How to Deal With a Contractor’s Poor Workmanship
Before we jump in, don’t miss out on part 1 of our Bad Contractor series: How to spot a Bad Contractor.
Most of us have known people who endured renovation nightmares after hiring a bad contractor who performed shoddy work at their homes. Sadly, this is not an uncommon occurrence. Over 50% of homeowners report having a negative experience with their remodel or complaining of a bad contractor. Many homeowners mention poor workmanship as the main reason for their dissatisfaction.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we speak to homeowners every day who want to get connected with honest, reliable pros to ensure they don’t get stuck with a bad contractor who does shoddy work.
There are many ways that you can end up with poor workmanship – here are some tips and guidance to help you avoid that or find ways to solve these issues that have arisen with a bad contractor.
If you haven’t already started your project and hired a contractor, here are a few things you should do in order to prevent bad workmanship. By far the most important thing you need to do is hire a quality, reputable and honest contractor.
Hire a Reputable GC to Avoid Poor Workmanship
A good contractor would never cut corners to save a buck; they put too much value on their reputation and make it their highest priority to make sure the client is satisfied now and in the long run. They want you to be so happy that you’ll recommend them to friends for many years to come. On the other hand, a bad contractor doesn’t care about the project results and just wants to get paid and move on.
Before hiring a contractor, make sure to call a few of their references and ask them to confirm that they were fully satisfied with the quality of the contractor’s work. If they did a great job for other clients, you can be confident he will do the same for you. Also, you should express your expectations to the contractor clearly upfront.
At GreatBuildz, we require all our contractors to sign a 20-point “Code of Conduct” describing our expectations of their behavior with our customers, including the following language about quality to prevent shoddy work: “If I notice a potential quality issue during the project, I will alert homeowner immediately, so we can discuss options to proceed or ideas to correct.” Homeowners should require these types of commitments from their contractors.
Once a renovation is started, I’d suggest the homeowner check on job progress a few times per week, and at least once a week together with the contractor or project manager. But it’s also important to walk the job alone. When the contractor is there to walk the job with you, it’s your opportunity to ask questions and address concerns.
However, it’s also nice to view the project progress alone so you can take your time looking carefully at the quality of the work and the functionality of the space. If you see any issue or have any concerns about potentially bad work, it’s best to address them as soon as possible and let the contractor address them immediately instead of waiting till the end. In order to achieve this, the homeowner should be checking the quality of the renovation on a regular basis, not just at the end.
It’s Too Late – Bad Quality Work Already Happened
Once you’re in the middle or end of your renovation, finding contractor’s poor workmanship can be a stressful experience and can sometimes lead to a contractor dispute. This issue is not always straightforward because the idea of a ‘quality’ finished product can vary between the client and the contractor. Some contractors will notice shoddy work, be it part of their work or an existing condition of the home, but say nothing to the client in hopes they won’t notice.
Then, at the end of the job, the client notices this poor work, but now it’s very difficult to address because the job is completed. Alternatively, a contractor might use materials that happen to be on the ‘back of their truck’, regardless of whether they are the right part for the job or maybe used or damaged.
Sometimes it’s difficult to tell if a quality issue or concern is caused by shoddy work or just the existing conditions of your home. Although it’s often not totally visible to the naked eye, you can be sure that your house is not perfect. The older the house is, the more likely it’s starting to see issues like structural settlement, drywall/plaster imperfections, older systems, etc. These imperfections can sometimes make it difficult to create a perfect remodel without fixing the underlying problems first, even if your renovation has nothing to do with these areas of the home.
An example is replacing a kitchen. When a contractor goes to install upper kitchen cabinets, they often find that older ceilings are not perfectly square any more. If they try to install these cabinets against a slightly sloping ceiling, you’ll end up with an unsightly gap above some of the cabinets, and it will seem like poor workmanship. The solution is to ‘float’ the ceiling to make it totally level again, but most people don’t think about that as a necessary part of a kitchen renovation.
In some cases, homeowners struggle to determine if the issue that they see is really shoddy work by a bad contractor or whether they are just being too picky. Because the average person doesn’t really know the standards of construction work, sometimes it’s hard to tell what is adequate and what is not.
