time to respond to your initial phone call, visit or email within a reasonable time frame, take that as a sign of things to come. If you hire someone like that, don’t be surprised if he doesn’t keep to his schedule, takes longer than he promised, skips days or weeks, prolongs the job and runs over budget.
That initial contact with a contractor is telling. If you want to work with someone who is reliable and prompt, hire someone who promptly and eagerly responded to your first call.
It’s annoying, but not surprising, when a contractor takes a day or two—or even a week—longer than he predicted to finish a job at your house. But when he takes a year too long: Well, that’s downright unbelievable.
It’s very common for remodelers, especially smaller crews or one-man-contractors to take on more work than they can do, especially if they work on their own. They need the money, so they accept their next job before they’re finished with their last one.
Our advice: If you really want a specific remodeler to do your project and you know he’s on his own, ask him up front if he is committed to finishing your job before he starts another one. Insist that he give you a written schedule as part of your contract, and make sure both you and the contractor sign it.
If he tries to add exceptions, or says he can’t be sure he won’t take on another job in the middle of yours, don’t hire him. And if he agrees but then stops showing up midway through, exercise your right to fire him and hire someone else.
Unless you’re willing to have your house torn up for a year.
This next one is as much the homeowner’s fault as the contractor’s, but that doesn’t make it any easier when it happens to you.
A young couple we know hired a group of guys to flatten out the vaulted ceiling in their den. That must be all they said because those guys did what they were asked: They flattened the ceiling. But in the process, they removed all the overhead lights and the air-conditioning vents. They didn’t finish the trim between the wall and the ceiling.
The room is unusable.
The couple wasn’t home during the day to supervise the work. After they saw their house, they realized they needed to be more clear about what they wanted the remodelers to do.
But they couldn’t reach them. And the husband had paid them up front.
Now, they either have to live with the shoddy work the group left behind, or pay again to have someone reputable do it over.
Our advice: Don’t turn contractors loose in your house. Make a plan, agree on a design, insist on a written contract, pay only a small deposit up front and, most of all, be perfectly clear about exactly what you want the contractor to do. Don’t let him make decisions about what to change. That’s your job.
Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA is president of JEB Design Build in North Louisiana. His firm won the coveted BBB Customer Commitment Award in 2015. You can reach him at 318-865-4914.
Want more information? To get your free ebook, “11 Remodeling Mistakes Cost You Thousands,” Call Mari at 318-865-4914 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.