October 18, 2020 – Take it from me, don’t forget to do your homework when hiring a contractor!

Let this serve as a warning for those of you that could use some help in the ‘home improvement’ department from time to time, but don’t do your homework. Remember back in the day when your teacher told you that in order to pass the class, completing the homework was essential? Well, in this case, if you want to ensure that your home is done right by capable people and you don’t want to get taken advantage of, do your homework!

What do I mean by that, exactly? Well, in this case, the first thing I would suggest is do not do verbal or oral contracts. They are worth about as much as the air that comes out of the person’s mouth (giving you a quote) when they tell you, “Oh, yes, absolutely! I can remodel your entire bathroom and basement for $500.” And this is where Judge Judy comes to mind. I think in at least one episode per week, she uses the phrase, “Get it in writing.” There is a whole lot of wisdom behind that message. And, hey, if a contractor does tell you that they’ll do a whole lot for very little, don’t believe it for a minute. Alright, jot that down. That is part one of your homework.

The second thing that is just as critical is making sure you’re working with someone reputable. How do you do that? You can either ask for references directly from the person that you’re considering hiring or you can use one or several of the social media sites that are now available to pose the question and see who people recommend. You can also use the power of observation to determine (to a degree) if they’re reputable. I like to walk every other day and if I see someone getting work done on their home, I take a mental note. Once the work is complete, I love to take another gander. The finished product speaks volumes. If someone has their home painted and 1) it looks crappy after the job is complete, or 2) the paint starts peeling after a couple of weeks, I would say don’t ask for their contractor’s contact info. Ok, did you write that down? That is part two of your homework.

The third thing, which is probably the most important thing, is DO NOT PAY IN FULL BEFORE THE WORK IS COMPLETE. In fact, DON’T PAY IN FULL UP FRONT at all. Not ever. I mean it! Do I really need to explain this? Sigh. Ok. So you know a couple of weeks ago I wrote a bit about a couple of bad eggs in my family? Yep, you guessed it! One of them likes to drive around aimlessly and look for gullible people (usually senior citizens). If their house could use a new coat of paint, or their hedges could use a trim, he’ll go a-knocking at their door. I’m not sure exactly how he manages to do it as often as he does, but he’s snookered a lot of folks into handing over the entire amount he says it’ll take to do the job and guess what happens next? Yep, you’re catching on! They never see him again. I don’t understand how he can sleep at night, honestly, because I’d feel like a real piece of garbage doing that to someone. But I guess it’s not that uncommon because a lot of people experience that very thing (getting snookered). My brother can certainly put on the charm when it works to his advantage, so maybe that’s how he gets away with it? So tell me you wrote this down. I told you it was the most important thing after all, and it’s definitely going to be on the test.

The fourth thing? I don’t like to judge people, but in this case, I believe appearances matter. If the contractor shows up to give you a quote and it’s first thing in the morning, and they look like they just crawled out of bed and put on whatever they had wadded up on the floor, take a pass. If they can’t be bothered to at least put on a clean shirt and pants, do you really think they’re going to take care when working on your home? These are the folks that will make a mess and leave it for you to clean up. The last person that came by my home clearly didn’t think it was important, I wish I’d taken a picture to show you so you’d understand. Nevertheless, as much as I wanted to say it, but didn’t, this is what went through my head as he stood in the doorway, “Do you want me to take you seriously when you come to assess the work and provide a quote? You do realize this is pretty much like a job interview, right? I don’t expect you to put on a suit and tie but you can at least put on a clean pair of jeans before you show up at my door.” Alright, to be honest, this is less concerning than the other points I mentioned early, but it still has merit. So write it down, will you?

As I said in the very beginning, “Let this serve as a warning.” I say this because I have had my share of nightmare scenarios play out that could have been avoided had I done my homework. We had the sheetrock guy, Mr. Personality, that gave us a verbal quote and then bumped it up a couple of grand halfway through the job because according to him, he’d underestimated his expenses. To make matters worse, and add insult to injury, his assistant would show up each morning and without asking, go directly to our bathroom for his ‘morning constitutional’. Haven’t heard that term before? It means he took a dump in our toilet, every single morning, for two weeks straight. Oh, YES, he did. And then there’s the painter, whose first ‘hired hand’ arrived on a bicycle. That’s not the part that bothered me. I love to ride myself. The issue was that he didn’t bring one lousy tool and then proceeded to ask my husband if he could borrow ours. What the heck?! And then there’s the painter that Mr. Poopy Pants recommended. I paid him by the hour and each time I checked on him, he was on his phone and standing completely still (other than his mouth moving). The best part? I got to fix all his crappy work myself since he left a bunch of V-marks on our kitchen ceiling that I just couldn’t live with. I have to own that one, folks. Should have known better. Do you need new seamless gutters? I can recommend someone. Hang on, let me finish the sentence. I can recommend someone NOT TO USE. This character we hired installed brand new seamless gutters (that we paid a pretty penny for) and within 2 weeks, they started falling off our home.

Now are you ready for the pop quiz? Hope so! I tried to burn all of this stuff into your brain so you don’t make the same mistakes I did. What I’ve ultimately ended up doing (as a result of all of these ‘mishaps’) is rely exclusively on myself and my husband to get the work done around our home. It may not happen as fast as I’d like it, but at least I know it’ll be done right and I won’t have to deal with any more sad sacks posing as professionals. But if you don’t have the skills or the time or the interest, and you ABSOLUTELY have to hire a contractor, please do your homework! It is wholly, unreservedly, positively worth the effort. So just do it, ok? Don’t make me have to call your parents!!

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