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Why it's Important to Thoroughly Vet Your Contractors

February 19, 2018

     Recently, I was hired to install and finish some drywall in a kitchen that was being remodeled by a local company. No big deal - just six sheets that had to go up before the cabinets could be installed. But I noticed several problems with the electrical wiring that had to be addressed before that could happen. So what began as a simple one day job now became two days, adding to the overall cost for the homeowners. Blame that one on the general contractor. The homeowners were pleased with our results and soon called back with additional work.


     On my next visit, the kitchen floor had been tiled and grouted. At first glance, it looked good. But a closer inspection revealed many problems. Almost every tile had a chip in it. There was also extensive lippage, or an offset between tiles that looks bad and catches your toes. it looked like the floor had been tiled by a beginner. The owners were very upset and called their general contractor (GC) to complain. They were informed that the GC had sent his carpenter to install the tile due to the fact that his tile crew was busy! Score another one for the GC!


     On my next visit I was asked to inspect the insulation in the attic. I immediately noticed that new electrical wiring had been spliced into the old, 1950's cloth-insulated wiring without using the proper junction boxes. This is a potentially dangerous situation as any sparking could start a fire! A new electrical service panel had been installed without replacing the old wiring. A competent and licensed electrician would NEVER even think of doing such a thing. To make matters worse, the old cloth insulation had worn away at many different locations. In short, the wiring was a dangerous mess. I soon learned that the electrician was a "friend" of the owner.


     What can you learn from this example? For starters, you should always check out your contractor's credentials. Don't be afraid to ask if they have a valid contractor's license. Certain trades, such as drywall and painting, don't require a license. If a drywall contractor does a poor job, it's rarely results in a dangerous situation. But if a plumber or electrician does a poor job, the results can be very dangerous indeed. A license proves that your electrician has had the appropriate training to safeguard your house. You should be very wary of an electrician who works without a license.


    You should also try to become an educated consumer. Don't hesitate to ask how a contractor plans to fix something. Remember, Google is your friend. Look up anything that doesn't sound right to you. Don't blindly assume that a contractor knows what he's doing and has your best interests in mind. Trust has to be earned! In the example above, the homeowner trusted his electrician buddy to do a good job, which he did not do. The owner also trusted the GC to supervise his kitchen remodel and provide skilled laborers. But the GC turned out to be not a licensed general contractor, but rather a "construction manager".  In other words, just a guy with a cabinet company who was using his buddies to do the work that he couldn't do himself!


     To sum this all up, do your homework before tackling a big remodeling project. Don't blindly trust a company's flashy website with photos that may or may not actually be their work. Don't trust Home Advisor to refer a qualified contractor - they may or may not. The only vetting Home Advisor does is a simple criminal background check. And any bad reviews a company might receive can disappear - for a price. And finally, remember that you usually get what you pay for. The lowest bid might not save you any money if you have to hire someone like myself to redo a lot of bad work!


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