Remodeler Red Flags
Making the choice to remodel your home is already a big decision. Worrying about whether you can trust your contractor to deliver what they’ve promised adds unnecessary stress that you simply don’t need.
Here are some of the most common red flags to look out for when hiring a contractor.
If you have already tried—and failed—to get in touch with a contractor several times without response, move on to the next one.
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 at the moment, 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 weeks or months. They get back to you when it’s convenient for them.
Your contractor should never be too busy to talk to someone whose remodeling project could be their next job. If you’re too busy to talk to potential clients, you’re too busy to stay in business.
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 really 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, that’s downright unbelievable.
This is especially common for the “one-man army” contractor – usually talented individuals who work on their own without a crew to help speed up the project. These solo acts can do absolutely beautiful work, but after a while they’ll usually stop showing up as often.
They will often accept another job—one that possibly pays more and demands their presence at certain times of the day, for weeks at a time. They might send a friend over, but it won’t be who you hired.
It’s very common for remodelers 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.
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.
If you don’t have a written contract or a project manager, and you’re not home during the day to supervise the work, you may come home to some unexpected and unpleasant surprises. Your contractor and their crew can make changes you never asked for, resulting not only in a mess, but also additional expense to fix the damage. You’ll either have to live with the shoddy work the group left behind, or pay again to have someone reputable do it over. And if you’ve paid for the job up front, you can forget about seeing that money again.
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, has been president of JEB Design/Build in Shreveport since 1983.
You can contact JEB Design/Build at 318-865-4914 or by visiting www.jebdesignbuild.com.
Want more information? To get your free report, “11 Remodeling Mistakes Cost You Thousands,” Call Mari at 318-865-4914 or email email@example.com.