|Commercial - Residential - Industrial
Identifying Red Flags Before the Job Starts
Shabby Equipment- The first signs that a company could be in a broken
equipment, and vehicles in poor repair. Not every good construction
company will have uniforms, new trucks, cell phones and laptops. Some
super-dependable contractors don't even have fax machines! But how a
contractor presents himself and takes care of his truck, tools and
equipment is a good indication of how well he'll take care of you and your
The Low-Ball Offer- When you are reviewing bids, if a contractor says he
will give you a "special low price" that you must keep a secret, move on to
the next guy. The same is true for a bid that comes in far below the others.
The low-bidding contractor is either clueless or he never intends to finish
the work. Another scam is to bid low and then start charging you extra for
materials you thought were included in the price once the job begins.
Finally, pay attention to how carefully the contractor looks at your job
before bidding. If a bidding contractor says, "Yeah, we did a job like this
and I'll charge you the same," or if he doesn't take notes and
measurements and make material and labor calculations, you may be
dealing with a contractor who isn't thorough enough to do a good job.
Second-Rate Materials- If a contractor claims he already has materials that
he wants to pass along to you at a discount, watch out. Usually these
materials are seconds, ungraded, or below grade minimums for code.
Small contractors rarely buy in volumes that yield these big discounts, and
contractors rarely carry large inventories of material. If they do, they
severely misjudged quantities on a previous job, which doesn't speak well
for their estimating skills.
High Up-Front Percentage- Some types of work require a large initial
payment from the homeowner because the contractor will have to leave
this as a deposit when ordering. This applies to special orders such as
cabinets, tile, carpet, etc. It does NOT apply to commodity materials like
roofing lumber, which are bought "on account" by any legitimate contractor
with at least 30 days to pay.
No Office- If your contractor has nothing more than a cell phone and a post
office box, call the Better Business Bureau, your state licensing bureau, or
your local consumer protection office to see if there are any complaints
lodged against him. Also, check all of his references and visit some recent
jobs. A contractor should have an office somewhere, even if it is just a
room in his home, and a reference at a local bank and accounts with local
Red Flags Once the Job is Underway
Unexpected Price Hikes- If your contractor arrives claiming that materials
cost more than he thought and he'll have to charge you more, stop him at
the door. Unless the job is cost-plus, most contracts between you and your
contractor are for firm labor and material process. The contractor has to
eat any mistakes he makes due to under-bidding. The only time the price
should change on a fixed bid is when you initiate and then sign off on a
change order that alters the scope of the work.
Contract Changes- If the contractor violates the terms of the payment
schedule by claiming he is running short of money and has to move up a
progress payment to an earlier date, insist on sticking to the original terms.
In this situation, the contractor is probably not managing cash flow well and
needs your payment to satisfy past material bills or debts to
subcontractors. It is a common error even honest contractors make,
because they touch lots of money, yet relatively little of it is actually theirs.
But this is no way to run a construction business. Pay only as you agreed
to in the contract.
Subpar Materials- If during one of you walk-through inspections you notice
that a different material than is called for in the contract is being used, call
the contractor right away. Scam artists will use cheaper materials, and the
"savings" goes in their pockets. If his happens once, it can be an honest
mistake or a sloppy subcontractor. But check a few other material
specifications against the contract or plans, just to make sure.
Payment- If subcontractors complain directly to you that they have not
been paid, or if the contractor's material bills aren't getting paid and you
are getting calls, confront your contractor. Your final payment to the
contractor should be issued only when you are entirely satisfied with your
punch list and final walk through. When you write that last check, even
reputable contractors take it as a sign that the job is entirely finished. So
no matter what the sob story, don't give in to the pressure to write this
check until you are satisfied.
Done Right Home Improvement, LLC
Coopersburg, PA 18036