How To Avoid Choosing The Wrong Contractor

We understand how frustrating, intimidating and time consuming picking a good contractor can be.  

That is why we provide these resources for everyone, regardless if you are a client of ours.

We are known for providing advice, even if it is not in our best interest.  Several homeowners have told us this article was a key component to choosing a remodeling company, even if they didn't pick us.

Choosing the wrong contractor can cost you thousands of dollars and months of undeserved stress.

That is why it is vital to take the time to review this guide.

Choosing a home remodeling company is a serious undertaking and should not be taken lightly.

A decision you make within roughly an hour or two could haunt you for weeks, months, and sometimes years. 

If you don't believe it will happen to you or that it isn't that serious, type the phrase "contractor nightmares" on Google.  

My family and I went through numerous contractor nightmares and that is why I co-founded Phoenix Home Remodeling with 2 other contractors to help more homeowners avoid these issues.

Quick tells To avoid Choosing the wrong contractor

You’re going to learn 4 quick “tells” which give away if the person you’re dealing with is unorganized, unprofessional, and unlikely to do a good job.

1.) Did they show up late for a scheduled call or a home quote?

This is a big red flag if they can’t show up on time to give you a quote. If they don't show up on time to try and get your business how frustrating is it going to be when you have to call them for showing up late on the project or not at all?

If they just show up to your house without doing a phone consultation that is huge red flag.  Here is why.

2.) Do they appear like they personally have their act together?

You want to see if they’re professional at all times. Even though contract work can be a “dirty job”, this shouldn’t affect whether or not they appear professional.

If it appears that they don’t respect themselves, are they going to respect you or your house? This is an easy way to avoid choosing any of the mediocre home improvement contractors.

3.) Did they seem to follow a process or are they “winging it?”

If they seem to be winging it, this might mean they are unlicensed. If they don’t have a license, there’s a good chance their work will be subpar.

If they are licensed and appear to wing it, they don’t have processes in place and they may not care which means they won’t care about showing up on time or getting things done on time. It also may mean your design and construction will be wrong and you’ll go through many stressful issues.

4.) When asked about their remodeling process were they concise or did they fumble through it?

If they can't articulate their process there's a good chance they don't have a process or it's not well thought out.

If you went to a surgeon and he started fumbling his words and seemed confused, you would get out of there right away, right?

Why should your contractor be any different?

Does The Home Remodeling Company Use Project Management Software?

You want to ask every remodeling company this question right away.  If they don't use project management software specific to remodeling such as BuilderTrend, BuildTools or CoConstruct you want to run away as fast as you can.

The benefit of this software is every detail right from the start is documented. This includes homeowner questions, comments and pictures. Communication is fast & easy which ensures everyone is kept in the loop and knows what is happening.

Check out this page dedicated to explaining why it is so vital that your contractor uses remodel specific project management software.

You want to avoid any contractor who isn't using construction project management software, because the communication and not knowing what is happening next is very frustrating. 

You will also have nightmares with them not finishing on time.

Imagine having construction workers in your house and your home's a mess for 2-6 weeks longer than the contractor told you.

Not using construction project management software will also create mistakes like forgetting to order things on time and making errors that they end up charging you for. This is one of the main reason's contractors increase the price once the project starts.

If they don't invest in a solution to handle the project build, how serious are they taking the homeowners experience? 

If they don't invest in that, where else are they cutting corners?

Do They Use Large Air Filters?

Remodeling work can get messy.

Small particles and dust get stirred up during the project and can adversely affect air quality, not only for the duration of the project, but also for a long time afterwards.

These dust particles settle on curtains, furniture, your air ducts, and many other places.  This can be a serious health risk to a homeowner and their family. 

Remodeling dust can contain lead, silica mold spores and insect dander that you don’t want contaminating your home.

So you want to avoid any home remodeler who don't utilize large air filters for homeowner safety.

general contractor not using air filters

We have 2 of the industries best air filters from a company called BuildClean.

As you can see in the picture, the machine barely fits through a doorway and the filters are huge.

These  large systems utilize several filters to continually clean the air and keep dust particles from floating into other parts of the house.

When we also use zipwall barriers to block off the area. It's a system that creates a plastic wall from floor to ceiling.

