How to Spot the Wrong Contractor Right Away

Peruse the internet for just a few minutes and you will find a lot of information about how to find a great contractor. There are even entire websites like Angie’s List and Yelp completely devoted to helping homeowners call the right guys first. Great contractors make you feel at ease about your project right away; they offer solutions; they bring knowledge and skill to the table. But sometimes, we overlook how to quickly spot the wrong contractor! Entertaining (or worse – hiring) the wrong company can cost more than just time, it can be expensive. 

I have listed a few things for you to think about as you start your hiring process, but remember that the most important indicator is your gut! Trust yourself, your judgment, and your research.

Tools – Is he renting the tools necessary for your project? A good contractor has the tools of his trade. While he may need to rent a specialty piece of equipment every once in awhile, most items should be kept on hand and in good repair. Beware the “floor guy” that needs to rent a drum sander or a nail gun.  What would you do if your dentist told you his drill was a rental? The renting of a drum sander by a “professional” may not be as painful, but you can expect the same tears. 

Trash Talk – What’s he saying about his competition? Good contractors know that there are other good contractors bidding and doing work (in fact, we sometimes count on each other for help). Contractors that bad mouth the “other guys” with blanket statements or make you feel silly for getting more than one estimate probably have something to hide.  

Time – Is he available to start today? Unless this miracle schedule opening is due to a last minute cancellation, be wary. Most skilled contractors keep their schedules filled at least 1 – 2 weeks in advance.  That means the floors he is bidding for you today should not be expected to start for at least another few days. If the guy is ready to sand your floor now, there is usually a good reason he isn’t booked up with work… And that reason is probably not because he is really good at what he does. 

Low Ball Pricing – If you are getting three bids, you should expect the prices to vary. Many times, companies are using different product or different types of labor. But if you have someone that is hundreds or even thousands of dollars cheaper, you should be asking why. Why are the other companies asking $3 per square foot, but “Jimmy Floor Man” is willing to do the work at $1.75 per square foot? Lower overhead? Probably. Works for himself? Probably. Using the same products and materials? Probably NOT.  

Technology – With the explosion of the internet in the last few decades, new technologies are out there for everyone to see. If you have seen something “new” your contractor should at the very least know who/where to ask about it. A good contractor will be aware of a lot of the technological advances in his industry (whether or not he is embracing them or not is a different story). A great contractor will not only know about the latest and greatest technologies, he will have advice and a professional opinion about them. Great contractors are well-read!

Insured – This is a big one.  Does he have proof that he is bonded and insured? Many contractors won’t carry this information around with them at an estimate. But, if you ask about insurance, lien waivers, or workman’s comp – they should be prepared to get that paperwork to you. If you sense hesitation on this topic, I suggest you look for another contractor. 

In my own 30 years experience in this industry, I have seen many things. I’ve seen terrible installations, dreadful sand-jobs, flawed finishes, and erroneous designs (plus everything in-between). Worse, though, than bad craftsmanship is seeing homeowners struggle to get back thousands of dollars from dishonest contractors doing sub-par work. Which is why hiring the right guy begins with the ability to spot the wrong guy, right away!