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Old 12-21-2006, 10:46 PM   #1
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I would like to hear some of the problems you as a homeowner may have had trying to hire a contractor.

Ex: Never showed up, never gave an estimate, etc.

I would like to do my best to make sure I dont do these things in my business and I would like your help to point out the problems with my industry.

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Old 12-22-2006, 08:58 AM   #2
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I find that the contractors that I recently hired were working from the clock rather then putting in the skill and craftsmanship that it takes for a job well done. When one gets up close to check their work, then the errors stand out. Sometimes you don't need to stand up close.
For instance; installing moulding that has factory residue on it that will not take a stain very well. Improper use of a power nailer to attach mouldings. This tool should be restricted to rough in work. The operator of this tool drove a nail right through a finished flat surface causing a 1/4 inch by 2 inch splinter. He repaired it but not to my satisfaction. I ended up repairing it myself and did a better job.
They did not check their caulking work. They left gaps and I only discovered this after replacing the indoor mouldings with better ones. They also did not check the liquid foam to seal around a new Bay Window and a new front door. I found gaps open to the air and sealed these up myself. I found these errors the day after I paid them as it was dark when they finished.
When I check the supports under my Bay Window, the contractor installed anchors right into the brick. This is improper. Anchors are supposed to be installed in the mortor between the bricks (especially hallow bricks) so that when the anchor expands, it has two two bricks to expand against. Because he hit some hallow spots, he had to put 7 anchors in each support. After I saw this, I fired off a letter of complaint demanding the contractor come back and repair it. A supervisor came by to inspect the work and said the only thing they can do is to cover the shoddy workmanship with aluminum on the supports. In fact the supervisor avoided calling any of the work shoddy.
The contractors were working for the "Gunton" corporation which does installation work for the "Pella" window and door company. They are located in southeastern Pennsylvania. Needless to say, The next time I hire a contractor, I am not signing any contract that does not have a clause saying all work will be performed in a skillful manner with craftmanship written all over it or the work will be repaired or replaced at the homeowners descretion.
So when you hire help for your business, it would help if you put them through some skill test, both written and manual to determine their abilities.

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Old 12-22-2006, 09:08 AM   #3
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I personally always prefer the boss of the company working with his crews when doing the work and the boss is the skillful knowledgable worker. If company just send salary workers to work the job. They aren't going to work hard for you as they get paid anyway and they may be those just college graduated who get their first job...
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Old 12-22-2006, 09:47 AM   #4
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This is great stuff guys, keep it coming.
Currently I am the only one working for myself so I do all the work and I make sure its right the first time. So this is great stuff guys.
Thanks
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Old 12-22-2006, 04:16 PM   #5
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Yes, this is great information. Having been on both sides of the work both as a contractor and homeowner that paid for shoddy workmanship I just offer this tidbit. Quality costs money. This is to no way insinuate that the above posters cut corners but far too often contractors must deal with homeowners that shop materials and then add in their mind what they think is a fair labor wage. One must take into consideration that if they want me (the owner whom has perfectionist nature and is anally-retentive when it comes to details) that the rate will be costly. If a homeowner is stuck on price and hires a low bidder than two things are true:

1) I have not done a proper job during my presentation helping the homeowner understand that proper tools, showing up on time, having English speaking craftsmen, wearing uniforms with proper ID, using high grade material, having the right amount of liability insurance, being licensed, heavily insured and completing the project on time costs a ton of money to maintain.
2) Also the homeowner can now expect one or more of the following on their project from the low bidder:
• Late starts and no-shows
• Hourly employee mentality (ie no attention to detail)
• No liability insurance or workman's comp certs
• Amatuer workmanship
• Cheap materials that will crack, chip, peel, get stuck, warp or stop working
• No after-sale follow-up to correct mistakes. Everyone can make mistakes but a company that wants to retain your business as well as their reputation makes things right to the customer's satisfaction.
• The company that they hire has no reputation and will, in all likelihood be out of business the following year or two.

