Choosing the Right Contractor

We’re awash in horror stories about contractors. Almost every time I meet potential clients, I feel penetrating eyes search for how I’m going to take their money and ruin their homes. Will they need to call “Holmes on Homes” when the project’s done?

Of course there are those, as in any field, who are dishonest and do sloppy work. What can I tell you — they’re out there.

But I work with Jon because we are impassioned with the craft. We are both possessed of the potential and intelligence (I think) to pursue any number of different fields, yet we genuinely love building and remodeling and seeing projects through from vision to fruition.

So I try to learn from and avoid the mistakes that can leave people so exasperated.

“It’s the details,” people usually tell me. “The contractor didn’t finish it correctly. And when I called him afterwards to come back, he never even returned my call.”

Amazing, I think. Someone does all that work and then ruins a relationship because he doesn’t see it through all the way. At Cumming Construction, we’re blessed to get almost all of our business from referrals and repeat clients. Why would someone burn those bridges — and so late in the process?

The simple answer is, despite how able and conscientious a contractor is, he may not be the best businessperson. Let me explain.

On every remodeling project, the homeowner will get three bids, sometimes more. If I’m a contractor who’s hungry and desperate enough (as many are), sure I’ll bid a job at the lowest workable figure to get that contract and assure steady income for several weeks.

But later, when we’ve gotten 80% of the pay for the job and still have 30% of the work to do, we’ve got big problems. While our work to this point has been high quality, the truth is the finish work is the most critical phase of the project to the homeowner.

Is the grout consistent, are there drips marks on the paint, are the nail holes in the trim filled, is the towel bar installed and level? How does it look? These items, left unaddressed, will ruin a remodeling project.

But when we bid the job at such a low fee, we ignored all the unseen issues that inevitably arise in any job (leaky shut-off valves, sub-standard floor support, mold, shoddy existing wiring, late-stage design changes — the possibilities are infinite). But now that we’ve paid to tackle those issues and are entering the finish phase, we’ve run out of time and money.

The only solution for the contractor is to sign the next contract, get a new deposit check, and begin the process somewhere else.

The result: unfinished work, unreturned phone calls, unhappy clients.

Check back next week to find out how, as a homeowner, you can help prevent being the next remodeling victim.

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