One of the things i hate about my industry is that any Larry, Curly or Moe with a tool box can say they are a “contractor”. On the current job we are on i have found the following errors:
1. A LIVE electrical line buried in the wall (that no one knew was there, and was inaccessible).
2. A drain pipe buried in concrete. There was a tub in there originally and when it was remodeled the homeowner converted it into a shower, in doing so instead of burying it in pea-gravel then pouring concrete on top, this idiot buried it (no encased is a better term)…encased it in concrete.
3. He installed a concrete shower base and used wall mastic to adhere the shower floor tiles (thin-set is the appropriate material to be used).
4. There must have been a shortage of screws and ring shank-nails when he installed the concrete board, since he only used about 6 on each board and no more than 8 on the ceiling. Normally for concrete board the proper spacing on a wall is no more than 8″ apart and on a ceiling 6″. So basically the home-owner was lucky the ceiling didn’t just drop in on them. The walls and ceiling were basically being held together by grout and God.
The sad part is none of these are hard or time-consuming fixes. The electrical wire could (and will) be placed in a box and put in the attic or in a box in the adjoining closet (both of which are accessible and safe, we are going to use the closet.) The new drain will be buried in pea-gravel and then concrete on top (Lowe’s and Home Depot both have bags of pea-gravel right next to the concrete no biggie). The new shower base being installed is a KBRS water impervious base and the proper thinset will be used for the shower floor tile, and our shower walls and ceiling will have the proper amount of screws in them.
So what does this mean for the customer?
1. Ask for proof of insurance.
2. Ask for a referral list and CALL them. Don’t just ask if the contractor worked for them but how the project went. Did they clean up? Was the work done in the time frame? Were there any issues that crept up through out the project and how were they handled?
3. Visit their showroom. I know not all legitimate contractors have showrooms, but most do. There’s something to be said for the contractor that has a showroom. (1) The have enough business and have been in business long enough to afford one. (2) Showrooms allow for the contractor to carry their own product lines. This means (or should) better pricing for you the homeowner, and typically better warranties than the big box stores. (3) If there is a problem you can easily track them down.
4. Be cautious if your contractor asks you to buy the materials. I’m not talking about some specialty item you found online somewhere. I’m talking about all the basics. If they are having you buy all the materials there could be some cash flow issues. If they don’t have the ability to hold accounts at other suppliers then what makes you think their insurance is current? That’s not to say that you cant buy the materials, maybe that’s how you want to do business, but your going to limit your pool of contractors to choose from. If you do buy the materials then understand what you are getting both in materials and labor. Many people think they will say money by buying the products but typically this doesn’t happen. Normally the materials purchased by the homeowner are seen through the lens of $$ and not quality and installation (not to mention longevity and repair). You get what you pay for. From a labor stand point all that is going to be warranted is…well…the labor. Your faucet breaks that’s your issue to deal with as opposed to if the contractor had purchased it. There are typically more resources for resolution at the supply house than at the big box store. Some contractors wont even do the work if they cant control the product choices or purchase points.
5. Ask questions. Its your house, you have a right to know how things are being done.
6. Run like crazy if the contractor brags about the amount of remodeling/DYI shows they watch as a source of education, while these shows can be entertaining they are made for the homeowner to watch not to educate the contractor). I and most contractors i know have a hard time watching them for too long. Mainly cause we do it everyday, and the last thing we want to watch is some pretty boy talk about the bathroom. I mean really; if your an accountant are you really going to want to watch a DYI show on how to do your taxes?