Dealing with Contractors

If you find a great contractor, you’re golden, but if you find one who is distracted or unreliable, you could run into serious problems
Thumbnail for publication: Dealing with Contractors

How To Deal With Contractor Mistakes

Working with a contractor can take a little effort if you want to keep your project on time and within your budget. If you find a great contractor, you’re golden, but if you find one who is distracted or unreliable, you could run into serious problems.

Read on to learn how to speak the same “language” as contractors do, so that you can communicate with them and get the intended results of your renovation project.

What do contractors do?

Contractors provide services to clients for an agreed-to fee, and often for a pre-arranged timespan, under a contract.

Examples of contractors include:

  1. Builders
  2. Electricians
  3. Plumbers
  4. Caterers
  5. Cleaners
  6. Security
  7. IT support and maintenance
  8. Gardeners

Contractors may charge by the hour, day, or as one lump sum. Their contracts typically specify milestones upon which the client will pay them, for example, “30% will be paid once the kitchen cabinets have been installed.”

What should you not say to a contractor?

Here are three things you shouldn’t say to a contractor:

1. “I’m on a budget.”

This is primarily for your sake. If you tell your contractor that you’re on a $10K budget, there’s a high chance they’ll find a way to make their bid $20,000, even if it should cost less. Instead of sharing your budget, ask your contractor to give a bid for the work. That way, you can compare their material and labor costs with other contractors and base your decision upon that.

It’s important to note that many contractors tend to up-charge their clients for the material costs. You can avoid this by verifying the material costs independently after you receive a bid.

2. “Can you do the job for less if I pay it all upfront?”

If you pay a contractor up front, there’s a chance they won’t be as incentivized to do your job quickly. Or, in some unfortunate circumstances, some will take your money and go AWOL.

Some contractors will claim that they need more money for materials, but it may not be a good idea to trust contractors to buy the materials for you.

This might be because some contractors could potentially use leftover materials from previous jobs or buy cheaper materials than requestedIf they offer for you to pay less, if you pay the entire costs up front, then it’s suggested to make sure that you have an agreement in place about who buys materials in which circumstances, how long the job can take, and anything else that needs to be nailed down (pun unintended).

3. “There’s no rush.”

While it is a good idea to avoid rushing your contractors, you don’t want to give them an excuse to take their sweet time working for you. If you tell your contractor that you’re not in a hurry to complete the project, you’ll end up on the bottom of their priority list. They may even take on other jobs and cause more delays than you’d expected. It’s important to communicate timelines and establish weekly expectations for your contractor. You don’t want to threaten your contractor, of course, but they should know that they’ll lose money if they don’t complete the job within a reasonable timeline.

Is it OK to negotiate with a contractor?

The art of negotiation is often cultural, but in the US, it’s fairly common to negotiate with prospective contractors. Estimating time and materials is not an exact science, with much of it being assessed based on past experiences.

It’s a good idea to get multiple bids if you’d rather not use a “selected” contractor. If you don’t have a preferred contractor to get the job done, you could consider getting recommendations, and then obtain multiple bids from those selected contractors.

If you’re going to negotiate, you’ll want to suggest that the contractor’s bid is higher than your budget (without sharing exact figures.) Ask if there’s any way you can reduce the costs, like helping pack materials, cleaning up as they work, etc.

Contractors generally want you out of the way, so they might give you a bit of a discount. If you convince a contractor to reduce their bid, you’ll want to be informed about the ins and outs of their work. Otherwise, you risk having half-done jobs and overpriced materials.

What do you do if you are not satisfied with contractors?

If you aren’t satisfied with their work, you need to talk to them directly to try to come to some kind of agreement about what can be done to rectify the situation. If your contractor has just started, ask them to stop working, pay them for their time, and get someone you trust.

How do you deal with a slow contractor?

Sometimes it can be tricky to know if your contractor is a slow worker or the project happens to be taking longer than anticipated. Something as simple as installing a new door can take the best part of a day if things get delayed, so an entire room may pose even more hold-ups.

It’s important to remember how much of a contractor’s job is weather-permitting, too.