Especially, as you get close to the end of the job, one tip I suggest is to hire a retired contractor or home inspector to come to your house and check the work. Unlike most homeowners, this kind of person can give you an experienced, unbiased opinion on the quality of the work, and they probably will charge you a small fee for this service. If they are willing to write you some kind of simple ‘report’, that would also give you some ‘ammunition’ in speaking to your contractor about the problem.
Why Do Some Contractors Do Bad Work
If you strongly believe the reason for poor workmanship is because you’re working with a bad contractor, there may be a few possible reasons this is occurring. Some contractors will take on too many jobs simultaneously and try to rush through the completion of your project, creating a potential for shoddy work.
Other contractors just don’t manage their crews correctly or they get stretched too thin and might use the wrong staff person for a specific job. For example, the tile specialist is busy with other jobs, so they will have a framer or plumber install the tile at your job, with terrible results.
Regardless of the reasons, many homeowners seeing a contractor’s poor work will get so frustrated they might ask themselves: “What to do when a contractor does shoddy work?” or “Should I send a warning letter to contractor for not performing?”. In some cases, the contractor’s work is so blatantly poor, a homeowner may wonder “How do I sue a contractor for bad work?”
What Happens Next?
When a contractor’s quality of work is poor or they are not performing up to your expectations, the very first thing to do is sit down with them and have a conversation about your concerns. It’s ideal to sit down with the owner/contractor in person and be prepared with specific quality issues you want to discuss.
Also, make sure to be reasonable and tactful. Explain nicely and firmly that you are spending a lot of money on this renovation and you have certain expectations for the quality of the work. Let the contractor know you are willing to compromise on some things, but there are several items that need to re-done or repaired in order for you to be happy and satisfied. Remind them that you both want the same thing…to have the project done right and that they get fully paid.
You need to remind yourself that your primary goal is to get the project done and not get into a contractor dispute. If you decide to sue a contractor for shoddy work, it will only stop your project until the lawsuit is resolved, and the costs involved in a lawsuit are prohibitive. Plus, the odds are not good that you will get a positive outcome or a good monetary settlement after all is said and done.
Also, you can decide to fire your contractor and bring in a new one to finish the remodel, but keep in mind that might be quite a challenge. Your current contractor will still want to get paid. Additionally, it’s not very easy to find a new contractor willing to finish someone else’s shoddy work. However, if it’s obvious that the quality of work is sub-par, you are within your rights to report a contractor or make a claim with their Surety Bond or the contractor’s state license board and even decide to file a lawsuit.
After you have an in-person conversation, but before taking any of these major steps, you can consider emailing or sending a bad contractor a warning letter for poor quality work. A first warning letter should be ‘mildly’ worded so that the contractor isn’t offended but would ideally take it seriously and resolve the quality issues. An example of a first warning letter is below:
Example Warning Letters for Poor Workmanship
First Warning Letter to Send for Poor Workmanship
Click here to view sample letter
Hopefully, this letter is sufficient to get the contractor’s attention and start a positive dialogue to get the issues resolved. You will have to keep track of the repairs to ensure that the contractor is meeting their commitment. If, after a week or two, you’re finding that there continue to be issues with contractor poor work quality, you may need to send a second, more strongly worded warning letter for bad workmanship….sample below:
Firm Poor Workmanship Warning Letter
Click here to view sample letter
Remember, remodeling is a long and arduous process; its almost rarely easy and smooth. So keeping that in mind, you should do your best to stay patient with the process and the people involved. It can often be challenging to work with a contractor, especially one that’s difficult, but do your best to remain diplomatic and find a solution that can work for both sides…even if you think its not perfectly ‘fair’ to you.
Hopefully, these tips are helpful in resolving some of your issues with poor workmanship from a contractor. If you have any questions about your contractor or need help with a project, visit www.greatbuildz.com.
Check out the other parts of this series to learn more about how to deal with bad contractors:
When it comes to finding a reputable contractor for your project – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish. Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com