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Hiring a Contractor - 10 Mistakes to Avoid

By - 2005

An intelligent attorney I know paid $7,000 for a roof repair, only to have the roof leak during the next rain. The contractor made excuses, but never did a thing about it. Anyone can have these problems when having repairs or improvements done, but you can avoid the following mistakes when hiring a contractor.

1. Not knowing exactly what you want. If you don't know what you want, you may not like what you get. If you change your mind, and the job, halfway through, the contract - and price - will change (Hint: it won't get cheaper). Know what you want done.

2. Not getting it all in writing. You don't want to hear, "I didn't say I would include the gutters."

3. Not having deadlines. Did you want it finished this season? Better have it in the contract.

4. Paying too much up front. A deposit might be a reasonable request when the contract is signed, and maybe money for materials prior to the start date. Just never pay in full before the job is finished.

5. Hiring an unlicensed contractor. This can be okay, if you know what you're doing (and he does). A license doesn't mean you get expertise, but it does mean you get leverage. A contractor may right his wrongs to avoid losing that license.

6. Hiring the first one in the book. Ask friends who had work done, or an owner of a hardware store. Find a recommendation based on similar jobs to yours.

7. Believing there will be no problems. Weather delays, employees that quit, and more will happen. Problems are normal, but it's not okay if the contractor can't work out the issues to your satisfaction.

8. Expecting too much neatness. Believe it or not, it's sometimes efficient to leave things laying where they'll next be used. There will be messes, so prepare. Cover things if it might be a dusty job, for example, and be clear in the contract that the job site will be cleaned up at the end of the job.

9. Not having penalties. This can be important on large jobs. If the contract says "Work to be completed by May 2nd," add, "$100 per day to be deducted from the contract price for each day the job is unfinished beyond May 2nd." That's what we call a motivational clause.

10. Thinking contracts prevent problems. They help, but unreasonable people (on either side) can ignore them, or use "literal readings" to make things even worse. Find someone reasonable that you can work.


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