Consequences of Choosing the Wrong Contractor

Imagine that you are about to rebuild your house, remodel one room or change the roof or siding. You have been planning this for so long. So much time has passed thinking about it, saving money and making decisions. When you finally decide to go for it, the least you expect is a total construction/remodeling disaster! How can that happen? Construction and remodeling is associated with stress and a mess for many people. Unqualified, irresponsible general contractors can turn your dream project into a nightmare.

Such stories are not very rare. We often hear how disappointed and frustrated homeowners are about their GCs. So we decided to tell you Anna and her family's story, who came to us in the middle of their house remodeling process and asked for help. Hopefully their experience will give you another reason to carefully choose professionals before trusting them and engaging with them in this very important phase of your life.

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About one year ago Anna and her husband decided to rebuild their one story house and add second level, about 1000 square feet. They had no experience in remodeling and had no idea how difficult it could be to choose the right team. So they went easy on searching process, interviewed a few GCs, who were mostly referred from friends and decided to go with the one who gave them the most affordable bid (as budget was the priority).

When you enter Anna’s house it looks nice and fresh as a newly remodeled house should be. But when I complemented it, Anna started to laugh because she knows where the flaws are. Uneven lines, wrong colors, doors that don't close and many more mistakes which still need to be fixed. Needless to say she was disappointed being under construction for12 months.

Anna T. – We lived in our house for 16 years and decided to rebuild and remodel it. So asked few friends and they recommended a GC which we interviewed. They sounded knowledgeable, with experience too, their bid was most attractive to us so we made a decision and that’s how it started. First was demolition and everything happened so fast, we were excited to see the process going but it was only a beginning. When the house came together and we were walking on the construction site, imagining where rooms, plumbing and other stuff should be, I realized that those people were not managing it, they were not following schedule, paying attention to details. I understand that there can be back orders, something can break during construction, such mistakes happen and contractor should be able to fix them but ordering wrong materials, miscommunicating with subs and owners and most of all not knowing what you are doing gave us an idea that those people were not professionals, had no experience in building such a big project. Yes, they had done it before, maybe a room addition, bathroom remodel or some minor remodeling projects but not such a big one.

Before we started looking for a contractor we had everything prepared, we had our architect to do drawing, design, layout, all the measurements and we needed a contractor to come in and start construction. But when it started and everything went so wrong we were very frustrated. Our problem was that according to our contract if we canceled it before completion we would have to pay to our contractor anyways and then go and find different company. So there was no other way but to make them finish the project.

We had other contractor, designer to come in and take a look if everything was going according the plan and they felt very bad about us. They helped to manage the project when we noticed there was no management skills from our contractor’s side.

You would think that contractor should care about the project, schedule, quality and money but in our case it still seems like they don’t really care much. I saw my contractor measuring board by his feet, missing materials, not showing up at the construction site when he was supposed to. We still have some details which need to be fixed and we failed 2 inspections. Still struggling to get him complete the project, sign off the contract and maybe after that we can bring in another professional to finish the job. Our biggest mistake was not checking their portfolio (which as we found out later they don’t have), not going online and searching for more testimonials. It appears that GC we hired does not exist online - no website, no social media profiles, no yelp feed backs. You can only find them with their license number among the licensed contractors and that’s it. So only thing I can do to help other’s not to make the same mistake is that I can file official complaint to the licensing board and hopefully they will take some actions.

Right now we just want to complete this project and move away pretending nothing happened.  

Now we know that if contractor is not knowledgeable you have to educate yourself and be fully engaged in a process which takes a lot of time and energy. It literally becomes a full time job and you realize that even more money would be worth of professionally done project.

So what do you do when you decide to remodel your house? Here is an advise from TBS's CEO and experienced builder Mamuka Grigolia: "Look for a professional, General Contractor, preferably a Design-build company, check references, see their portfolio, meet with them and ask questions, make a clear contract (use AIA standard contract document), with every aspect that works for both of you. Check both their and their Sub-Contractors General Liability and Workers Compensation Insurance and make sure their insurances do not exempt the type of work you have. You as a homeowner are responsible to make sure that people working on your property are fully covered."

Construction and remodeling should not be a frustrating aspect of your live, there should be excitement for a new beginning. So choose the right team and engage in this process with your contractor like you are business partners.

Mamuka Grigolia