Remodeling Is Easy, Right?
Hiring a remodeling contractor can be one of the most overwhelming things one may ever experience. Depending on the scope of work being done, your lifestyle and daily routine can be altered for weeks, even months. As your home begins to resemble a Walmart store on Black Friday, you wonder when the chaos and utter disarray surrounding you will end. You meet with designers, shop for fixtures, make plans to temporarily store furniture and belongings, allocate funds, and meet contractors. Hopefully, you select the right one.
Here at GreatBuildz, a free service that connects homeowners in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego with reliable general contractors, we talk to homeowners every day about their contractor horror stories – here are some things we’ve learned along the way.
If everything is going “according to plan”, consider yourself lucky!
Quite often, everything goes exactly the way your contractor planned, and you are bewildered by the three months’ worth of “horror stories” you were forced to listen to, once friends and colleagues heard you were having a remodel done. If that is your experience, that is wonderful! You should immediately grab a flight to Vegas and find the highest paying craps table, so as not to squander your lucky streak! That is of course after you kneel and give thanks to the construction gods for the smoothness in which your project ran.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to sound like a pessimist. I have been around the block a few times and have seen many things, so I guess I would classify it as being steeped in reality. The grim truth with a home remodel is: rarely does everything go according to plan. I’m not suggesting that every remodel is a trainwreck waiting to happen, but quite often there are unforeseen things that come up. Generally speaking, none of the professionals involved are even at fault- it just happens.
“Unforeseen things come up…it just happens”
When a problem does surface though, the quality of the relationship you have with your contractor can be vital in determining the outcome of it. Hopefully, you carefully read the contract you signed with the contractor prior to the job start, or even had your attorney peruse it. A proper contract would contain many elements, which would be very useful to both of you. Items such as:
- Payment schedule
- Purchasing responsibility (fixtures, products, etc…)
- Elimination of debris
- Project time schedule
- Additional costs or change orders
To learn more about construction contracts, read our recent blog post 10 key points to always look for in a construction contract.
In my eyes, the most important one of these items is the additionalcosts or change orders – it is often the most problematic elements of a contract, both for yourself and your contractor. This is where the homeowner/contractor relationship is put to the ultimate test. From the instant they speak the words every homeowner dreads, “We have a problem”, a plethora of thoughts run through your mind. In fact, they are so plentiful you can’t decide which one gets your attention first.
- How much money is involved?
- How much extra time is involved?
- How much more mess will this cause?
- Is the extra work really necessary?
- Is he just “inventing” this problem?
- Does he even know what he is doing?
All of these thoughts are quite relevant, and each needs to be investigated. Now you can begin to see validity in the “horror stories” I alluded to earlier. If you feel you have a good relationship with your contractor, have an honest conversation about your fears. Obviously, don’t bluntly say anything that will offend them, or outright question their level of competence. Subtly let them know you won’t be taken advantage of – and that you aren’t satisfied with a bad remodeling job.
Being sincere yet stern may be enough to garner both of you a little more respect in the relationship, and the trust level will grow. Another option is to have a friend or family member with at least a hint of construction knowledge talk to them or get involved. You could consider hiring a home inspector to review the work that was already performed and issue a report about the quality. If you’re having other issues or question the contractor’s work quality or budget, you might consider hiring a part-time project manager. People that work in construction (or retired contractors) might be willing to help you on an hourly basis.
A trustworthy, honest relationship with your contractor is key to a successful renovation
Most importantly, see how the contractor reacts to your talk. If they is understanding of your worries and carries on with the job like a professional, they are probably legitimate. However, if they becomes distant and cold, you have gotten yourself into a bad situation, and to fire your remodeling contractor may seem like something worth exploring.
If that is the case, you should start considering the unconsiderable- firing your contractor. This is not what you imagined when you decided to give yourself the spacious kitchen with the island countertop or the dream bathroom with the huge whirlpool tub you were so excited about. At this point, your remodel is officially a “horror story”.
Everyone has a different level of tolerance for such situations, so each case is a separate beast. While there are various reasons to grant your contractor a “stay of execution” to attempt to complete what you both have started, there is a multitude of reasons to fire your remodeling contractor.
Reasons To Fire Your Remodeling Contractor?
Some reasons to fire your remodeling contractor would be:
- Doing unnecessary work
- Purposeful damage to your property
- Gross failure to meet schedules
- Willful disrespect
- Bad remodeling job
- Walking off the job
The decision to fire your remodeling contractor is a major one, so it should not be taken lightly. Exhaust every other option until you feel firing him is the only one left. Even then, chances are you will see him in civil court, which isn’t an attractive option for anyone involved. At the same time, your home is still in a shambles with no clear idea of when normalcy will be restored. So definitely only fire them as a last resort.
There are a few major practical problems in firing your contractor. The first problem is determining how much is owed to the contractor based on their stage of completion. Since the job is partially complete, its very difficult to tell what percentage of the contracted amount is owed to the contractor. Invariably the client and the contractor will not agree on the amount that’s owed. But, in order to part ways, an agreement will have to be reached. Otherwise, the contractor can take you to court or file a mechanics lien on your property. So you may have to pay more than you think you owe in order to ‘fire a contractor’.
The other major problem is that you’ll need to bring in another contractor to finish the incomplete project. Hopefully the second contractor will be much better than the first. But, not every contractor is willing to take on a partially complete project. They often don’t want to inherit the risk that the previous work was done poorly. In addition to that complication, its going to take some time to find and hire another contractor, which leaves you living in a construction zone for an extended period of time.
If you’re seriously considering firing your contractor, do some research on the implications. You may want to speak to an attorney to give you advice and review your contract. They will let you know what legal rights you have to fire your contractor. Sometimes, if the project is close to completion, its best to swallow your pride and find a way to work with your ‘difficult contractor’ in order to finish the job and move on with your life.
When it comes to finding the best contractor for your project – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened 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
By: Brian Tooman
Brian Tooman is a devoted husband and father of seven. He has 25 years of experience in residential remodeling, residential electrical, and basement finishing. He also has over 23 years of experience in the installation and servicing of commercial fire and life-safety systems.