CHOOSING CONTRACTORS: WHAT TO KNOW AND WHEN TO RUN

 

First of all, let me just say that ninety-nine per cent of contractors are brave, kind, thrifty, loyal and obedient and they help little old ladies cross the street…for a small fee. of course. Who knows? Some of them may even wash behind their ears, too. That said, let’s talk about the remaining one percent. These are the contractors I’ve worked with and I want you to learn from my mistakes.

I’m actually starting to think that some of these guys may be living in a parallel universe. They tell you they’re going to show up at ten o’clock in the morning and, in their world, they do. They just don’t live in the same world as we do. Just roll with the punches and please understand that in ex

From personal experience, I caution you to be beware of the landscaper who has a hard time distinguishing between a spade and a hoe. “Mr. Landscaper, can you tell me when a good time to plant Hydrangeas is?” The answer I was definitely not prepared for was, “Oh, right now. Don’t wait. I know it’s only twenty degrees outside but my mortgage is due. Let’s put those suckers in the ground.”

The red flag also needs to be raised when you see a guy who claims he can do it all. I know that in this economy, it’s important to wear several hats but I’m always leery of the guy whose truck reads, “Roofing, Siding, Plumbing, Snow Removal, Electrical, Excavating, Transmission work, Website design and Taxidermy. Please, for the love of God, pick one or two and, for the record, taxidermy and plumbing is not a recommended combination.

Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor some key questions. “Are you insured,” should be at the top of the list.  Do not settle for, “I’m pretty sure,” “Let me get back to you on that,” or “Can you spell that for me?” If you receive any of these answers, all you can do is thank them for their time and remind them that they’re drooling on their Got Brains? tee shirt.

Do you guarantee your work? It’s a great question to ask. The last time I asked that question of a contractor, his response was, “Hey, I guarantee that youse are gonna give me Five-Hundred big ones when I finish, Youse know what I’m talking?” Threatening the client hardly ever works. It did with me, but only because sleeping with the mackerel is not really how I envisioned going out. A simple answer of “Yes, of course I guarantee my work,” and the terms of the guarantee is all that’s really necessary.

You can’t make this stuff up and with that comes a story about the painter whom I should have been suspicious of right from the beginning when I noticed that he wasn’t wearing the requisite crisp, white painter pants. It’s the law, much like electricians must wear a tool belt with the black tape dangling off to the side. For whatever reason, this guy decided to paint AROUND the shrubbery in front of the house. This, you should know, made my house a tourist attraction for which I charged big bucks to see. If they wanted to just stop the car and gawk, it was fifty cents. If they felt the need to get out and take a closer look, it was a dollar.

Beware the contractor who wants to sell you the world. Some of them are notorious for wanting to sell you more than you need. “You’re going to need a new roof, Mr. Miller. There’s no doubt about that.” Some are exceptional at their little spiel. In fact, I’ve witnessed a few that were so good they almost had me convinced that not only did I need a roof but a helicopter pad as well. How good are they? Some of them must take lessons from these college kids who come by selling magazine subscriptions. Oh, the guilt! “Mr. if you don’t buy from me, then you, and you alone, will be responsible for me not winning the trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming with a stop to see the world’s Biggest Ball of Yarn in Ames, Iowa.” Most of us simply can’t handle that kind of pressure, which is why I currently have a two-year subscription to both Knitters Monthly as well as The Anvil (The only publication Blacksmiths need.)

So, tread lightly consumers. Times are tough. Don’t make any snap decisions. Take your time before signing on the dotted line and, most important, ask yourself, “Do I really need that helicopter pad?”

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