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How to Avoid Being Burned by a Bad Home Renovation Contractor

Planning a Home Improvement Project? We Can Help!
bad renovation contractor

Home remodelers have a bad reputation. You’ve probably heard nightmare stories about a contractor who started a job, got a big up-front payment, then walked away and never finished the job. Bad renovation contractors show up on the consumer affairs segment of your local news on a regular basis.

So how do you keep from being that disgruntled homeowner on the local news? Follow these steps:

1. Ask friends for referrals.

Who did they use to redo their kitchen or bathroom? Were they happy with the quality of the work, the speed and the follow-up with any warranty issues?

2. Look for contractors with a long-term track record.

Contractors probably won’t stay in business long if they do a bad job. Most reputable contractors will have a web site that indicates when they started their business. Or you can just ask the contractor when they started and their experience in the remodeling industry.

3. Look for and read online reviews.

Consumers post reviews of contractors on multiple platforms like Google, Yelp, Facebook, HomeAdvisor, Thumbtack, Houzz, Better Business Bureau and more. Check around on these sites.

4. Verify that a contractor is currently licensed.

Ask the contractors you are considering for their contractor license number, then check with the state or local licensing authority to verify the license is current. You may also be able to see any complaints against this contractor.

Make sure you understand the difference between a business license (which all legitmate businesses will have) and a contractor’s license. Getting a business license normally requires nothing more than paying a fee to the city or county. However, a contractors license is a professional license, much like a doctor or lawyer would hold. This type of license is only obtained by undergoing a certain amount of education and passing required testing, as well as taking continuing education classes.

5. Make sure the contractor is insured.

Ask your prospective contractor for a Certificate of Insurance. This must be current. Any legitimate contractor will be happy to provide this to you. If you have any doubts as to the authenticity of the insurance policy or it’s status, call the insurance company listed on the Certificate of Insurance.

6. Get multiple bids from different contractors.

Get at least three bids. Some contractors won’t even bother to bid. It’s easy to eliminate those. Once the bids come in, see how they compare. Does part of the pricing seem very different on one of the bids. Why? Did the other contractors miss something or is this one contractor way over-priced? Try to compare apples to apples regarding materials they are using. Does one contractor use higher quality materials that would be important to longevity, or is it just more expensive without any benefit?

7. Ask lots of questions and get answers.

A bad renovation contractor doesn’t like questions. Questions take knowledge and wisdom to answer. Questions take time to answers. Questions require actually caring about clients.

Don’t feel bad about asking lots of questions. You’ll be able to weed out the bad renovation contractors and find the ones who know their stuff and will do an excellent job for you.

8. Get specialized help if you need it.

Renovating a home isn’t something most people do every day. If you have never done it, or if it has been a long time, you may need help doing things like picking colors and finishes and patterns and overall designs.

Some contractors offer design services. Some don’t. Some will help you pick out all of your tile and paint and knobs and stain color, etc. Some won’t.

Find out before you start a project what your contractor will help you do and what they won’t help you do. If you see an area that they don’t offer assistance, either find a contractor who will help in that area, or find third-party professionals or vendors who will give you the help you need. You might have to pay for the help, for example, if you need plans drawn up by an architect. But you may be able to get free help from the suppliers of materials that will be used on your project. For example, the tile provider will likely have a designer that helps you pick out your various tile colors, patterns and materials at no additional cost.

9. Get a warranty.

If the contractor you are considering doesn’t provide a warranty, prepare to spend more money down the road. You should expect a warranty on the materials and workmanship for some period of time after the job is finished. Ninety days is a good start, but a one year warranty is much better. Sometimes you need to go through all of the seasons to “battle test” a home renovation, especially if it includes exterior work exposed to the weather. A good contractor will provide a much longer warranty while a bad renovation contractor will provide a short or even no warranty.

10. Get a written contract.

This should go without saying, but “get it in writing!” Be sure to get a contract that spells out exactly what is being done to your home. The contract should address when payments are due, how any change orders are handled and what the warranty period is and what is covered. A bad renovation contractor will often provide you with little to no contract with no details spelled out.

11. Keep a close eye on the work as it progresses.

While you may not be an expert remodeler yourself, you can still take a look at the work that is being completed each day and make some common-sense assessments. Did the window go in where you wanted it? Is the tile the right color? Is there a crack in the countertop that just got installed?

These are simple observations you can make by walking around and looking at what your contractor has done thus far. Do not let something fester. If you see something that looks wrong, notify your contractor immediately! A good contractor will want to know so they can correct the problem before it becomes more difficult or expensive to correct later on in the project.

After you point out a problem to your contractor, you may find out that something is still in the process of being installed or the contractor may be aware of a crack, but they haven’t notified you yet. That’s ok. If you keep in touch with your contractor, they will know that you are actively monitoring their work, which may help keep the contractor honest and on-track.

12. Have regular in-person meetings with your contractor, including a final walk-through.

In addition to monitoring progress yourself as discussed above, schedule meetings with your contractor at various points during the project. A small job may not require many (or any) meetings during the job, but you definitely want to have a final walk-through where together with your contractor you look carefully at each room and features that was updated.

Create a punch list of items that need to be fixed. Marking surface with removable painters tape will help make sure any flaws are findable by the person who will fix them.

Avoid hiring a bad renovation contractor by contacting Halcyon Remodeling today. We are happy to answer your questions, meet with you, understand your needs and desires and prepare a bid free of charge. You can see our reviews on Google. You can verify our contractors license and insurance. We provide a one year warranty on labor and materials. We have an in-house designer who will work with you to design the space of your dreams. We will be there every step of the way both during and after construction. We are ready to help you if you’ll request a free quote today.