What Not to Do When Hiring a Contractor

Are you hiring a contractor? Read this first.

In one of my very first blogs that I wrote for Ply Gem, I focused on how to hire a competent contractor.

I recently had an experience with a potential client that drove home how not to interview a contractor, which can be just as important. Remember, when you’re interviewing a contractor, the contractor is interviewing you as well.

Contrary to public perception, contractors are people. And contractors like being treated with respect and not “talked down to.”

While it is true we work with our hands and our backs, we do use our minds from time to time. And yes, I realize we are not doctors with years of formal education, but that doesn’t mean contractors should be dismissed as uneducated.

A recent meeting with a potential client drove this idea home and inspired this blog post.

6 things homeowners should consider when hiring a contractor.

1. Contractors can have tight schedules, so try to schedule your appointment in advance.

When I called the homeowner on a Friday to set up the appointment and outlined the times I was available, he pushed for me to come on Saturday and or Sunday. I repeated that the earliest I was available was starting Monday. He again pushed several times for a weekend appointment. I again assured him that I was booked all weekend and that I would be happy to meet any time the following week. He then demanded to know what was so important that I couldn’t make it Saturday or Sunday. Believe it or not, contractors have personal lives. We like to spend time with family and friends.

2. Ditch the stereotypes about contractors.

My daughter just obtained her driver’s license, which is a story for another day, so I drove the minivan that she would drive on regular basis. It had been sitting idle for a month or so and I wanted to drive it to be sure it was still in good running order. Plus, it gets much better fuel mileage than my work trucks. Upon arriving at the home, the customer didn’t just question why I am driving a minivan, he accused me of being a fly by night contractor for driving one. “What kind of contractor works out of a minivan?” This homeowner did not make a good first impression. I also know many contractors that work out of minivans rather than trucks, and I happen to work out of a full-size SUV.

3. A reliable and trustworthy contractor will tell you the things you don’t want to hear.

We moved onto looking at the work the homeowner needed to have done. I had a pretty good idea that this project was not for me, but I also thought this experience could make an interesting case study, so I continued. As we walked throughout the house and reviewed the framing, I noticed some good work that had been done, and some not so good work, depending on which of the four previous contractors had done the work. The homeowner continued to point out problems that he wanted to address, however when I pointed out the major framing issues that should be fixed, he did not seem concerned.

4. Heed a professional’s advice.

This home was an early 1800’s farm house with uneven walls and a stone foundation. The homeowner outlined how he would like the foundation to look like a brand new house, with a poured concrete foundation. This was would be difficult to fulfill. Taking into consideration how he wanted the house to look upon completion and the difficulty of the projects, I suggested that a new house build may be a better fit for him. He replied that two other contractors had given the same advice.

A death knell for any home improvement project is unrealistic expectations and not heeding a professional’s advice.

5. When you’re hiring a contractor don’t haggle on everything.

The homeowner promised “future” work on another project if I “took care of him” on this one, which is code for bargain pricing. Demanding customers and bargain pricing never go together.

6. Contractors don’t have to take the project.

As we wrapped up, I told the homeowner that I would think about it and see if this was a project we would want to take on. At this point, the customer became animated and demanded that we take the work. Remember, a contractor does not have to take the job.

In all, I spent one and a half hours walking through the home and walked away with no interest in actually doing the work. To many people, this would seem like a waste of time and money. And for most contractors that would be 100% true. But after five minutes or so I had a feeling this experience would become a good case study.

In short, be kind and courteous to your contractors when you are interviewing them because the good contractors are interviewing you at the same time.

“Let’s build something great together.”