Contractors. How to get the good ones. 1

It’s true, there are

good contractors

and there are

bad contractors

. And I should know because I have had both the good and bad. And beware; there are total crooks that pose as contractors.

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So how do you find a good contractor?

This is my advice on finding a good contractor. It follows the advice most experts give. This is good advice that I have rarely followed, and it has come back to bite me in the rear. But I have learned from my mistakes. Follow this advice and you will save money and your rear.

  1. Contractors are called contractors because they work from a contract. That makes sense, right? So it’s a good idea to have a good contract. Lawyers do contracts. So if you want a good contractor, hire a good lawyer (to help you write a contract). Of course, if it is just a small job you may not need to go to the expense of a lawyer. However, for large, expensive jobs it can sure help if you end up in court. For small jobs, check the office supply stores for general contract forms.
  2. You need to know exactly what you want the contractor to do, and you need to put it in writing. Most of this can go in the contract. Good contractors love when you do this, it makes their job so much easier. This is especially true of alternative building. Not a lot of contractors do alternative homes, and they need you to explain, in detail, uncommon techniques.
  3. Make sure the contractor understands, agrees to, and signs your contract. If the contractor says he just works on a handshake or verbal agreement, inform him (or her) you don’t. Signed contracts hold up in court, a handshake may not. Without a contract, it can be your word against the contractors.
  4. A good contract can help weed out the bad contractors and the crooks. If they think they may end up in court (“again” for some) with no chance of winning, then they will not take the job.
  5. The real crooks usually come in from out of state. There is not much chance of getting them to court.
  6. Big jobs may require money up front. This is another reason to have a good contract. Make note of any up front money you must pay, and get documentation when you pay the money.
  7. It is always good to get recommendation. Ask to see work they have done in the area. Make sure it is work your contractor did, and not the good work of some other contractor.
  8. Make sure you are on site while the work is underway. This way you can see that the work meets your specifications, and you are there to answer any questions. If you cannot be on site then have an iron clad contract and make sure the contractor has exact instructions.
  9. Get more then one bid. This can help weed out the crooks. If you get a bid that is way above, or way below the average bid, be suspicious.

In conclusion, some times you just need to take a close look at who you are hiring. Here is our horror story:

We needed a lot of stucco work done before winter set in. We asked a well known local stucco contractor to give us a bid. He came in higher then we could afford. We asked a local general contractor who he uses and he gave us the name of his stucco contractor. We got a quote from this 2 nd stucco contractor that was far less then the first bidder. This should have set off some alarms. We should have got more bids. However, winter was coming and we needed the work done.

So we went ahead with the 2 nd , highly recommended, low bidding stucco contractor. And because he came highly recommended, and had done good work for the general contractor that had recommended him, we did not get a contract. Here are some photos of the crap job we ended up with:

Contractors. Cracks from improper stucco installation (applied too dry).

Cracks from improper stucco installation (applied too dry).

From the start, we should have had a written contract explaining exactly what we wanted and expected to see at completion. At least we could have taken this bum to court and got some compensation. Now we will be doing the stucco over ourselves. Even if we knew nothing about stucco, it would be more then what this bum knew.

Contractors. Cracks from improper stucco installation (applied too dry).

Cracks from improper stucco installation (applied too dry).

To make one last point, do not be afraid to kick a contractor off the job. If you feel they are not doing a good job or acting unprofessional on the work site, give them the boot!

And I do have to say, we had one bad contractor out of five. Most are good people that just want to do the best job they can for you.

OK, it’s time to hear your advice and contractor horror stores. Leave a comment please. And as usual,  I greatly encourage people from all over the world to send comments and questions. The whole world benefits, when the whole world communicates.

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One thought on “ Contractors. How to get the good ones.

  • Jeff Curtis

    I have heard some pretty bad horror stories when it comes to hiring a bad contractor. I like your advice on finding a good contractor. I like your tip about having a written contract and not just trusting a verbal contract. I also like your tip on getting more than one bid so that you can compare them. Thanks for the help!