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Dealing with Contractors - How to Do Business Successfully - Part 2



Starting Work - Crash! Bang! Drip! Cough!

Construction is almost always very messy, dirty, dusty, noisy and inconvenient in every way. There is usually a large amount of trash. Hopefully, you took the advice in Part 1, and have worked out a suitable agreement about what gets cleaned up and when! An unoccupied room may not really need a lot of cleaning up during the project, but debris in the living room or kitchen may need daily cleanup. Perhaps a trash pile on the driveway is okay until the end, but maybe not. Cleanup costs both money and time. Hauling trash to the dump costs both dump fees and also labor that you will not be seeing directly. Any level of cleanup is okay, but cleaner does mean more cost to you. Noise is also often disturbing, but basically unavoidable. Dust is always present. If you have things in other rooms that need protecting, you need to take care of this yourself or inform the contractor during the estimate stage. Some steps to prevent any dust in other rooms are somewhat expensive in materials and labor.

Stress and Mess- When in danger or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout!

Most work involves removing some pre-existing work. Anything could be affected. Pipes, AC ducts, drywall, wiring, walls and beams, perhaps breaking concrete, etc. There may be times without electricity or water. Perhaps the heat or air conditioning will be off. There may be areas that are temporarily dangerous to enter (falling objects, nails in boards, fiberglass insulation dust, etc.)

During longer projects, if have have chosen to remain in the house or office, you may get just absolutely sick of dealing with all these issues. These things cannot really be avoided, but you may need to find a way of dealing with this distress. Customers on long projects often find themselves really fed up about a third of the way through. If the contractor is being negligent on cleanup, feel free to say something. However, if you agreed beforehand to less cleanup to save costs, you will need to either pay extra or live with it. Getting mad at the contractor is almost never a good idea. This will usually cause distress to the contractor and often slow up the job. You can yell at a saw all you want, it will not ever have its feelings hurt. Contractors are people, they are sensitive to what you say. Of course, if you want to scream and yell alone, feel free to!

Paying Up - I'll pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today!

I get a kick out of the common advice I see on television that you should never pay any money up front! This is really silly advice. If you can find a contractor rich enough to pay for materials up front, then you should wake up and stop dreaming! A typical medium job will require $1000-$2000 in materials. In good times, a very small contractor will have 4-5 jobs ongoing at once. This would mean having to cough up $5000-$10000! Would you work for someone under those circumstances? Could you even do that if you wanted to?

Obviously, pretty much every job will require you to pay something up front. This is part of the I trust you a while, you trust me a while bargain I talk about in Paying for Work - The Draw System: What is it and why is it used?

Of course, on longer jobs you will need to make several payments as the job progresses. Holding back on needed draws, trying to motivate a contractor to get more done is a dangerous game. If the contractor has failed to complete enough work for another payment, this may be wise. But, holding back payments genuinely needed may force the contractor to either abandon a job completely or work exclusively on other jobs to obtain the money needed for your work.

Problems Afterwards - Money back guarantee, keep the Ginsu knives as our free gift!

Most projects turn out fine with everyone very happy. Usually both the customer and the contractor are basically satisfied. Occasionally, there are problems. Sometimes, a lack of good communication causes the performed work not to be exactly what the customer wanted. Sometimes, there are pre-existing (but hidden) problems that cause grief for the contractor. Sometimes, the funding available turns out to be too little to finish.

It has been my experience that these problems need to be dealt with openly, honestly and as soon as possible. Hiding funding problems until too late or failing to inform the contractor quickly that you wish to do things differently than planned will only make things worse.

Sometimes a project gets delayed due to illness or equipment breakage. These things can happen on any project.

As far as shoddy work goes, if you cannot directly deal with this problem with your contractor, you can contact the better business bureau. There may be other government agencies that can help. Depending on the laws of your state, lawsuits may be ineffective in obtaining relief.



Last Updated: January 25, 2009