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4 Tricks to Avoid from Bad Contractors

December 28, 20224 min read

I would like to start by stating that being a blue collar man myself, I fundamentally believe that most contractors are quality people that genuinely work hard and perform honestly.  That being said, I have also seen and heard horror stories from so many people and the stories are consistent around the 4 things to be aware of as you manage your own projects.

The first example I refer to as cash and dash.  This is when a contractor requires a material deposit and then does not show up as scheduled/promised.  I know that material draws are common and there are many contractors that won’t enter an agreement without one.  I believe that reputable contractors have charge accounts that do not require upfront payment.  Putting out these two contrary statements one might wonder where I truly fall on this spectrum.  I believe that smaller contractors aka chuck and a truck likely do not have charge accounts and they would need the upfront deposit to cover expenses, they are not your bank.  Likewise, if you hire a mid-level contractor he/she would often have the mentioned charge accounts and are stable enough to demonstrate a draw schedule that would coincide with production.  I would default to your judgment on who you are dealing with and draw your own conclusion on how to proceed and how to eliminate the long delays of the dash.  

The second example is the ever changing estimate.  This is more likely in renovation work vs new construction.  The reason for that is unknown and unforeseen conditions.  No one has x-ray vision and can predict the “can of worms” that sometimes is revealed.  I often give a demolition estimate with a clause that includes a contingency fund with strict language on the included and excluded scope of work.  Once the demo/exploration phase is concluded an updated scope and price will be established which should be covered by the contingency.  

The third example is material swapping.  Material swapping amongst bad contractors is trickery and shady at best.  This is when materials are specified/quoted and lesser quality products are provided/installed.  The shady contractor would do this to save money and hope that the look is similar to your wishes and “get away” with the replacement products.  Make sure that you have a detailed material specification sheet and that the products match the contract specifications.  

The fourth is the ole’ project drag on.  Of course contractors have multiple clients.  Juggling is an art not of 3 little balls but professionally managing multiple projects simultaneously while keeping clients informed and projects flowing.  The never ending project scenario will cost you time, money and frustration.  Imagine the interest on a construction loan accumulating with no progress.  Imagine the cost of eating out with no functioning kitchen and the frustration of sharing your living space with a never ending construction zone.  Make sure in your contract you command a real schedule with accountability.  Accountability goes both ways, you will have a timeline of required decisions and funding of invoices and the contractor will have to perform and complete within the approved schedule.  You can also require liquidated damages which would be a financial penalty for delays.  Keep in mind that if you require liquidated damages you will also likely have to provide an early completion bonus.  Either way, project drag on can be avoided with proper upfront planning.  

I firmly believe that the 4 examples discussed can be avoided with a full vetting process when hiring your subcontractors and a properly run pre-construction phase.  I hope these examples give you some awareness of pitfalls that can be easily avoided.  Finding and developing a team that you work with is so valuable.  When you have a team that works with you instead of just for you it will result in better work performed on schedule and on budget.  

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Travis Rohrer

My name is Travis Rohrer. I am the founder of C3 Project Pros where we bring Clarity to the Chaos of Construction. I enjoy sharing my life with my incredible partner Laura. I am a third generation builder and owner of my own GC firm for 25+ years. During that time I heard and witnessed too many horror stories of projects gone wrong from poor quality to the nightmare never ending projects. My passion is to help you realize your dream of not only completed projects but projects you can manage yourself. My message is proven and easy to follow. I firmly believe that regardless of your experience, you will make your own best General Contractor; It is your money and project, who better to look after it? I look forward to learning about you and your vision to help you bring your dream project to reality all while saving you time and money! I will look forward to celebrating with you!

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