We all work on a clock. Like a person that punches an 8-5 time clock to collect their pay, so do contractors. Every extra hour spent has to be billed. A two man crew sent to your property costs me $60 per hour. If, when I gave a proposal, the customer beat me up for price there is a certain level of craftsmanship that is built into the job before my guys must move on to the next step. It is my job to set the expectations and then to meet or exceed those expectations.

Rjordan, I don't want to pick on you but I am going to use your example of the mouding being difficult to accept stain. I have never had a piece of properly milled, stain grade moulding not accept stain. This material is far more expensive than paint grade molding which I suspect was used. Some companies have to cut corners like these to stay priced lower. If on the other hand you were billed for premium molding but were given the latter, then you have a legitimate complaint and it should be corrected.

Every business owner has to make decisions as to where to draw the line. While I would love to submit every employable prospect to a battery of Rorshack testing and personality profiling as well as have him/her apprentice with a master craftsman, its just not cost effective. My overhead expenses would be out of the realm of what even the most discerning homeowner would be willing to pay.

I see a bigger shift to DIY projects and some things being done by homeowners that have amazed me and had they asked for a job I'd hire them on the spot. Nobody is going to spend as much time getting things perfect as the owner whom has to live with the work day in and day out.

I guess the moral of this long winded diatribe is this..when picking a contractor remember.. The sweetness of saving money on a project is quickly erased by the bitterness of poor quality.
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Old 12-22-2006, 07:37 PM   #6
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<If on the other hand you were billed for premium molding but were given the latter, then you have a legitimate complaint and it should be corrected.>

I was billed for the job and not the parts; with the exception of the type of bay window and door. When I purchased window door or base mouldings from Home Depot or Low's, I hold one end up off the floor and look down over the moulding surface to look for any shine in the wood. If there is too much, it goes back on the rack. Whatever this shine is; it interferes with the stain. Take a look at my site to see the replacement staircase I put in and I am a retired firefighter. Now if I can do work like that, then I expect the contractors to do better. the treads appear not level, but thats just the light reflecting off them and not holding the camera level. There are also some pictures of the bay window supports. look at where they placed the lag screws. Go to: http://mysite.verizon.net/vzeqx2eq/

Last edited by rjordan392; 12-23-2006 at 02:56 PM.
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Old 12-22-2006, 09:13 PM   #7
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The staircase looks incredible Bob, nice work. I agree those pictures show some things that just should not be on a professional job. I don't get any supplies other than nails, fasteners and saw blades from HD so I am not familiar with their lumber grades. The shine is probably what many refer to as mill glaze. It is from high speed equipment like routers or planers operating with dull blades. They create frictionat the surface which causes the sugars and oils in the wood to heat. When these extractives solidify they form that glaze.
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Old 12-22-2006, 10:00 PM   #8
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Bob Shaw,
When you walk in on a job, you can tell right away if the homeowner cares about craftsmanship by the way the house looks. If its neat, then thats your clue. Always leave some business cards because homeowners love to show off their new construction and other people will ask who installed it. I don't have to tell you that quality work will follow you the rest of your career. Deviate from that and you will soon be talked about instead of to. Good Luck in your profession.
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Old 12-23-2006, 05:16 PM   #9
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First example

My father inlaw built a 40'x40' workshop. The roof is a simple gable type, 4/12 pitch, with 4 vents. Due to knee surgery, he decided (after laying the sheathing) to hire out the roofing instalation. He had all the materials (mid-high grade) purchased and ready. He looked for weeks before he found 3 contractors that said they could finish in a day, and would agree to nail the shingles instead of stapling (he's particular, and wants it done his way). He went with the middle priced bid.

On the agreed Saturday, the first two man crew, finally arrived about 11 am, and started drinking coffee. When asked if they would still finish that day, they said that they would only get the paper down today (moderate to high winds were forcast for that night), and would probably finish late tomorrow. After a short phone conversation with the owner/manager, that crew went home early. The following weekend, crew #2 showed up (bright and early at 8 am), and started setting up their compressor "to run the staple guns... that's the only way we can get this done in one day". They too were sent home, and the owner/manager was called. He started complaining about the time and method "restrictions" (that he had agreed to in the contract). He agreed that they couldn't meet those demands and canceled the contract.