If you're having work that needs to be done outside, rain and even heavy winds will likely delay things. The outdoor temperature also matters – for example, there are some cases in which it might be too cold to paint. And it’s not just outdoor work that can take time: sometimes, wood installed indoors, like cabinets and floors, may need time to dry out or warm up before the contractor can lock it in place.

The bottom line is that it’s important to be on the same page as your contractor. If your contractor estimates that the job will take "10 days," remember that this could end up taking 10 days of work over a month or six weeks, factoring in the weather or any edits the contractor will need to make to their schedule.

Why are contractors so unreliable?

There’s a stereotype that contractors are unreliable, which is unfortunate for those who are diligent and genuinely want to provide an excellent service. It’s worth considering that some contractors have found themselves in the role of being their own boss. They have decided to work as a contractor because the freedom is appealing, but some end up establishing a business with little to no business training. A contractor may be an excellent worker, but not everyone has the communication or time management skills to run a successful company.

While certain contractors may simply be poor communicators, a large portion of delays, mix-ups, and general inconveniences is out of the contractor’s hands. As we mentioned above, delays often happen when a project takes longer than expected. Your contractor may run into traffic, may experience products being out of stock longer than expected, may run into late deliveries, and all the other logistical issues anyone might encounter.

Then, you have to consider trade-related issues such as water seep, wood rot and underestimating how challenging a job would be, and running over time, as a result. A good contractor will try to allow some wiggle room when estimating a project’s timescale, but it’s impossible to account for everything.

How do you tell if a contractor is ripping you off?

Here are some red flags to look out for when choosing a contractor:

  1. They can’t show you good reviews online. Either they aren’t established enough to do your job, or they’ve received bad reviews.
  2. They overcommit and promise you work that may be too good to be true.
  3. Their rates are significantly lower than others you’ve encountered. A weirdly cheap quote may mean they’re not insured, don’t carry a worker’s comp, and may not be able to do a great job.

How should contractors be paid?

The method of payment should be discussed with your contractor before they start work. You should have a written contract that establishes a series of payments that you’ll make when certain parts of the job are completed. For example, you could write in your contract that you’ll pay in three equal installments, paying the final payment once the project is finished and surveyed, and once you both agree the work is satisfactory.

Avoid putting down more than 10% of the overall fee up front, especially if you’ve never worked with this contractor before. If your contractor argues that they need an advance to pay for materials, they should be able to get the supplies they need on credit, so an advance payment won’t be necessary.

What if a contractor does a bad job?

If a contractor does a poor job, always take it up with whoever arranged the work, even if they’ve sub-contracted it to another business.

Before you address the issue, you should:

  1. Take photos of the work you’re not happy with
  2. Gather any relevant receipts and paperwork
  3. Make detailed notes of what happened, from dates and times to personnel and pricing

According to The Consumer Rights Act 2015, all workers must do their job with reasonable care and skill. They get the work done in a way that’s worth the money you’re paying. If they haven’t done this, you’re legally entitled to ask them to remedy the problem or request a refund and stop them from working for you further.

What happens if you fire a contractor?

Companies can fire employees, but technically, you can’t "fire" an independent contractor in terms of separating them from employment. Contractors aren't governed under applicable labor law because they aren’t employees. Contractors work under a defined work contract, so if their work isn’t good enough or it isn’t as expected, you may elect to terminate the agreement.

It’s important to make sure that all work is paid for when terminating your contract. You should not withhold payment for the work as a way of showing displeasure with the contractor. Even if you think the work wasn't worth your money, if the services were technically fully delivered, you’ll still have to pay for it as promised.

Turn your own modern kitchen design ideas into reality

At Skipp, we provide easier, cost-effective options for homeowners who wish to reimagine their kitchens without the hassle of trying to find reliable contractors.

In just 4 steps, we can help you achieve your dream kitchen, using our approved contractors from our nationwide network of vetted GCs for your kitchen. We can save you time and money on your dream kitchen (up to 40% on what you would pay with a traditional kitchen renovation service), so get started with your renovation estimate today.


Picture from Skipp's Instagram
Picture from Skipp's Instagram
Picture from Skipp's Instagram
Picture from Skipp's Instagram
Picture from Skipp's Instagram