How to Spot a Bad Contractor

Home improvement


Renovations are hectic enough—the last thing you need is to get stuck with a less-than-upright contractor. Here are 5 red flags you should watch out for:

He bids low

Before you make a deal, you should really be getting estimates and bids from at least three separate contractors. Not only does this give you options, but it gives you an idea of what the real cost of your renovation is.

So while you may be looking for a deal, avoid going with the lowest bid, especially if it’s significantly lower than the others.  Fact is, no contractor is going to take a pay cut for their work, which means they’re saving money by using cheap labor or materials.

He has subcontractor issues

If your contractor is constantly making apologies for bad subcontractors, don’t assume he’s blameless. Part of a contractor’s job is knowing the best people to hire and managing them once they are hired, which means that he’s the one you should hold accountable for shoddy work or poor behavior.

He asks for too much money upfront

It’s pretty standard for contractors to ask for some percentage of the agreed-upon payment upfront, but asking for more than a third should set off alarm bells. They do typically need some cash to get the project started, but the more money a shady contractor asks for (and that you give them), the less incentive they have to finish the project.

Generally, a 15% down payment is acceptable for both parties. However you’re paying for the work, also try to make sure that you don’t finish paying before the job is completed, or else risk the contractor prioritizing still-paying jobs over yours.

He doesn’t want a contract

Contracts keep both you and your contractor safe, and if yours is trying to avoid signing one, you may want to reevaluate your choices. Not only will a contract help keep a time frame and payment schedule in place,  but a detailed enough one will also help keep you from getting shorted on supplies, whether in quantity or quality.

He acts unprofessionally

If your contractor starts late and leaves early or drinks on the job or never returns your calls, address these issues as soon as possible.  Sometimes, it’s easy to explain away these problems by blaming other jobs or paperwork, but if they keep happening, it might be time to consider moving on to a new contractor. Basically, if you have a bad feeling about your contractor, you’d do well to listen to it.

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