Avoid Anyone Not Licensed, Bonded, Insured, AND Workers Comp

You want to ask them for a copy of their license and insurance.  Then go on and search the ROC number they gave.  Make sure it matches their name.

The reason this is so important is an Ahwatukee woman I spoke to went with another contractor and that contractor gave her fake paperwork and then skipped out costing her $29,000.

Here is the news article about it:

One of the large problems with using an unlicensed contractor is there's very little recourse the ROC can take.  If they aren't licensed, the ROC doesn't have a license to suspend or revoke.  That news article mentioned how this company already had 6-7 complaints with the ROC but the homeowners don't have much they can do.

Most homeowners know to ask for the first 3 items.  The last one is not well known and quite risky.

Workers Compensation insurance is an insurance all construction companies legally have to have on their employees.  Many subcontractors we have talked to in the past have not had this insurance on their employees.  We wouldn't work with them because its a huge liability for us and homeowners.

If you hire a remodeling company that does not have workers compensation, if any employee gets hurt on your property you can be liable.

Even though you signed an agreement with the remodeling company, you could be looking at a homeowners claim (which they could deny), medical bills, or possible law suit. Luckily it does not happen often but it is a huge risk worth mentioning.

Construction has one of the highest workers compensation costs of any industry because the risk of injury is high.  

If a contractor doesn’t follow the law (and good business practices to protect their clients) in being licensed, insured, bonded and workers comp, what else are they cutting corners on?

Did The Home Remodeling Company Provide An Agreement?

If they aren’t willing to provide an agreement or contract to you then they are either rookies or are hiding something.

BY ARIZONA LAW: Projects over $1000 require an agreement.

You want to work with a company that spells everything out.  An agreement is there to protect you and the contractor.  

Do They Have A Designer?

Having a certified designer to help you is really important.

You are going to need to pick out many items for your renovation and you want it to go as smoothly as possible.

Having an in-house designer helps with:

  • Knowing the best places got your items while still giving you flexibility in the retailers you like
  • Getting you the contractor discount we have with many vendors 
  • Provide design advice on what looks good
  • Bringing samples to you to save time - our client's are busy and love this experience
  • Still allow you to go on your own to look at items at your own pace
  • Create the design renders to ensure the layout and colors are the way you want
  • Use our extensive catalogs to put the exact item you picked into the renderings to ensure the materials are the ones you want to go with before doing construction

Dreaming of a Home Makeover?

Let's Chat!

Reviewing The Remodeler's Proposal

So now you have asked the above questions and narrowed down the contractors to initially avoid.

The next step is to look out for specific things on their proposal:

Did they include all of the project items they are going to complete? 

If things are missing, make sure to reach out to them and have them add it.  Missing something from the scope of work happens to all remodelers because there are so many elements in a project.  

That part is ok, but just getting an email back or them saying something like "yeah that's included" is not enough. You want to ensure they change the proposal to include everything you talked about.

If they miss a lot of things or if their proposal doesn't spell out all the items they are completing, are they taking you seriously? I would avoid any contractors that don't provide a written proposal with the scope of work detailing with bullet points the items they will complete.

Did they provide at least 3 references from past remodel clients?

Talk is cheap. A good remodeling company will be able to provide referrals from past clients to back up their claims.

If their proposal does not have references, why are they not including them? It could be they don't care or they don't want you to call their references.  Hard to know for sure, but either way that's a red flag.

When you have their references, here are questions you want to ask them:

  • What type of project did the remodeling company complete for you? 
  • How long did it take to finish your project?
  • Did they keep the area clean?
  • Did they use large dust filters?
  • Were they good about returning phone calls and getting back to you quickly?
  • Did they change the price on you (except changes you asked them to make or something they could not have known until the demolition was completed)?

If there are multiple remodel projects did they show the cost of each room/project?

If they threw all the projects into one lump sum it is difficult to evaluate which projects you want to do.  

This should be a standard and if they aren't willing to break it up by project, you want to stay away from them.

We DO NOT Underbid Like Some Phoenix Contractors

We have 2 estimators that get involved BEFORE you get the proposal.  This is not the case for any other contractors we know of not only in Phoenix but in the nation. We are part of several online contractor communities and they all think this is a waste of time and money.

