If you’re wanting a project completed with less stress and more certainty, these are good rules to follow. Never is a strong word and some might consider this list too broad, but after hiring quite a few contractors, I’d bet my best boots, these are solid warnings. Here’s my personal list:
Never Hire a Contractor Who is Late to the First Meeting, Maybe Even the Second. Time and again (no pun intended) this has been an excellent indicator of how the contractor will run a project. A contractor showing up late to a first meeting is the equivalent to a potential employee showing up late to a job interview. Unacceptable. Of course, there could be exceptions. Maybe they had a wreck or medical emergency. But, they should call while on the road to let you know. And, they should be highly apologetic. Then, if you deem the first time legitimate and it happens again the second meeting, a for sure bye-bye.
Never Hire a Contractor Who Doesn’t Give You A Bid This sounds strange but one of the most frustrating things about trying to hire a contractor is taking the time to have them into your home and then never receiving a bid. It happens more often than not. The point here is don’t track down a contractor to get your bid, then hire that contractor. If he/she doesn’t send it or doesn’t send it in a timely manner, don’t hire them. They can’t mange their business, how are they going to manage your project?
Never Hire a Contractor Who Doesn’t Give You an Itemized Bid. There are many highly experienced and really good contractors who don’t itemize their work, mostly because that’s just not their thing. Most are not managers. They’ll give you a broad number or range, “It should be between $10-$20,000,” or “I can do it for $15,000.” The problem is that this causes uncertainty on your part which makes for a more stressful experience. What exactly am I paying for? Could I be getting it for less? Is the price suddenly going to go up? One of my favorite, most talented contractors does this and I don’t hire him because it just feels like walking a tight-rope to me.
Never Hire a Contractor Who Says He/She Can Start Next Week This one rule can be overlooked if you are lonely and looking for companionship because what this really means is that the contractor and his guys are going to be moving in with you for a while. Not all at once. And, not full time. Just a few hours a day. Just enough time to make it look like they’re working so that you don’t question the money you gave the contractor on day one.
This is a very, very, very common contractor trick (Yes. The extra “verys” were very necessary). They want to book as many jobs as possible, collecting as many deposits as possible. Then, when “next week” starts, they send one guy, (that I call a floater) at the beginning of a project who will float around acting like he’s being productive.
In my own home, I had a contractor send one of these floaters. The guy showed up for three days to put puddy on my walls – patching nail holes, whatever – three days!! We had a lot of other activity going on so it was easy for him to float. But, one day I was doing rounds and found him asleep on the floor of my master closet. Startled, he admitted he had no more holes to fill. No $*%&! This was my first experience with this technique, but not my last. It’s an easy trick to fall for. Or, so I’ve told myself.
Very few contractors have the man power or enough tools to start jobs “next week.” Contractors worth their salt, will generally be booked, unless something happens to fall through, which they should be able to clearly articulate in a manner that is trustworthy.
Never Hire a Contractor Who Gives Broad, Weird Times Again, this one is personal preference. If you’re looking for a temporary roommate, this might be OK for you. But, generally if a contractor says, “My crew will start between 9-12am each morning,” they’re juggling jobs. 9-12 often means early afternoon or not at all. What that means for you is that the project will take longer. The best contractors I’ve worked with give exact times and they are not late. Their crews work full days so that they can be out of your house and on to the next. They know how to manage time and, more importantly, respect yours. Your first warning here will be the initial meeting. If they say they can meet between 5-6pm, chances are they have a time management problem. I won’t even consider a contractor who gives a broad time initially.
Never Hire a Contractor Who Warns of “Could Be” Problems He’s not really warning you of possible problems as much as he is building a pile of mental pillows that makes the fall less painful when he shakes you down to the ground mid-project for more money. Ching. Ching. Every. Single. Time. The real sneaky ones will offer a gimme. “Well, the wood wasn’t rotted out, but all the pipes need to be replaced.” Ching. Ching. The more I refine our vendor list and work with highly experienced tradesmen/women, the more I realize that they know exactly what they are dealing with almost every time. And, they account for such without stressing the client.
What this “sky is falling’ contractor is doing is that he is preparing you for a low bid to get the job. Then, he will have these “problems” mid-job to get the money he should have asked for in the beginning.
I hope this helps. Best of luck hiring the best contractor for your job!