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12 Things Your Contractor Isn’t Telling You
Comments () | Published April 1, 2011
4. If you show me respect, this job will go a lot more smoothly.
Before you judge a contractor who might add in aggravation costs, you should know that many clients are, in fact, aggravating—and many do stiff contractors in situations in which money is legitimately owed.

“It happens all the time,” says a Virginia contractor. “Someone will say, ‘I don’t like that wallpaper’ or ‘I don’t like the way that paint color looks, so do it over.’ Many disputes are about finishes. But if you don’t like the way the wallpaper you’ve chosen looks, you have to pay for that remediation.

“People will also ask for more than they’ve contracted. They’ll say, ‘Can you move this outlet over there?’ There’s a cost to that—maybe it’s $100. And they’ll say, ‘How can moving that outlet cost $100? I’ve given you $20,000. Just do it.’ ”

Residential construction is a business of slim margins. A 1990 survey in Remodeling magazine revealed that most contractors end up with about 5 percent profit—though some make much less.

“If clients are nice to our superintendents, they will do all sorts of things that are not in the contract,” says a contractor who, when she had work done on her home, left out doughnuts and coffee every morning. “The worst thing you can do is to push your weight around and say how important you are. Contractors are just trying to make a living, and they’ve been taken so many times by people trying to add in things not in the contract or withholding the last check. They don’t know how to negotiate. They’ll just walk away.”

Or worse.

“This actually happens,” says the Maryland architect. “The people who build chimneys will sometimes leave a pane of glass halfway up. If they don’t get paid, they’ll walk away. The first time the person tries to use the fireplace, the smoke can’t escape. The owner looks up and sees sky and doesn’t know what’s wrong. So the owner calls the person who did the work and says, ‘What’s the problem?’ And the mason says, ‘The problem is I didn’t get paid.’ ” Once he’s paid, he comes back and drops a brick down the chimney to break the glass.

“If clients are nice to our superintendents, they will do all sorts of things that are not in the contract,” says a contractor who, when she had work done on her home, left out doughnuts and coffee every morning. “The worst thing you can do is to push your weight around and say how important you are. Contractors are just trying to make a living, and they’ve been taken so many times by people trying to add in things not in the contract or withholding the last check. They don’t know how to negotiate. They’ll just walk away.”

Or worse.

“This actually happens,” says the Maryland architect. “The people who build chimneys will sometimes leave a pane of glass halfway up. If they don’t get paid, they’ll walk away. The first time the person tries to use the fireplace, the smoke can’t escape. The owner looks up and sees sky and doesn’t know what’s wrong. So the owner calls the person who did the work and says, ‘What’s the problem?’ And the mason says, ‘The problem is I didn’t get paid.’ ” Once he’s paid, he comes back and drops a brick down the chimney to break the glass.

Next: I'm a lousy businessman—so don't give me too much money up front.

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Posted at 09:00 AM/ET, 04/01/2011 RSS | Print | Permalink | Comments () | Washingtonian.com Articles