All Contractors are NOT created equal

So, you’ve decided on a contractor to do your project. Typically, that’s a big job in itself. If you’re smart, you will check things out as thoroughly as possible. Did you get references? How about checking to see if they are licensed and bonded? Maybe you even looked at some of their previous work.  You are now good to go – or are you?

I want to tell you about our last contractor. We did all the things necessary to ensure that this contractor was a safe bet, but even with all our precautions, it was not enough. So let me start my story about our contracting nightmare.

We felt safe because our contractor was licensed and bonded. Did you know that a contractor’s bond, in Oregon, is only for $20,000?  They won’t sell one for more than that. Our project was supposed to cost $100,000. Sadly, our entire project went belly up and we were only able to recoup the amount of the bond. In addition, it takes money and time to make this happen. Be aware too, that if someone else is in line before you, they may get the bond first.

Did we learn anything from this project? You bet we did!

LESSON #1: If a project will cost more than $20,000, break the tasks into $20,000 pieces. Our contractor used sub-contractors, instead of having employees. Why do we care? Because when everything hit the fan, we weren’t able to touch the subs.

I’m not sure where he found these subs, but he must have hired them off the street – NO KIDDING! They laid the finished flooring, right off the bat – even before plastering and painting! Everything they touched had to be redone! I’m not exaggerating! Our project must have been their “maiden voyage” – the one they were supposed to learn on.

Our worst mistake was when we left for a month’s vacation, leaving this project in the hands of “our partner”. Having a partner is a whole other story that I’ll discuss at another time. The work was so shabby that it had to be torn out and done a second time. Oh, did I forget to mention that this project ended up costing us just about double?

LESSON #2: Don’t leave during a project. You absolutely have to be there to oversee the job. Just because he is a contractor, doesn’t mean he knows what he’s doing, or that he cares. This project proved that to be true.

The scary thing is that this contractor will go on to do this sort of thing again. All they need to do is apply for another license under another name. It’s that simple. If I were to look for him today, I wouldn’t find him because he never uses his own name – he didn’t even with our contract. He will simply come up with another business name, find someone else’s name to put on the papers, and he’s ready to do  business once again. He could even use his dog’s name if he wanted to. When we were getting all the information for our lawsuit, everything was in his friend’s name. Even his house is in his wife’s name.

It wasn’t until we got a notice that our contractor had lost his license, that the light bulb went on. Apparently, he was robbing Peter to pay Paul. They were paying their last job with our money. I think they were planning to pay for our work with their next job – I think.

And guess what he said when we confronted him?  He said, “I’m sure sorry this happened to you. You didn’t deserve this”. REALLY?

LESSON #3: Do not pay till the work is done to your satisfaction. Arguments about poor work quality never get resolved if you pay in advance. If need be, have them tear it out and redo it before paying. In addition, always use a release of lien as part of the payment process.  This way, he acknowledges that he’s done the work to your satisfaction. This also reduces the remaining contract amount.

Learn from our mistakes. Paying double for a project, when you have a tight budget, can cut you off at the knees. Our next project will follow these rules, as well as others that I will discuss in later blogs.

Happy house remodeling!



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