The lazy contractor is as cliche as any stereotype out there. But why in the world won’t contractors ever show up when I need them to. Confused and frustrated, I did some research, and here is what I found.
So, why won’t contractors ever show up? General contractors manage project by hiring subcontractors to carry out specific parts of the job. They also tend to juggle multiple projects at once. This management through delegation usually means a contractors time is spread thin, thus inhibiting them from overseeing your home’s construction.
Man contractors are obnoxious, but a good contractor can be the difference between your residence being the crown jewel at the parade of homes, or prime time television on an HGTV renovation special.
What the Heck is My Contractor Doing All the Time?
Sometimes you need big home improvement projects. I’m not talking about the let’s-get-new-carpet kind of jobs, these are like add-another-story-to-my-6-story-mansion type projects.
Yeah, it’s a big job and something that you probably want an expert’s help in to reassure you.
Enter the contractor. cue fanfare. The crowd gives a hearty “hoo-rah!”
General contractors are the masters of masonry, the dukes of duct work, the founding fathers of foundations. Experts at all things construction, your friendly neighborhood contractor is the reassuring hand on the shoulder that says, “Chill. I’ve got this.”
Unfortunately a contractor’s smile and wink amounts to little more than a half finished home and a couple of thousand dollars worth of expenses under the “other” column on your bill.
So why in the world am I paying this guy? I know that I’ve done a pretty good job of besmirching your average contractor, but there are some honest hardworking guys out there!
Contractors are skilled at what they do. If they don’t know how to do a job right, they have a ring of subcontractors to choose from that specialize in an area of expertise.
Need a plumbing guy? He has a plumbing guy. Need a cabinet guy? Oh baby, does he have a plumbing guy. Could a man get a bathroom guy in here please? Lord! He will hook you up with a bathroom guy, no worries!
Besides an extensive collection of subcontractors, contractors also have special deals with suppliers allowing them to get special deals on expensive materials not available to the general public.
I don’t care how much you watch the DIY Network, if your like me and get sore thumbs just by looking at a hammer, then a contractor is usually the way to go when it comes to big construction projects.
Due to an overabundance of clueless guys like me, contractors often find themselves busy juggling multiple jobs at once. If you have only ever spoke with your contractor once, and find yourself dealing with a never ending chain of his construction lackeys, more than likely he is managing another job on another site.
Frustrating, I know. But there are times when you don’t necessarily need to hire a general contractor, and there are some guys that are running shady businesses that aren’t worth your time.
Do I Need a Contractor?
Some people are a mess at choosing the right tool for the job. When a light bulb goes out, they call the fire department. When the kitchen sink starts flooding, they enthusiastically grab a hammer and say, “I know how to fix this I saw Bugs Bunny do it once.” If you need some rules on when to hire a general contractor, then stay tuned.
Like I mentioned earlier, contractors are called when you need a big project done. A “big” project is usually anything that:
Will take more than a week to finish.
Will require several different professionals to finish, and
Requires not just one, but many permits to complete the task at hand.
Take renovating a bathroom, for example. Let’s think of all the tools and supplies that we will need. If we are doing a complete overhaul, then we will need a guy to replace that ugly shag carpet (that used to be in bathrooms during 70’s for some reason) with nice sanitary tile, we will need a plumbing guy to help with new sinks, a guy to do the lights, someone to help with new cabinets… and the list goes one.
There are four experts at least that will be helping us with this project. On top of that, we will need anywhere from four to six weeks to get this job done. In a case like this, hiring a general contractor could save you a lot of money and headaches.
There are other jobs, however, that you could complete on your own, or hire a home improvement specialist to do the work for you.
These are jobs that are smaller in scale and less expensive. They are usually related to only one aspect of the home. Windows for example. Or new carpet. Anything that would only require one expert, and about a week’s worth of time.
Choosing a Contractor so you Don’t Get Screwed
Contractors aren’t like lawyers, they have souls and are generally good people. But like grammar in the English language, there are always some exceptions to the rules. Be careful, because if you hire the wrong contractor, you could wind up losing a lot of money.
When it comes to contractors, what you pay is what you get. If you higher an expensive contractor, he will more than likely give you great work. Probably at an outrageous price, but it will be good.
A guy who says that he can get a job done cheap isn’t lying, but will be cutting every corner on God’s green earth to keep the price low.
A good rule I have heard, is, when receiving three bids, to always give most consideration to the middle guy. The expensive guy is probably asking more than he is worth, and the cheap guy will use mostly gorilla glue to keep the walls together, but the middle guy is probably OK.
I’m not say that you should automatically throw away the other two guys as option and opt directly for the middle, but it’s a good place to start. Don’t be afraid to ask some hard questions and do some price comparing. Any home renovation is a serious investment that requires the best help available.
Now, there are some people out there that will straight out screw you over for every penny you have ever found on the sidewalk. Here are some “contractors” who are likely running a scam. These are people who:
Don’t list a number in the phone book.
Offer you exceptionally long guarantees.
Only accept cash. (If the asked to be paid in drugs, call the police.)
Ask you to get building permits.
Offer discounts if you find other customers for their “services”
Ask you to pay for the entire job upfront.
Try to intimidate you into signing for repairs.
Here are just a few of their shady tactics. If you see anyone like this offering to work on your home, put all of your hammers in a safe and hide under your bed until they go away.
Like I said earlier there are a lot of good contractors out there and you can find a lot of them through word of mouth. Talk with your friends and neighbors, get the opinion of that nice old lady from church, someone is bound to know something about a good contractor.
Here is one more quick note. Make sure that you read every word in the contract you have to sign. IT will be well worth it in the end. If you don’t understand something, underline it and ask what it means. Don’t accept “it’s all standard stuff” as an explaination.
How long should it take a contractor to finish a job? This depends a lot on the size of the job and the quality of the contractor. I would say a basic one room renovation will take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks at a time, while any bigger projects could take upwards of 6 months to finish.
Contractors should provide an estimate for the length of a project before they get started.
Shawn is the CEO and founder of Plantoost where he teaches app development, web design, software engineering, fungi, plant science, and more. He graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities in 2015 with a major in Applied Plant Science. Since graduation, his work has taken him in a wide variety of directions but has now solidly found the tech industry to be his calling.
Like many, he has always had a love of learning but have struggled with the typical resources out there. Because of that, he created Plantoost, an e-learning platform where anyone can find or teach...