About Me

My photo

 NJ contractor since 1994, and a father, and husband. Contact me for all your construction questions.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

How to Spot a Bad Contractor

Being a Contractor I always don't have time to work on my own home. I myself have hired what you may call the "Contractor from Hell" This company replaced, gutters, a front door, and siding. Let me tell you when I say the contractor from hell that's no power phrase. When they installed the front door, it was in the winter. And that's the only thing they did was put the door on. In the process they cut a major electrical wire, put no molding on, or trim, the door was not level, the screen door and front door not only would not lock it did not shut. That night we had a snow storm and the snow was coming in from the openings around the door. The gutter guy never knocked on the door to have my son's brand new car removed from the inside driveway, and when he walked by with the gutter scratched the whole side of the car, while my wife watched. Then when confronted he threatened to punch my son in the face. No one would fix the mistakes, and on top of that, we never signed off on the contract, so he  forged our names, and had it notarized by someone he knew. And yes they are still in business today. And the door after trying for years to sue, when we went to refinance our home we had to end up paying him, interest and all. So when you're planning on doing up, changing or fixing a part of your home or garden, it pays to know who is likely to do a good job for value. And that means knowing who might be a bad bet as a contractor. Many people have had a bad contractor experience. These experiences come in all sorts of flavors, from bad workmanship to unfinished work to "unforeseen" cost over-runs, or in the worst case, the contractor skips town with your money and does no work. This article aims to point out the problem signs before you sign on the dotted line. Be wary of a deal that's too good to be true. Watch out if the contractor in question's bid was far below all of the others. This is a sure sign that the contractor is either unfamiliar with the work in question (and therefore also probably new to the work), or has under bid on purpose because he intends to have cost over-runs later. Another play on this theme is if the contractor offers a great bargain in order to use "your project" as an example, such as featuring it on a website or in a brochure. Ask for references. Beware the contractor who has questionable or no references and or no fixed business address. Always ask for references; if the contractor does good work, he will have many, many examples of this through his references. Any contractor that does not have a fixed business address could be a fly-by-night operation. If you are suspicious of any address provided, turn up to see if it exists before you sign up. Have a written agreement. Be very cautious when the contractor does not want to go through the formalities of signing a contract. When you are doing any major work, a contract that spells out what the scope of work is, and what the contractor's responsibilities are, is standard business practice and any person who does not want to follow that is suspect. Trust your gut instinct. When you get a bad feeling, trust your gut feeling; the guy who seems like a sleazy sales man probably is. High pressure sales tactics such as "This price is only valid until I walk out of that door, you have to sign this right now..." are a very bad sign. If you feel hassled, pushed, intimidated or bullied, this isn't the contractor for you. Seek another opinion. Be very cautious of the contractor who uses scary scenarios to get you to buy more expensive options or more extensive work than what you initially wanted. If problems are uncovered during a project, they should be obvious. Like a doctor, you can always get a second opinion. Do your own research. Use the Internet to learn as much as possible about the product or services that you want for your home or garden. If you are fairly knowledgeable about the product or service, you will be familiar with the lingo, you will be able to ask pertinent questions, and it will be clear to the contractor that you know what you want and this will scare off a bad contractor or can lead them to say things that you know are wrong or poorly informed. Ask people whose advice you value. The best way to find a good contractor is to ask your friends, family or neighbors. More often then not, they have used somebody with a good result. Be extremely wary of the guy who pulls up in front of your house out of the blue and tells you that you need a new roof (or something else). Best to tell that person to be on his way. Additionally, many locations require contractors to have licenses. If you live in one of those locations, it is perfectly reasonable to ask for a copy of the contractors license and insurance certificate. No show, no go. Guard yourself against possible retaliation. If you have fired a contractor who you provided a key to access your home, change your locks as soon as possible. Best to leave temptation at the door rather than let it through.
  • If you feel that you have been ripped off, call the local authorities. Blatant theft, such as a contractor took your money and left town, should be reported to the police. Other situations may need to be handled through civil courts, The Better Business Bureau or other organizations.