How Homeowners Can Get Screwed By Contractors (And How To Avoid It)
Before we get started, I'd like to say:
Not all contractors are shady.
Not all contractors will take your money, do the least work possible, and ask to get paid.
Not all contractors wear the reputation the profession has earned over the years.
However, there are many out there who do live up to the reputation.
Unfortunately, some even exceed it.
To all you great contractors out there who:
Care about your work.
Care about your clients.
And respect the homes you service.
To all of you who live up to the reputation, be warned.
This article is meant to expose you, and protect homeowners, rehabbers, or any other client you may typically work with.
Now, let's take a look at all the ways contractors have royally screwed me in the past, and what you can do to avoid being next.
A Contractor Charged Me For Granite, But Purchased Press Board Countertops
I paid my contractor to purchase and install granite countertops.
We were feeling extra fancy and wanted to go above and beyond for a particular home remodel.
Instead, the contractor purchased press board countertops, which are far less expensive than granite.
To rub salt into the wound, the contractor took over six months to have the countertops delivered to the job site.
He made up stories (Looking back, I now believe the stories to be made up) that the truck delivering our countertops was in an accident.
He told us the accident had caused our countertops to shatter, and they needed to be recut and re-shipped.
Months later, still no granite countertops. Instead, we got press board.
Then, to rub lemon juice into the salt on the wound, he didn't even install the countertops. Talk about a mess!
How to Fix: Never give your contractor money to pay for materials. Ever. You can either:
Pay for the materials yourself, and let the contractor pick them up at the store, or have the store deliver them to the job site.
Define very clearly in your contract what materials are to be installed. Then, you have the contractor pay for the materials upfront, then include them on an invoice.
My Contractors Failed to Show up on The Job Site
Contractors failing to show up on the job site is very common. It's so common that even the primary contractors I've worked with complain that their subcontractors don't show up and have to fire them.
The two reasons I've had contractors fail to show up to work on my project are as follows:
First, and probably the most common: Contractors will jump from job site to job site to try and make the most money possible.
They'll rip out the carpet at one house.
Move to the next house to install hardwood floors.
Then swing by another house to put up some tile.
Contractors, of course, can take on as much or as little work as they want. But when their time management skills are weak, and it leads to frequent, lengthy delays, that's not good.
The second reason was likely an isolated incident. One of my contractors got involved in a new line of business while he was about 75% done with my project.
Instead of communicating with me that he'd no longer be available, he decided to keep working on my project.
However, he did so for only an hour or two each day, and with a severely diminished crew.
As you can imagine, working on a job for two hours a day instead of eight and with two guys instead of four is about as fast as a sloth.
How to Fix: Include strict deadlines in your contracts with penalties for missing them — additionally, check-in on your projects randomly but consistently throughout their duration.
A Contractor Improperly Installed My Tankless Hot Water Heater
For one of our projects, we decided to install a tankless water heater. The whole process turned out to be a mess. Why? Contractors...
First, the primary contractor on the job failed to communicate with the electrician so he could install the proper wire.
Water heaters demand a lot of electricity, and for that reason, they need specific high voltage wires to be run.
Towards the end of the project, we noticed there was nowhere to plug in the water heater.
We had to have the electrician punch holes in the wall to run the proper wire.
But it doesn't stop there. Next, we found out the primary contractor installed the water heater backward, so we had to get this fixed too.
Oh, and did I mention that the primary contractor missed the fact that some subs messed up the hot water intake for one of the showers?
How to Fix: Double, triple, and quadruple check everything is installed correctly and in working order before paying a contractor for specific work.
Two Contractors Caused My Hardwood Floors To Feel Like Sand Paper
We all love beautifully polished hardwood floors. They are warm, inviting, and make a house feel premium.
Two of the contractors I hired to finish some hardwood floors did a job that was worse than anything I've ever seen.
They sent me photos saying everything was complete, so I sent my project manager over to check the floors out.
My project manager walks in and finds that the hardwood floors are as rough as sandpaper.
To add insult to injury, there were long black strands of hair that got stuck in the topcoat of poly. It was a mess.
I refused to pay them until they properly:
The floors like they were hired to do. Instead, they decided to threaten to put a lien on the house.
To avoid legal issues and clouded title, I paid them and had to hire someone else to finish the job.
How to Fix: Use a solid contract that specifies contractors will not be paid until work is 100% complete and approved.
One Contractor Was Paid To Install an HVAC Unit, And It Took Three Months
After paying a contractor to install a new exterior HVAC system, it took him over three months to get it done.
Why? There's no good reason. We trusted him as he had been working with us for a long time. So, we believed him when he said the weather was terrible, or he had an emergency to deal with.
Looking back, he was lying to us. It doesn't take three months to install a single exterior HVAC unit. It should only take a few days.
We made the mistake of paying him in full upfront, which gave us little leverage over him to get the job done.