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.
First step - Quick tells if you should avoid the 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?
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 an unprofessional contractor.
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.
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.
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 AND Insured
You want to ask them for a copy of their license and insurance. Then go on https://roc.az.gov/ 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: https://www.abc15.com/news/let-joe-know/when-a-renovation-goes-terribly-wrong
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.
If a contractor doesn’t follow the law (and good business practices to protect their clients) in being licensed, insured AND bonded, 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.
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:
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.
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 and then increase the price on the homeowner and cut corners to complete it.
We have all heard the phrase you get what you pay for.
Would you rather:
Have a remodeler 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 remodeler 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- $32,000
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)
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.
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 remodelers 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:
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:
Download an easy to use checklist with questions to ask
We created a simple checklist with the ability to write in 3 contractors names and ask each of them the same questions.
This allows you to have all of the important questions most homeowners don't know to ask and it has the reason why you want to ask each question.
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:
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.
What Your Neighbors Are Saying
The PHR Project Experience
Many homeowner complaints are from when the project starts. We utilize technology, great people and efficient processes to ensure a great experience:
Dedicated Project Manager
Constant Project Updates
Financials At Your Fingertips
Celebrate & Enjoy Your New Space