Two weekends later the lowest bidder showed up at 8am, by himself. He was in his late fifties or early sixties, and was the owner, manager, and crew (which is part of the reason he'd been passed up before). He started promptly, worked fast, did quality work, and was finished by mid afternoon. He was invited in for coffee and pie. He balked when given the difference between his agreed price and what the 1st crew would have charged.
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Old 12-23-2006, 08:37 PM   #10
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<He balked when given the difference between his agreed price and what the 1st crew would have charged.>

Well if the differance was less then the agreed price, then its a father in law problem and not a contractors problem. I would balk too. The agreed price is what matters here; not the lowest or highest. When the job is finished, tell him to pay the agreed price.
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Old 12-24-2006, 12:47 AM   #11
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Sorry, I wasn't clear.
This was the guy with LOW bid. The father inlaw paid him more than his initial bid price, (ie. what the mid range bid from the contractor with the flakey crews had expected). There was only $100 or so diference.
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Old 12-24-2006, 03:25 AM   #12
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The owner of a small electric company doing a job for me that was suppose to meet me at a certain time on a certain day to go over the job... He'd already missed two appointments. So, I'd showed up... Waited around... Finally, a worker showed up. I asked where the owner was. Guess where he was? On vacation, a couple of states away. Oh yeah, I called him!
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Old 12-24-2006, 06:11 AM   #13
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Try and meet your commitments (time-wise) but most importantly, communicate when you get behind schedule.

Most homeowners only deal with a contractor a few times - and don't understand when the schedule slips. If a homeowner calls you to ask why you weren't there, then you have a serious problem. You would be amazed what a simple phone call letting the customer know why you are late, and what the new schedule is will do to their attitude.

As for quality vrs price, you are always going to run into a homeowner who is only looking at price. The sooner you can get to a position where you recognize these types, and walk away from them, the better off you will be.

The last contractor I hired was a roofer - and I hired him solely based on a friends job. He came over to give me an estimate, gave me options on the shingles, and supplied me some addresses if I wanted to look at his work. (he also had his proof of "bonding") After I hired him - he gave me a time frame, and called me to confirm as it got closer. His crew was neat, on time, and respected my property. I was delighted, and he has gotten 3 jobs from my friends.
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Old 12-24-2006, 06:13 AM   #14
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Those are the type of contractors we all can do without. That guy needs a lesson. I would have called another to do the job and then wait for the vacation guy to report back to work. I would then go to a pay phone and tell him you need a bid on increasing your electric service, adding circuits, etc. Give him a phony address. Do this a couple of times until he catches on. Your time is just as valuable as his. The contractors that I hired always called if they could not keep the appointment.
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Old 12-25-2006, 09:22 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by robertcdf View Post
I would like to hear some of the problems you as a homeowner may have had trying to hire a contractor.

Ex: Never showed up, never gave an estimate, etc.

I would like to do my best to make sure I dont do these things in my business and I would like your help to point out the problems with my industry.
Just treat clients like you want to be treated when you are looking for a service. Can't make a scheduled appointment, most people can accept that, they can't accept not receiving a timely phone call about it. Don't want to quote on a job, tell them so... "I am just to jammed up to do your work in a reasonable time frame... This job is out of my field of expertise, price range, geographic area, etc..Thank them for considering you, and that you hope theywill consider you again in the future. Be attentive to concerns a customer voices during an active job, although it may seem like a trivial issue to you, it obviously is bigger to them, and if you address it early, it will not fester into a real problem. Be realistic to yourself about pricing work. You are there to make money. If you get every job you quote, you should get worried.It is much better to get the reputation for doing quality work and being a little more expensive than most,as oppossed to being only known for being cheaper.

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