The Good: Every homeowner and designers dream. They come with good references from happy clients. They are polite, professional, friendly and respectful of you and your home. They provide detailed proposals and outline the schedule of work to be performed. They discuss issues and concerns with you as they arise and work with you to find a satisfactory solution. They show up on time and call when there is going to be any significant delays on your job. They tidy up the job site and remove all trash and debris daily....without being asked and of course, do quality work!
The bad: We've all had these experiences to varying degrees. Things that will alert you to problems could include any or all of these. The contractor who doesn't look you in the eye when talking, is dismissive or condescending. Communication is difficult and information must be dragged out of them with multiple questions and/or every detail must be painfully extracted. Specifically, they provide no information without being requested to do so.
They are not respectful of your home, neglecting to take proper precautions to cover surfaces such as floors and furniture. There are surprise costs at the end. They don't show up on time or leave early. They take multiple or extended breaks. They tell you you don't need permits and/or inspections. Huge red flag!!! Even if everything else seems great, if they say this...walk away and move on.
The Shrugger: These guys are tricky. Sometimes they are good and sometimes they are bad. We all shrug from time to time and usually it means one of three things: we are perplexed, we are thinking of a solution or we don't know or care. In contractor speak it can mean any of these things or it can mean "I'm not committing" to what you are saying. So if you took the shrug to mean the first three possibilities and there is a problem, you're going to hear "I never said we could or couldn't do (fill in the blank)". CYA (cover your ass) and nail them down for a response and note it on the proposal and have them initial it.
Here's what you need to do before you began any project to try and ensure the smoothest possible scenario in the absence of a GC, project manager and/or designer:
- Get multiple quotes from a variety of GC's or sub-contractors. This step alone will teach you a lot!
- Communicate effectively the scope of the work that you want to complete and stick to you original plan. If things are modified after the initial contract, you and the GC need to sign an amendment/change order.
- Obtain a detailed proposal. If your contractor does one price and you are going it alone, I suggest you know how much basic supplies are (a sheet of drywall, 2x4's, etc...) to determine if things seem in line for the scope of your particular job. If you're still not comfortable ask for it to be broken down by supplies and labor. Note: contractors do not like to do this.
- Let them know you don't provide food, water and supplies and expect them to come prepared.
- Talk about schedules. What time they will arrive and depart daily as well as the estimated completion date. Will they being doing other jobs simultaneously?
- When they arrive, make sure the job is prepped properly. If you don't think it is, speak up!!! Otherwise, make sure you know what any possible claim process will be.
- If you don't understand something or something doesn't seem right cease work immediately and make the appropriate calls.
- Will they use your bathroom? If so, designated the one you prefer! If not, make sure a company vehicle is left for them to use. Does anyone on the crew smoke? Where should they dispose of butts/ashes?
- Where do you want the trucks to park? On your driveway or in front of your house? Tell them specifically. Make sure they don't block your mailbox. Minimum code, in most areas, is 25 feet.
- Pull inspections for everything. Make sure you have the proper permits filed. If you don't you may find yourself in trouble from a neighbor who reports unauthorized work or you may get a nasty surprise in the form of a property tax assessment and/or bill when you go to sell your home.
- Check references, your county/city licensing division and the BBB for information about your contractor. Ask them to see their credentials and photos of their work.
- Never pay in full up front. Large jobs should be spit into three payments. The first payment is your good faith. This secures you a place on their schedule and covers the costs of supplies. The percentage is something that is worked out with the GC or project manager and you. Smaller jobs will be split into two equal payments, in most cases. Do not make final payment until job site is thoroughly cleaned and you are satisfied with all work. And never let a contractor say no problem we'll fix it this week, but I still need to collect the final payment. Final means final...for all parties! If they want final payment they will "find" someone on their crew to remedy whatever you are unsatisfied with sooner rather than later.
Next week the before and afters of the floors. The weather didn't cooperate as much as we had hoped and it took forever to get the original stain off the kitchen floor. They be will back working today and tomorrow and by Friday evening everything should be dry and looking beautiful and I'll have pictures to show next week!
All images via Google.