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Checking out contractors and contracts that protect you

Posted by GardenerDev (My Page) on
Sun, Jan 26, 14 at 14:47

I wrote up this post for the kitchens forum on how to buy countertops, but am linking to it here because I included a lot of general information on how to find and background check a contractor, and on the type of protections that can be added to a contract to protect the homeowner:

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Checking out contractors and contracts that protect you

"on the type of protections that can be added to a contract to protect the homeowner:"

And when you have exhausted all available contractors, because none will agree?

A forest gump moment, is a forest gump moment.

RE: Checking out contractors and contracts that protect you

If no contractors would agree, that would be troubling, (and would be an opportunity for a new company that was willing to provide such a contract to enter the market) - but I found that did not happen.

Here is my experience - perhaps typical? perhaps worse than usual? In any case, it demonstrates that some contractors will agree to these terms, and that bad things can sometimes happen if the steps are not followed:

For countertops: After getting recommendations from friends and looking online, I started with 7 fabricators to consider (not nearly all the ones in the Chicago area). I rejected 3 without requesting a quote based on their reviews and/or court cases. I contacted one who said they don't work with Quartzite. I got quotes from the remaining 3. One of those 3 decided not to work with me based on my contract requests. One of them I decided not to work with because their price was a bit high and their response times during the sales process were erratic. One of them agreed to all my terms and had the lowest price, and I seriously considered them, but I rejected them in the end because I felt they were not being sufficiently transparent in their process. The remaining one had no negative reviews online at all, was perfectly responsive throughout the process, talked through the contract terms with me and came to ones we both were comfortable with, was the only one willing to do the work without a seam between the sink and the stove, and showed me with physical templates made of wood that it would work, and generally has been responsive and responsible in every way.

For a GC, the first time, I did not follow any of this advice. I lost more than 15 thousand dollars and 6 months of having a livable home to a fraudulent contractor. The second time, I followed these steps. It took a lot of contractors before I found one with a price I found reasonable and with workman's comp, but the first such contractor I found did agree to my contract terms - they made him a little nervous initially, but we talked it through and he became comfortable, and has done a great job and fixed the only mistake he has made free of charge and free of disupte.

For a flooring contractor and an electrician, I followed some of this advice - checked reviews, but I didn't go through every detail ahead of time nor did I put everything explicitly in the contract - and I got middling results - basically competent electrical work that was 1/3 over budget and had a non-safety-related code violation in it, a floor finished in the wrong color because he didn't know that was one of the properties of the finish he used, which he will refinish for free, but he was difficult to deal with around it and he won't refund any $ for the hassle nor for the fact I lose 1 of the 3 refinishings the floor can have.

Yes, the process I've described is much more work up front than picking the first number out of the phone book. But it gives me tremendous confidence in the companies I have selected, and I find that often I pay either way - either up front with due diligence, or later with problems. Is it scary to have a reputable contractor say they won't work with you because the think you are being unreasonable or too picky? Yes, somewhat. Is it scarier to have something go wrong and realize you have never discussed that scenario and your contract doesn't protect you? For me, definitely. Up to the reader to decide what you prefer - after all the difficulties I've had with contractors, I much prefer due diligence and the peace of mind that comes with it.

This post was edited by GardenerDev on Sun, Jan 26, 14 at 22:33

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