If you are asking this question, it means you probably have had a bad experience.
The rest of you are here maybe trying to prevent a problem- or maybe just here by sheer chance. Pay attention and maybe you can avoid the Pollyanna-ish attitudes that will likely earn you a rude awakening later. Feel free to discuss your experience in the comments. Maybe you can help someone avoid a problem.
Homeowners have trouble with contractors when they have trouble discerning between good contractors and bad contractors who offer great pricing and make great presentations. We are going to discuss dealing with contractors over a period of articles but lets get started in a general way.
You and I are at a distinct disadvantage when buying from a home services contractor. For example, lets talk about buying a new roof. We are novices at buying a roof. How often do we buy? How much do we really know about the ins and outs of roofing? Compare our knowledge and selling experience of the roofing contractor. He does it for a living.
The real good roofer has used his experience to build an expert crew that takes pride in their work. The other contractors spend their time improving their manipulation skills. Be aware of this distinction when you are talking to service contractors.
How can we make better informed purchases of contractor services?
We need to understand contractors better.
So contractors come with many different stories- with many different attitudes. Anyone living in Texas can become a roofing contractor tomorrow morning with a truck and a sign.
For many newcomers from many states, this is quite a shocking development. We will leave any discussion about consumer protection in Texas and government regulatory philosophies for another day. But, just know, you are on your own in Texas. It pays to pay attention.
Now most of us do not want to be a roofer- but there are a lot of people out there wanting to make money- can decide they want to try their hand at being a roofer.
Opportunity striking is an important note. More roofs are damaged by wind and hail than any other state. There is not a more vivid example of opportunists coming out of the woodwork.
For any project you want done- for every repair you want done, there is likely an opportunist in the mix. Our Purpose here is to help you avoid them through using your discernment.
OK, we are talking about storm damage. Roofers come out of the wood work when opportunity strikes. And most of us know that. When something happens to our home- when it is damaged by wind we stop and consider what the implications are and understand what can happen… NOT!
We need to understand our own consumer tendencies better.
Actually our natural tendency is to get something done ASAP. We want a solution now- today- this afternoon. We want the stress removed. We want the problem solved. This phenomena- myths and false urgencies that allow us to be manipulated- can get you in trouble.
There are professional standards and best practices specifications for all types of construction. These are not something you hear much about. We should pay more attention here. When we don’t see they specs- we believe lip service about specs. Contracts who are jerks are really good at obfuscating about what they are going to do. And if there are problems with what they do, they problem turns up later and stays forever. Specs are important. LINK
We love low prices though and we pay a lot of attention here. This can be a problem. This can cost us a lot of money. Here are some other notes on pricing issues
You have just left yourself open to the interpretation of what is good workmanship by the quality of the contractor you hire. The qualities that any particular contractor brings to the job depend on his internal value structure.
- Are they in business for the long term and want to keep every client happy? – OR
- Are they short term thinkers out for themselves?
If you cannot discern this- this process will not turn out well for you.
Why do you hire any particular contractor?
We are going to describe self-centered contractors here. We do not want to malign all contractors- but we are going to draw a picture of the contractors you want to avoid.
Did they make a great presentation? What do I mean by great presentation? There were contractors whose great strength is marketing and sales. They appear empathetic and appear concerned about your needs. They offered immediate relief and say they will handle everything.
They read you really well- figure out what you want to hear and tell you. They don’t care really what they say because they are going to do the work- you are going to pay them and then they are down the road…
And they like to talk about low prices. They don’t have the high overhead of big roofing companies. They with their can-do spirit and hard work are willing to work for less to give you a great deal. OK, admit it. You love hearing this kind of stuff. Well, they can and will do it… to you and you won’t like it.
You need to understand the nature of the particular skill we are hiring.
Lets stay with the roofing example. Roofing work is not generic. It is not difficult to do, but to do it well you have to make smart decisions when the straight forward plan requires adjustment. Protrusions are a major problem with roofing. Protrusions are chimneys, plumbing pipes, skylights, vents, antennas- these all require a special process to do well.
Dealing with obstacles requires skill. It also requires caring for the customer. See the problem is that there are so many ways to cheat a little bit we have a great cliche to cover the concept- cutting corners.
Cutting corners is what happens when people get hot and lose interest in doing good work for you. You have to really screw up for a roof to leak right after the work is done. What can happen is- you cut corners and the roof doesn’t show a sign of a problem for 5 years maybe.
Roofing with care takes personal commitment and an internal value system. Now roofs in Texas get hot. Can you imagine? Sure you can. Now imagine your spend your day on a roof putting down shingles. It is very hot and hard work. Something happens that needs extra attention and effort. A deck issue maybe.
Now right at this moment, do you want the best guy you can get at the lowest price? Or do you want the company who is in this for the long term- understands hot weather- has a plan for keeping their crew fresh and happy and it costs a little more?
Think through what you want the results to be and formulate a plan to get it.
And, like many other home services, when the work is all done, the visible parts can look great and you have no idea what has happened under the covers. If you choose the wrong contractor for the wrong reasons- really great low price they agreed to- relax and trust because you assume your house is just a generic roof and needs generic help- just thrilled at the spit and polish on the exterior… you are are impressed with how well they cleaned up the dust piles…
BUT if you missed the critically important issues- you have a good chance that you will end up with an attitude that builders and contractors are jerks.
When you hire a contractor who feels no connection to your future happiness- who has a short term vision of your relationship with them- if you bought because of a low price or a special deal or an offer to knock 15% off the other bid- you have a good bet of ending up with a sour experience.
NOW REALIZE – Finding a great contractor is more than being willing to pay more. You have to listen and ask questions.
Lets move on to talking about how to spot and hire great contractors.
Feel free to complain or comment on what was said here.