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  • Writer's pictureLarry Barr

Don't be Fooled by Fast Talking Contractors

Updated: Jan 23, 2019

As a home repairman, it’s not unusual to quote tons of estimates to potential clients and obtain only half the business. Sometimes it’s the luck of the draw or one goes with a friend or relative’s referral. Other times, a customer receives a less expensive quote and delighted by the idea of something so cheap, hires a contractor without further research. Unfortunately, as many customers soon learn, cheaper doesn’t always mean better. In 90% of the situations, the customer calls complaining that the work produced by the less expensive contractor is not satisfactory. Often these less expensive contractors are what we in the industry like to call, fly by the night contractors — those who promise big projects at a minimal cost but don’t deliver.

Always do your research beore hiring any contractor

A few years ago, I received a call from a gentleman interested in receiving a quote on a full bathroom remodel. We’ll call him Tony. He wanted a full bathroom gut with all new plumbing and electrical, new shower, toilet and sink installment as well as the floor tiling replaced and all new paint. We gave Tony a price and estimated that it would take approximately two weeks to finish and he would be responsible for the purchase of materials. A few days later, Tony called to thank us, however, he found another contractor willing to charge a much less rate and willing to purchase all materials. I told him thanks and to keep us in mind for future projects.

Eight months later, I received another call from Tony, this time asking if I could stop by his home and look at his newly remodeled master bathroom. When I turned on the shower, I soon found myself standing in a few inches of water. I watched as the water formed a puddle creating a pool about three inches high before it was able to reach the drain. Pieces of grout were cracking and floating in the pool of water.

The vanity light flickered as if we were in a 70s disco and the toilet was so unstable, it reminded me of a toddler trying to walk for the first time. Long story short, the other contractor that Tony went with didn’t work out as planned. Because the bathroom remodel took over four months to complete and according to the contractor, “lots of unforeseen problems occurred along the way,” Tony was charged more than his original estimate. When the remodel was finally completed, Tony was so happy to have his bathroom back, he took a quick look, paid the contractor and sent him on his way.

After Tony’s nightmare began, he called the contractor leaving voice mail after voice mail but never received a response. Tony continued trying throughout the next several days but much to his dismay, still no answer. The contractor did not include an address on his receipts and google did not provide any answers. Eventually, exhausted from his contractor’s unresponsiveness, Tony called the local city inspectors. Neither the local or state inspectors had ever heard of the contractor. While they all felt his pain and took pity, there was nothing they could do because Toy chose to use a contractor without a license. More months went on and yet Tony and his family were still unable to use their bathroom.

I did my best to help him and we gutted the entire project and redid the bathroom. In the long run, Tony ended up spending a total of $78,000 and experienced a very long, stressful year.

While a “fly by night” contractor will always be cheaper and in some cases do a decent job, we can’t stress enough how important it is to use a contractor who is licensed, insured and incorporated. Legally, a licensed contractor is obligated to fix mistakes. Because it costs money and effort to maintain insurance and a license, in most cases, a licensed contractor will cost more. But in the long run, isn’t peace of mind worth paying a little extra for? Saving money is good but saving only in the short-term isn’t always saving.

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