Everyone has heard them. Contractor horror stories. From the ones who don’t show up to the ones that never leave, bad contractor stories become as much a part of a home’s lore as the family traditions that take place there. But to be fair, as in any profession, there are good contractors and not-so-great ones.
I happen to work with some of the best in the Michigan, so I thought I’d let them share their perspective in order to give you, the homeowner, a better understanding of their side of the business. At the end of the day, knowing what their pet peeves are may make for a better partnership for both of you.
So, in no particular order, here are some of the common issues I hear about from contractors.
That’s right, the same thing that annoys you the most about contractors also bothers them. When a contractor shows up on time for an appointment and the homeowner isn’t anywhere to be found, how long should they wait? If you’re one of their earlier appointments, it pushes the rest of their day off schedule.
Solution: Both contractor and homeowner should have valid contact information for each other. If either party is going to be late, a simple call solves the problem. As a homeowner, you need to understand that if you are unreasonably late, the contractor may need to re-schedule for a different day. Giving out cell phone numbers and using text messaging is now an accepted form of communication.
The term “one-legger” is one that many contractors use for a meeting that requires more than one person to make a decision, but all parties are not present. Imagine making an appointment with a roofer to come to your house in the evening to inspect your roof, present their solution and prepare a contract.
They spend a great deal of time preparing and potentially driving to your home. They may be missing dinner or their kid’s baseball game; but this is part of their job. After all of their work, you tell them that you have to wait until you go over everything with your spouse (or friend, or relative).
Solution: The contractor should ask you before the appointment exactly who is required to make the decision. Out of respect to the contractor, you should make every effort to have all decision-makers present.
If for some reason one of you cannot be at the appointment, call the contractor to see if they want to re-schedule. If you are just gathering information, then you should let the contractor know ahead of time. It is not uncommon for a contractor to postpone a meeting until you are more certain that you want to purchase a remodeling project. Today, quality contractors have very busy schedules and no shortage of work.
Depending on the type of project and city in which the work is being performed, an honest and professional contractor will always suggest to pull a permit. If they are licensed, they should be very capable of handling these themselves. Many homeowners try to convince the contractor not to get a permit; they are afraid their taxes will go up, or other projects done in the past may be exposed.
First of all, it is generally illegal in most municipalities to perform necessary work without pulling a permit. If it isn’t done, guess who is responsible? That’s right – you. Not the contractor.
So why would a contractor care? Without pulling a required permit, the homeowner may not be required to pay the contractor. If they do the work and for whatever reason you don’t want to pay them, they are out of luck if they didn’t pull the required permit.
Solution: As the homeowner, make sure to ask the contractor if a permit is required. An honest contractor will tell you the correct answer, or check with your municipality. If they don’t know, check with your city.
Do not try to convince the contractor to avoid the permit. It will only hurt you in the long run.
There is generally a reason that you’ve hired a contractor. If you could do the work yourself, you probably would have done so in the first place.
With all of the home improvement shows on TV, everyone is an expert. But consider: do you think you’re a better painter the 1st time you tried it or the 50th? Experienced contractors have usually run into every possible problem in a home, from sloping floors to pipes with nails through them.
Solution: Tell the contractor what you expect and let them do their job. If you’ve done your homework in selecting a contractor, trust them to do the job correctly.
Feel free to ask questions along the way, but remember, the look and functionality of the finished product is what you are after. If you are uncomfortable with what a contractor is doing, ask them to explain why they are taking a certain approach. Would you look over a surgeon’s shoulder and criticize their technique because you’ve seen Gray’s Anatomy?
It really is true: contractors are people too. They are working hard to make a living and deserve your respect, just as you want them to respect your home and money.
Communication is key! Get everything in writing, especially everything that is not included in your project!