Disclosure: This post is sponsored by HomeAdvisor. However, all opinions and contractor nightmares are 100% mine.
If you have ever done a renovation, I think you will agree it is one of the most stressful things you will ever take on in your life. They are stressful, time consuming, messy and dirty. If you can make it through a renovation with your spouse, then chances are you must really love each other.
Needless to say, the renovation at the 70’s Landing Pad was no walk in the park – not by a long shot.
There were many things we were able to take on ourselves. We installed a good portion of our flooring, did the hall bathroom remodel, of course we painted every wall, door and piece of trim, built a closet, painted the cabinets, etc. But then there were a few things we didn’t do ourselves – primarily drywall work and the master bathroom remodel. You know how much I despise drywall work, so I won’t go down that road again, but let’s talk about our master bathroom.
When we bought the house, the master bathroom did not have a shower – only a jetted tub you had to climb to get into. The whole thing was just configured really oddly and it was not functional for us at all.
We wanted to get rid of that tub and replace it with a tiled shower, add a soaking tub elsewhere in the room, relocate the toilet, the doors, the vanity and a few other small things. All of that – specifically moving the plumbing, wiring, etc. was waaaaay outta our league. We knew we would have to hire someone to remodel the master bathroom. Since we hadn’t ran into this at the Beloved Foreclosure, almost everything there we had been able to do ourselves, we asked around for contractors that our friends had used.
I called probably around 10 different contractors that came recommended by friends and their sources. I think I got calls back from maybe five of them and only four actually came out to look at the bathroom and then three only followed up with me on a price. One of those three only followed up with me on a price because I pestered the heck out of him. I just didn’t get it. If these people took the time to come out and look at it, then why in the world wouldn’t they call back with an estimate?! Was it a huge job? No. Was it a small job? No. This was a pretty good sized job that I thought someone would be interested in taking on.
So when one of the contractors called me back with a price the next morning after he had been out that previous afternoon and it was a good price and he had came recommended by a friend, I figured he was my guy.
We made the deal on December the 3rd. He said it would take roughly seven days to complete the job. Per the contract, he got a 1/4 of the payment up front, 1/4 of it when demo was done, 1/4 of it when tiling was complete and the rest when it was all finished.
I scrambled around to make sure everything was here and ready for him to start as soon as he had finished demo. I picked out tile and fixtures and all that other stuff as quickly as I could. It was all here and ready to go.
At the end of December, the bathroom looked like this:
Ok, I thought, it’s December. It’s the holidays, people like to spend time with their families. He’ll get going after the new year.
This guy might come three days a week and work for 2-3 hours, four hours if I was lucky, when he was here. Now, we did ask him to do some other stuff around the house, but still he only worked for a couple hours a day, maybe a few days a week and never completed one single thing we asked him to do. He would start something, then move to something else. Mind you, he had already been paid for some of the work as well.
This dragged on until the beginning of March. March, people! We had signed a contract at the beginning of December and he said he would be done in less than two weeks!
And do you know what my bathroom looked like at the beginning of March?
Exactly the same as that picture above with the exception of the toilet out and a few pieces of subfloor up and a little bit of drywall pulled off. None of the actual plumbing, electrical, not to mention tiling, etc. had taken place. At that point, we gave him a deadline (which, yes, we should have done long before) and said he had two weeks to finish everything or he was done. When we told him this, he decided he would work the following weekend. He came that Saturday, stayed for less than an hour and left. We fired him the same day.
For someone who feels bad if she misses a deadline by 10 minutes and is constantly on the go doing something which is usually work related, this whole situation was just unbelievable to me.
At that point, I turned to Bruce who I had found through HomeAdvisor to do some other work for me. He is the one who covered up and made new openings in the old master closet for the Circus’ playroom and also did lots of other drywall work for me around here. I told him the situation, asked if he wanted the job and if he could get me a price together. A day later he gave me the price and worked me into his schedule. (I was on a deadline because my master bedroom makeover with FrogTape had to be completed by the third week in April and I didn’t even have carpet in there yet because it couldn’t go in until the bathroom was finished.)