We feel obligated to do this so we know the price we are providing is right.

This way you know that the price is legitimate and is not a bait & switch situation which is unfortunately common in this industry.

You could be an attorney and yell at or threaten the contractor all you want, but if you don’t pay them the extra amount you are often in breach of contract and they can walk off your job or put a lien on your house.

We do the design-build business model where you pay us for the feasibility, planning, & design package first. Once everything has been planned out and all design items have been chosen, we can provide the actual price so you don’t have a bad surprise later on.

This process is great because you can make adjustments so you can balance your wallet with your wishlist before you get to the construction phase.

You then choose if you want to work with us for the construction phase so it gives the homeowner much more control. This process also makes sure we are a good fit for one another before doing the construction phase.

Why The Cheapest Contractor Should Often Be Avoided

Saving money and getting a good fair price are obviously important, but going with the cheapest contractor can have terrible consequences.

Bids that come in much lower than other companies are a red flag. Unfortunately some contractors purposely bid low to win the job,  then increase the price on the homeowner, and have to cut corners to complete it.

We have all heard the phrase you get what you pay for.

Would you rather:

Have a contractor tell you a project will be $30,000, it finishes on time and the cost is actually $30,000 (baring you don't choose to remove or add anything to the project)


Have a contractor tell you a project will be $25,000, it takes 2 months longer than they originally said and the total cost is actually $29,000- $35,000

The answer may seem obvious, but many people don't think this situation will happen to them yet it happens all the time.

A survey found that (48%) of all homeowners would not hire their contractor for a future project. That means nearly 1/2 of homeowners were not happy with their remodel contractor!

Too many homeowners are left disappointed in the quality of the work done. Even worse, they may have to spend hundreds if not thousands of dollars to fix the deficiencies of the initial contractor. (This is very common, we get calls for this all the time)

This is one of the main reasons we created this article to help avoid choosing the wrong contractor.

Issues That Often come up From using the lowest bidder

Homeowners don’t remodel often, so they can’t be expected to know everything, especially all of the risks and stress that a contractor can inflict.

Unfortunately, many homeowners don’t learn about them until it’s too late.

Here are the 7 most common issues everyone wants to avoid:

Bait & Switch

It is not a secret that some contractors purposely low ball their proposal to earn your business.  They know that once the project has started you are locked into using them. This is a horrible tactic that gives the remodeling industry a bad name.

It's one of the main reasons Americans #2 largest amount of complaints came from remodeling companies.  They were only beat out by used car dealerships.

Bait & switch is an immoral business tactic that should never be used.

Cuts  Corners

The last thing any homeowner wants is a remodel completed that then falls apart. Some of the lowest bidders don't offer written guarantees because they can't back up their work.

Cutting corners can also lead to plumbing issues that cause costly leaks, electrical issues that can cause a fire and many other issues that are dangerous for homeowners and their family.

Lack of insurance / workers comp

There are hundreds of news articles warning about choosing a remodeling company who isn't properly insured and doesn't have workers compensation, so this won't be too in-depth since there's plenty of resources to see why this is so important.

Many contractors try to save money on insurance and workers compensation which puts them as risk but much worse, it also puts homeowners at risk.

A homeowner can be sued if a contractor is hurt while on the homeowner’s property. This can happen if a contractor does not have workers compensation

When you hire a contractor who does not have proper insurance coverage, you are assuming the risks for their work mistakes and any injuries that may occur at your home.

This relates to the last issue of contractors that cut corners: If they cut corners on safety and don't have proper workers compensation and insurance, it multiplies the risk to you. It's a compounding issue that can create tremendous stress for the homeowner.

The remodel contractor is not organized

At first this may not seem that important or simply boring. 

It is actually vital when you think of all the things that go into a remodel. For an example, here is a screenshot of part of the Gantt chart we use on a multi-bathroom remodel:

remodeling company project management software

As you can see there are a lot of project items that need to be planned out and if one thing is missed and can push out the timeline on many aspects of your project.

If the contractor is not organized, that means all your items probably won't be ordered in time.  Your project will go longer.  They will make mistakes costing you money. The list is virtually endless.

