Wednesday, June 11, 2008


We’ve been doing the restoration thing for awhile so before I get into this part, there are things to know before renovating a house. The most important thing is…

In a town like Hannibal, you’d think it would be easy to learn who’s trustworthy and who’s not. It is, but if you are fairly new to an area, beware the contractor who targets out-of-towners. This contractor has burned his bridges with locals and is hoping you won’t learn of his reputation before he gets a sizable job from you. Some clues that you’ve come across this type:

-He will tell you from the very beginning how honest he is, and maybe even what a good Christian he is. Now really, does a good, honest Christian need to boast of this? And, particularly upon meeting someone initially?

-He will bad-mouth local competitors off the bat (“Local folks don’t know how to work. I wouldn’t hire any of them”). If you take him at his word, you’ve just dismissed potentially good contractors before you’ve given any of them a chance. In all likelihood, one of those competitors would have been a more cost-effective and a trustworthy source, and this contractor doesn’t want you to know that.

-He will want to start work immediately (before you find out about him). He may even go into all the things that are wrong with your home and the catastrophes that await you if you don’t have these things fixed right away.

-Upon seeing him on the premises, well-meaning friends and neighbors will come forward and WARN you about him.

Now, you may chuckle to yourself at how obvious these red flags are -- and they are obvious. Unfortunately, there can be one factor that will cause you to put these doubts on the back burner – the well-meaning, but clueless, good friend. All the bells and clangings can go off , but this friend will assure you that she’s used this contractor, he goes to her church, and he’s a friend of the family. OK, you want to appease her, so you do just that – hire her contractor/friend for a sizable job. After all, a friend wouldn’t steer you wrong, right? WRONG!

After accepting my friend’s offer, things went well – at first. Of course, the contractor was being watched by EVERYONE. He’s on his very best behavior, and my doubts about him slowly began to dissolve. At this time, the contractor was also getting more comfortable and began to let his real nature slip and come into focus…

I expressed some reservations about paying a large amount of money upfront and this contractor (in front of a witness) poo-poo’d my concern in a loud and intimidating manner. Where did that come from? Without first consulting me, he made a duplicate house key and gave it to a subcontractor. Hmmmm. He decided we needed an extra feature on the house. We soon realized this guy was only thinking of a bigger ($$) job he had in mind for us, based on the retrofits he was making.

After feeling really comfortable, this contractor performed a job without a contract from us and then surprised us with a sizable bill. CLANG, CLANG, CLANG. The bells went off big-time. My friend and I had an altercation over this, and in the end I pretended things were patched up. Now I was left pondering all the things I should have acted upon had I trusted my gut.

Soon after, the contractor began inundating me with e-mails pressing for another chance and other jobs. Shortly after that, my e-mail box began to fill up with huge files of unsolicited literature – something along the line that those who don’t believe and trust are to be pitied. Am I being made to be the bad guy? I ended the harrassment by blocking the e-mails, hence getting this contractor out of my neighborhood, off my projects, and out of my life for good.

My School-of-Hard-Knocks Advice:
Go to the experts for your contractor recommendations. This could be as simple as joining your local historical preservation society and asking around. They know the good contractors and they know the duds. They’ve been there, have experienced the the heartaches, and have heard all the stories.

1 comment:

Janee Martin said...

Dude, GREAT blog. This whole site that you have set up is top-notch. Well done. I stumbled across it as I was looking for an article on home remodeling.
I’m really looking forward to reading all of your archives. Terrific job, keep it up!