Within days, he and his helper had the rest of the walls out and backer board installed and ready for tile.
Two weeks later, he had the bathroom finished sans paint and trim, which we did to save a little money (or will do because I haven’t had a chance to finish it yet, thus why you haven’t seen the bathroom reveal yet). Had I went through HomeAdvisor and found Bruce first, this whole fiasco never would have happened.
From all that, I learned quite a bit and here’s my take on finding a good contractor to actually get the job done:
How to Find the Best Contractor for Your Renovation
• Get multiple quotes.
I used to work with a guy who I called Stan-the-Man. Stan-the-Man is a plethora of wisdom. Among other things, he told me “If it’s a $500 or less job, get three quotes. If it’s more than that, get five at least.” I think that’s pretty good advice when it comes to remodeling. You can use tools like HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide to find out the median price for home renovation and repair costs in your area. And also, if you have to pester a contractor to call you back with an estimate, he ain’t your guy. Call some others to come out. If you don’t have to be in a rush, then don’t be.
• Get references. Read their reviews. Ask to see photos of their work.
Yes, you should ask around to find out who your friends or family members have used, but don’t just trust that one reference. Use HomeAdvisor to find a local pro in your area and read their reviews from their customers. I’ve found most of the reviews to be a true reflection of the quality and dependability of the contractor. Ask them for references and ask to see photos of their work. Never be afraid to ask. You could even do all this over the phone before you have them come out to give you an estimate.
• Just because it’s the lowest estimate doesn’t mean you should go with it.
If you do use the True Cost Guide and someone comes in waaaaay under the median price, then there’s a good chance they won’t provide you with quality work or they may be desperate for money. Look more for bids right in the middle.
• If the contractor is busy or booked up for a month, that probably means they are pretty good.
My dad once took my brother and I around the entire state of Texas for vacation one year. (Yes, this does relate, just stick with me.) We had never been to Texas before so we had no idea what places were good to eat at and what wasn’t. So my dad said, “Look for the crowded places – that means they’re good.” Well just like with crowded restaurants being good, a busy contractor probably does quality work. It will most likely be worth your time to wait on them.
• Do not pay any money up front.
I still kick myself for ever paying that guy any money up front. I didn’t feel comfortable doing it, but I also hadn’t really worked with a contractor before so I thought that just might be how it was and I went with it. That being said, I do think that some contractors may ask for some money up front for materials if that is worked into their estimate. Once more, this is where you need to read their reviews and get references to know whether they are really going to use that money for materials or not. If you can, tell them to give you a list of what they need and you can go buy it. If you can’t transport it, most home improvement stores will deliver it for you for a fee. That fee might very well be worth it.
• Determine a payment schedule.
Once you pick your contractor, be sure to come up with a clear payment schedule. With Bruce, he doesn’t want any money until the job is done. Other contractors may not always be the same way though. I would say that if they are asking for a large portion of the payment up front, then they might be too shady for you.
• Get it in writing.
I do think that having your agreement written out with your contractor and signed is a good idea. Make sure it includes the payment schedule, the details of the project, estimated start and finish dates, proof of their insurance, and any materials you are responsible for purchasing for the job. For example, Bruce, our bathroom savior, included all the basic building materials in his quote – drywall, backer board, electrical wiring, etc. However, we were responsible for getting the tile, sinks, faucets, etc. which of course we already had on hand.
• Check up on them during the work.
If you’re living in the house where work is being completed this doesn’t really apply to you, but if you’re not, it does. Stop by the workplace at least 2-4 times a week. You don’t want to be in their way, but you do want them to know you’re around and keeping an eye on the work they are doing.
• If they did good work, recommend them. Give honest reviews.
After the job is done, give an honest review of the contractor’s work on HomeAdvisor. This will help others during their contractor hunt process and most likely, your contractor will see it and be grateful for the review – if they were good that is.
Do you have any other tips to add for finding the best contractor for a renovation? Or perhaps horror stories to help me feel a little better about mine? 😉
You might want to see this too…
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by HomeAdvisor, however all opinions and contractor nightmares are 100% mine.