This post comes on the heels of a recent contractor nightmare a friend of mine has been dealing with. It seems like everyone I talked to has some crazy contractor story. When we explain a bad situation, people say, "yes, that sounds like a contractor." But why does it have to be that way? Why do contractors all have a stigma of being unreliable and over budget? They can't all be bad, can they?
Whether a contractor has just disappeared on the job, never finished a project, or come in way over budget and keeps asking for money, there are some things we can do ahead of time to prevent this kind of contractor disasters.
There are so much remodeling and construction going on that it's imperative to do your homework, research, and find a contractor that will not only finish the job but do it in a timely manner and be consistently communicative.
With that in mind, here are eight things to look for when considering a contractor.
#1. Check credentials and skills.
Just because a contractor says they are licensed, bonded, and insured, doesn't mean they are. This literally happened this last week with this friend of mine. He assured them that he was licensed and bonded, but after so many nightmarish problems, we highly doubt it at this point. Do your own research and check with the National Association of State contractors licensing agency, which should have them registered and licensed. But, just because they are registered, may not mean they know how to do the job either.
#2. Ask about their history and focus.
What kind of projects to they really like to work on? My friend's contractor said that he constantly complained that he hated what he did and was only doing it for a short time. I don't know if I really want someone that hates their job in my house, doing work. I don't know if the work will be of the highest quality if there's really no love behind it.
#3. Ask about communication.
Again, anyone can say what they think they are going to do, but you have to back that up with proof. How do they stay in touch with their clients? Is there clear communication, texting, phone calls, or expectations met to keep the client happy? Ask for references and then research those references to find out how well the contractor finished the job and how they were in communication.
#4. Check out completed jobs.
Don't just call references, actually visit the job site. You might be surprised that other homeowners will allow you to stop by and see their contractors workmanship.
#5. Work ethic is imperative.
Yes, the job itself is important and the final product imperative, but their work ethic and attitude are huge. My friend was saying that the contractor complained that he didn't get breakfast in the morning, that he was starving by 5 PM, that he couldn't finish the job because he was so tired. If your contractor complains this much about situations out of your control, it's a work ethic issue, not a skill set. They might be able to do the job, but if their attitude is poor, it reflects in the work.
#6. Get everything in writing.
My friend's contractor stated it would be a 10-day job, but what they didn't clarify is that it would be 10 days over the course of three months. It sounds a little ridiculous, but miscommunication can lead to frustration and aggravation. Get everything in writing including the quote, how long the project will take, and what happens for any unforeseen circumstances.
#7. Get several bids.
This is a given, but it's important to get at least 2 to 3 bids so that you have an idea of cost. If one bid is much less expensive than the others, there could be a good reason why.
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#8. Never pay in full before the job is completed.
If you've paid the contractor everything, there may not be an incentive to finish the job. It's typical for homeowners to withhold 10% of the total cost until the contractor satisfies every point on the list. Make sure this is in writing as well. Often homeowners will pay half down to start, and the remainder when completed.
I'm sure if my friend had gone through this checklist ahead of time they may have a better outcome, but you never know. Referrals from friends may seem legitimate, but you still have to do your own due diligence to find the right person for the job.