Most people that I know 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.
I have been involved with several commercial construction projects in the last few years. Troubles can arise, even with licensed, bonded contractors. Here are some of the things I noticed before the problem started:
- 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, or has under bid on purpose because he intends to have cost over runs. Another play on this theme is if the contractor offers a great bargain in order to use your project as an example.
- Contractor 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.
- 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. This is standard business practice and any person who does not want to follow that is suspect.
- 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.
- Contractor 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.
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.
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.
Finally, if you have fired a contractor who you provided a key to access your home, change your locks as soon as possible.
This is part of a writing project for Problogger.net