5 Top Mistakes Homeowners Make When Hiring a Contractor
Updated: Jan 24
1. The Price is Right!
This is the most common mistake people make when they choose a contractor, and it can also be one of the most problematic.
It’s very tempting to look at multiple estimations that look similar and decide to go with the lowest estimation. Money in your pocket right? Not necessarily, you have to know why one contractor is cheaper than another before making your decision.
Sometimes a lower cost means that the people doing the work may not be as qualified in the fields you would want them to be. Contractors can complete all of the basics of a remodel themselves, but if you want something special, a contractor may use a sub-contractor that they have an established relationship with and use to do specialty trades. There’s a huge difference between someone that can design and build a new kitchen and someone that can put the paint on the walls.
Besides the quality of the work, the lower bid may also be lower in because of the materials being used. For instance, certain types of tile may be cheaper than others, but is that the best material for the job? Do you want something that may fall apart in a few years, or would you rather pay a little more to have something that stands the test of time?
On a side note. It is often asked “Why don’t I just call my own subcontractors; “Won’t it save me money?” The answer here is 98% NO. General Contractors have established relationships with their subcontractors and trust and stand behind their quality of work. Working together on multiple jobs throughout the year with their sub contractor’s the contractor will have a better price then the homeowner. The contractor will also warranty the work. I don’t know any contractors that warranty any work or materials provided by the homeowner which in the long run can cost you quite a bit of money. For example, you supply your own plumbing fixtures and have your plumber install them. Your contractor then tiles say your shower complete with all water proofing etc.… Then for some reason 1 month after your job is done the fixture is not working and needs to be replaced. Since your contractor did not install it is now your financial responsibility to pay someone to rip out tile, replace the fixture and pay to have everything put back. If your contractor had installed the fixture it would be their responsibility as long as it is under warranty. Check your contracts for warranty info!
Sometimes by paying less, you will end up paying much, much more in the long run.
2. Checking References
When you are deciding on a contractor, before you finalize any deal you should check their references – with former customers and the state as well.
Check to see if they are properly licensed. You can do this easily online, and most states have a website that allows you to simply type in the contractor’s name to check their status. As long as they are active, you should be good, but we would advise also check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any outstanding issues or complaints.
Once you have verified all of that, ask the contractor if you can contact former customers. Contact as many as you/they are comfortable with and ask as many questions as you can. Were they happy they with the work are that was completed? How long the project take? Were there any delays? Would you tell your friends to use them?
In today’s day and age reviews online are important. However, reviews online can be falsely created as well as put on a site by someone who has never worked with a contractor and may have a personal issue with a contractor. We strongly suggest you call references and ask questions yourself.
3.Writing? Who needs things in Writing?
YOU DO! When you hire a contractor, always get everything in writing, from the first estimation, to the contract to start work – make sure you read everything. You should also be sure that everything is signed before any work begins. Most states have a requirement for a contract when it exceeds a dollar amount. In Oregon where Block Construction is based a contract is required for any job over $2000.
The contract is meant to protect the homeowner and the contractor, and can be held up in a court of law. It should clearly spell out the estimated costs, scope of work, a payment schedule, required deposits and have things in place for how ny additional work/change orders are handled. Having everything defined in writing makes everything easier.
Most contractors will insist on a written contract, and if they don’t that is a definite cause for concern. A 1-page contract is also another cause for concern. There are standard terms that should be outlined in a contract and fitting them all on 1 page would be nearly impossible. Our current contract is 6 pages long and depending on the scope and cost of a job has gone as high as 25.
4. Not Checking the Details
A very common mistake many people make is to make assumptions and not check on the details. A contractor may use a material he believes is best not realizing you do not like it at all. In most states there is an acceptable “industry standard” and holds up in a court of law. It is best to be very clear about your expectations from the beginning. It wouldn’t you or the cotractors fault, but you would be faced with living with something you don't like or paying to replace it. In our contract’s we have a line that states Block cannot substitute any materials without written consent and something signed by the homeowner with their approval.
Once you pick your contractor, have a meeting with them and make sure you understand their plans. Make sure you take the time to understand exactly what the plan is and how long it should take to do it.This is standard protocal at Block. Take this time to make sure the contractor knows exactly what you want, and let them know if you need help with things. They will be happy to help!
It might seem confusing or overwhelming at first, but if you take the time early on to understand as much as you can, it can save alot of time later. We also recommend having a weekly email/phone call checking so everyone stays on the same page.
5.Not Knowing Additional Cost’s (As best you can)
First things first. Do yourself a favor and make sure you fully understand the contractor’s estimate. Ask questions!!! Remember an estimate is simply a ESTIMATION of what things will cost.
Contractors base them on previous work they have done, material costs, subcontractor costs and the scope of the work. Every job is unique, and there are usually unexpected items come up once construction begins.
At Block Construction we tell people to typically plan for 10% of their budget to be for unforeseen items. Although we have seen it be 0% we have seen it up to 30%. Some things can absolutely not be determined before you begin construction and open up walls etc.… So, make sure your line of communication is solid
and should any change orders arise MAKE SURE THEY ARE IN WRITING!!
Remodeling your home or office is a fun and exciting time. It also is stressful and can make your life feel chaotic. If you follow these basic tips along with trusting your gut and doing your homework you should be on your way to successful remodel and a lifelong relationship with your contractor. Please keep Block Construction in mind for your next project!