|We spoke with Karl Bagwell, owner of southeastern Connecticut’s Yankee Remodeler, about how to tell the difference between a good contractor and a bad one.|
Everyone knows someone who has a bad contractor story, and even more bad contractor stories can be found online. A quick Google search for “bad contractor stories” brings up over two million hits, including the Home and Garden DIY site, which has 25 bad contracting stories ranging from an electrician who did not install an on/off switch for a light because the homeowner had not requested one, to a contractor who ignored a homeowner’s request to cover a workspace then claimed the workspace was dirty before they started, to contractors taking deposits and never returning. Stories of people scammed by contractors make good TV news stories. Good contracting stories are much harder to find, but it is not hard to find a great contractor as long as you follow a few simple guidelines.
They Give You an Estimate In Writing
A great contractor will give you an estimate in writing. They say a verbal contract is not worth the paper it’s printed on. A great contractor will put their quote in black and white. It’s not just a matter of trustworthiness either. Sometimes putting things on paper can reveal a miscommunication before it’s too late. If you expect them to install four windows, and the quote says two, then you can clear things up right off the bat.They Are Easy to Communicate With
A great contractor should be easy to communicate with, and that means that they are more than a P.O. Box. Yankee Remodeler is more than just a website, and Bagwell explains the advantage of that. “It helps if you have a brick and mortar building. If there’s a physical location, then you could just come down and knock on our door. We’re more accessible.” You should be able to reach them by phone as well. You should be able to talk with them, not leave a message with an answering service.They Sign a Contract
A great contractor will sign a contract with you. Bagwell explains that the contract “should have a start and completion date.” This gives all parties involved a timetable to work on and an expectation of when work will be finished. The contract also states what you want and what the contractor will do. According to findlaw.com, other items in the contract should include the specific materials to be used, when equipment will be used as well as where equipment and supplies will be stored when not in use, whose responsibility it is if there is theft of or damage to equipment or supplies, a provision or amendments in case changes need to be made or unforeseen circumstances affect the stated completion time of the project, guarantees and warranties related to the project, payment plans, information on subcontractors and suppliers, and provisions for any potential disputes that may arise.They Ask for a Reasonable Deposit
A great contractor will ask for a deposit, but they don’t ask for the majority of the money upfront. “Never pay the bill until you’re satisfied,” advises Bagwell. “It’s okay to wait a week to look over the work.”They are Licensed and Insured
A great contractor is licensed and insured for the state they’re working in and have that state’s required insurances and are willing to show you these documents. They also follow your state’s requirements for permits and don’t try to talk you out of getting one when it is required by your city or town.They Are Safe
A great contractor follows OSHA guidelines on the worksite and their workers are properly dressed for their jobs and create a safe environment.
They Refuse to Put Their Estimate In Writing
Be suspicious of a contractor who will not put their estimate in black and white for you. It either means that they are trying to hide something or that they are not organized enough to be able to effectively estimate the cost of the job. Either way, they are probably not the right choice to take care of your job.They Approach You
They approach you, usually door to door, and offer to do the work for a substantially lower price in exchange for using your home in an ad or for exposure. Another door-to-door scam is to approach you and tell you that they’re working in the area and have left over materials or extra time and can do some inexpensive work for you right then and there. Every contractor is trying to find more business, but it is quite uncommon for one to be out knocking on doors.Bad Paperwork and Process
Beware of a contractor that doesn’t dot their i’s and cross their t’s, or, worse, doesn’t even have any i’s to dot because nothing is on paper. If they refuse to sign a contract or tell you that you don’t need one, that’s a red flag. Another is if they request that you get any needed permits, instead of them taking care of it. Even worse is if they try to get you to let them do the work without permits at all. They may charge you to do work they should have done when hired. This recently happened to Jig Sprocket, of New Jersey: “Initially one radiator was leaking at an elbow on the inlet. This was charged about $180… Possibly the water supply got stuck. It was a lot of water or some other steam venting problem. Plumber replaced it but never bled the system. He leaves but the steam radiators fail to heat up. He then asks for $500 to replace the vent valves on the radiator.”They Ask For A Excessive Deposit
You should be suspicious if they request the majority or all of the payment upfront. This is especially true if they ask for payment via cash or a check made out to a person instead of a company.Poor References or No References
They have poor references or no references at all. Be sure to check online at sites like EZBZ, Yelp, and the Better Business Bureau and to ask friends and family. The sites where the reviews are linked to the user’s identity are more reliable, which is why an EZBZ user must have their account linked to Facebook to Vouch for a business. A great contractor will be able to provide you with references from former clients. Don’t hesitate to ask.High Pressure Sales
Beware if a contractor pressures you to make a decision immediately and discourages you from getting estimates from other businesses or from seeing their license and insurance information.
Other Tips to Help You Find a Great Contractor:
2. They usually have a waiting list. Good contractors are in demand, so you may need to look for one well before you intend to start remodeling.
3. They’ve been in business for at least three years. According to an article by marketwatch.com, about 30% of businesses go out of business every year. Some independent contractors join firms and some may fail due to the economic environment, but some may change their names often “ to dodge business problems and irate clients.”
4. Look for a contractor who’s right for your project. A contractor who specializes in industrial work will not be familiar with residential work, and one who specializes in plumbing may not have the background to fix your shingles. Be sure to ask what experience they have with your particular type of project.
5. Check out YouTube. Many contractors and some insurance companies, like Travelers, have videos giving advice on finding and working with contractors as well as red flags that may come up while searching for a contractor.
If you need to find a reputable contractor for a commercial or residential project, try EZBZ’s free concierge service. You can post a request through our website or app, or call us toll-free on 1-855-461-8619 for a local recommendation. Visit the EZBZ website to learn more: www.myezbz.com.