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Contractors Gone Wild! Watch out for the bad ones

Sometimes the smallest renovations can lead to the biggest headaches. The surest way to keep a job on schedule and on budget is to hire a contractor with a good reputation. Everything from raw materials to warranties depends on the expertise and experience of the people doing the work. A great contractor is your surest defense against a renovation nightmare.Here is why it’s important to hire a reputable contractor.

A Big Difference Between 64th Place and 64th Street

Contractor errors so ridiculous that they border on comedy are so common that Home Inspection Podcasts dedicated an entire episode to contractor “war stories.” In one instance, a contractor went to a home inspection job only to find that the clients weren’t there yet. He inspected the exterior, took photos, and even went up on the roof. After letting himself into the detached garage to complete the exterior inspection, his office called him saying that the client called wondering where he was. He had gone to the wrong house with a similar sounding address.

Anyone can write down an address incorrectly, and a simple mistake shouldn’t necessarily preclude a contractor from getting the job. The message behind this anecdote is that communication is crucial throughout every step of any project. The simple act of articulating what you want, what you expect and how you feel can solve most problems, especially when the contractor reciprocates with clear, accurate communication before and during the job.

Cheap Materials: Good for the Contractor, Not for You

One of the most common tactics that unscrupulous contractors use is to buy the cheapest materials possible to boost their profit margin. Unfortunately, this is also one of the most difficult to detect (can you really tell the difference between level 2 and level 3 granite or spot lower quality insulation?). When a contractor gives an estimate for materials and then skimps on quality, the homeowner often doesn’t find out until well down the line when the material fails, if they ever find out at all.

The key is to do your homework. Unless you work in the industry, you’re probably not going to learn enough about raw materials to be able to spot subtle nuances, such as different grades of steel. But when you study the materials that your project will require, you can learn enough to have specifications written into your contract. Also, when a customer says that they want closed-cell polyurethane spray foam insulation instead of fiberglass, the contractor is much more likely to assume that he or she is dealing with someone who knows their stuff, and resist the urge to pull a fast one in the first place.

Licenses and Permits

A common contractor shortcut is to hire subcontractors or specialists who aren’t licensed. When a contractor isn’t licensed, they aren’t bonded or insured, either, and they don’t pay into any contractor recovery funds. This makes them cheaper – for the company or person who enlists them. For you, unlicensed, would-be contractors are almost always more costly in the long term.

Aside from the legal issues, unlicensed contractors don’t have the experience or brand commitment that true professionals have. They don’t have the connections and relationships with suppliers and other crucial vendors, and they have a remarkable knack for disappearing into the voicemail abyss when you try to contact them after something inevitably goes wrong. Insist on seeing proof of all required licenses.

It’s unfortunate, but homeowners like yourself have had terrible experiences during the home reno process. Here’s a glimpse of what one couple went through. They brought in some experts to help assess their home renovation situation:

Hiring a reputable contractor is the key to making sure your house doesn’t become a permanent construction site and a revolving door of new workers fixing problems for weeks and months on end. Hire a local contractor with ties to the community who works off of his or her reputation. Always get the details of the job, cost and time-frame in writing and make sure to research your contractor and check references.

Don’t let these horror stories stop you from starting your dream home renovations. Consult our extensive database of general contractors. Better yet, read up on customer reviews – homeowners like you have taken time to share their stories, which will help you make an educated decision.

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