They don't respect you or your home

If a company doesn't respect themselves and the homeowner by getting the proper insurance, systematizing their business and the other things outlined in this article, do you think they will respect your home and keep it clean?

If someone doesn't respect their business they won't respect your home.  That causes damages to your house they either have to fix adding more time and stress for you, not fixing it or causing arguments just to get them to fix their damage.

If they don't respect your home that causes issues in areas like the house being dirty, not locking your doors, letting pets get out, not creating a safe work environment causing injuries, and so much more.

Respect is such a vital key to remodeling but some homeowners don't know to consider it in this way.

Project keeps getting pushed out

We have all heard about remodel projects getting pushed out. In fact, it's practically common place unfortunately in many homeowners' minds.

If you hire the cheapest bidder they don't have the funds to hire the better workers.  Or the funds to hire enough workers.  So there's both the need for the quantity and quality of employees to get your project finished on time.

If you hire the cheapest bidder they probably can't afford other things like project management software to run the project to ensure things aren't missed and the project doesn't extend 2-6 weeks out.

In fact, I've talked to many Phoenix homeowners that mention contractors taking months and months to finish and having to chase them.  2-6 weeks is unfortunately being kind in many cases.

I don't know anyone who wants construction workers in their home along with the mess and stress associated with it for an additional 2-6 weeks.

Uses cheap products that break

After you spend thousands of dollars and time on your remodel, the last thing you want is for it to break or become a bigger headache. You don't want to have someone come back and remodel a space you had remodeled a year or two ago and waste that much money.

If someone's bid is low, they either have to raise it after they start the project or use inferior materials that will probably deteriorate or break.  This can cause you to spend more money than what the competitor that was more would have cost.

You want products and materials that are high quality and durable. While it may cost more, it will actually last longer in your home. In the long run, this could actually save you money.   

Questions to ask yourself

If you are on the fence about using the cheapest contractor, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Do you want the project price to increase 10%-40% ($2,000- $30,000) because the contractor didn't have everything added in the proposal?
  • Do you want to chase the contractor down each day for weeks if not months?
  • Do you want construction workers in your house that much longer?
  • How much is your time worth?
  • How much is your emotional energy worth? Do you want to have arguments with your contractor?
  • Do you want to avoid the feeling of little to no control because they don't tell you wants going on, and they stop returning calls/messages?
  • It’s tempting to move forward with the lowest bidder; but if you’re trying to decide between a good contractor or the cheapest contractor ask yourself is the low cost now worth the high cost later? The cheapest bid can often end up being the most expensive.

Did you download our Contractor Scorecard in the top menu bar with the 11 items to quickly & easily grade any contractor you are considering?  Are you comparing a "B-" contractor with an "A" contractor?

Everyone wants & deserves to feel great about their home

If you are like many of our past clients, you are unhappy with some aspect of your home’s interior but worried about the stress a remodel can cause.  We feel your pain and we don't just care about the remodel, we care about you and your experience.

Everyone wants and deserves to feel great about their home and enjoy sharing it with friends, family & neighbors.  

We know the stress of trying to pick a remodeling company and the tremendous headaches many contractors can inflict due to being unorganized, using antiquated processes, and not caring enough about the homeowner's experience.

You can avoid the stress many contractors inflict like:

  • Bait & switch on their price
  • Having to constantly chase them down
  • Leaving projects incomplete
  • Shoddy workmanship without a guarantee
  • Make a mess of your house
  • Damaging your home and not repairing it
  • Not being licensed, insured AND bonded which puts the risk on you (Imagine a law suit against you or hospital bills costing tens of thousands of dollars)

Everyone deserves to feel great about their home and enjoy the new dream space with friends, family and neighbors... without contractor issues!

If you haven't already, feel free to see if we will be a good fit for your project.

Get Expert Help On Your Remodeling

Use the blue button below to pick a time to talk with our remodel expert. Receive a phone call at the perfect time for you by scheduling your phone consultation.

Our Consultation Manager will review your remodel needs, provide advice, answer your questions, and give a price estimate. If it's a good fit at the end of the call, we schedule the in-home evaluation, and provide a written proposal.

Learn Why Your Neighbors

Recommend Us

Checkout what your neighbors are saying about our work

Dreaming of a Home Makeover?

Let's Chat!

Skip to content