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Contractor Stories

April 22nd, 2010 at 12:48 pm

Our first home was a condo (little upkeep, but had been completely remodeled before we moved in, so we didn't do a thing to the place). Second home was bought brand new.

Needless to say, I don't have a lot of contractor stories, even if we have been homeowners for a decade.

We are probably going to have our house painted in the next couple of weeks.

We have been waiting a year (or two) for some neighbors to paint. To get a good recommendation. To see who was good and who to stay away from.

We gave up on this angle. Since no one has painted their home.

I haven't really asked many friends. I asked a couple of financially savvy friends for referrals. They have never painted their home. This is they kind of thing I wouldn't just taken any referral. I think people tend to be really stupid. I have had terrible referrals in the past. If it's not family, I am wary of any recommendation of this type. I just want a good/ethical contractor that is reasonably priced.

All that said, it's not an area we have any experience with!

I think we may have lucked out with this painter, but won't speak too soon. Found an ad online. Has been in business forever, A+ rating with the BBB, properly licensed and insured, and all that jazz. I picked him because he was giving rock bottom prices "due to the economy." I would stay away from any ad that had the word "cheap" in the price. I don't want cheap - I Want quality. The way his ad was worded, sold me.

Of course, he looks good on paper, but the next step was to meet him in person, and get a quote (and a gut feeling).

I would generally get multiple quotes and maybe we should, but from what I know about prices, I know the price we did get is rock bottom. I know no one has complained about this guy to anyone who matters (licensing board, or BBB) in the last few years. I know he has been in business for many decades. Liked him as much in person. He does not even ask for a deposit (which would be standard). It seemed clear he would go above and beyond the minimum standard - looking at the contract.

So, will see how it goes. & so we bite the bullet. Dh is supposed to call him this week. Though with all the rain, lord knows when we can get it done. No rush - my angle was just to get a discount with the pre-season. Plus, probably best to paint before the wasps move in. Why I kind of wanted to beat warmer weather a bit. But I Can wait a couple of weeks!

Of course, I am open to ANY advice on the subject.

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We actually hired a contractor when we first bought our home, to get the backyard landscaped. Concrete, lawn, irrigation, plants/trees.

I am sure it was in the realm of $5k, though I don't remember for sure. At the time, we had tons of landscapers going door to door. We asked a couple of our neighbors who actually did their yards (most waited YEARS - ugh). They all had horror stories and said they wouldn't recommend their landscapers. If nothing else, they don't show up.

Great!

We started talking to the door to door guys and settled on someone who sounded like they really knew what they were doing, and was really "cheap," to boot. Wasn't the lowest quote we got. Just the "best feeling" we got. We were really young and no idea what we were doing. Though I am sure we got advice about what to ask about and look for.

The results are mixed. In the end, turns out the guy was using a relative's license (he had a very similar name). The whole thing was kind of frustrating. We would never know, but he didn't pay for the concrete, and so the concrete company put a lien on our house. Yeah. So, dh calls them, and they tell us that they are going to report us for hiring someone without a license. Okay then. Report away. How do you explain how you allow a non-licensed contractor to get a lien on our house??? Maybe they found out after the fact. I have no idea - but they seemed to have a clearer picture of the situation than we did.

Dh tracked down the actual licensed contractor we thought we had hired. HE paid the bill, apologized for his relative, and that was that. No more lien.

So, yeah, not a great experience.

Don't get me wrong - he did a nice job. But we tried to do right, and the whole thing kind of sucked in the end.

Anyway, in the end I suppose it worked. He showed up and did a nice job for a reasonable price. Extra reaosonable because he was a fraud, I suppose.

Sometimes another perspective can be so eye opening. Only recently, one of our neighbors commented how we had the nicest landscape job. I had never really thought about it. But, they had bought a second house in the neighborhood and both the homes just had terrible backyards. She was telling me how much she loved our trees when she lived behind us, and how nice our landscaping look compared to theirs.

I suppose though the guy was a fraud, he obviously knew what he was doing and did a nice job. We asked for "low maintenance" and that is what we got. It was only looking at my neighbor's crappy looking yard that I appreciated that we really could have done a lot worse. So, phew.

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Needless to say, when we met with the painter, we asked to see his I.D. He also apologetically told us he had to disclose about the whole lien thing, legally. "Oh, but I've never had to put a lien on anyone's home." Dh and I just looked at each other when that subject came up.

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Actually, I am also looking for someone to clean our gutters and do a small repair. I thought that maybe we should just rush that out before the paint job. Probably should, but I can't find anyone. I just want someone license/insured who doesn't have terrible reviews all over the internet. A lot of contractors say they are, without sharing their license #. Clearly not licensed - so probably not insured. Still more homework to do for that one. There's no (big) trees so we have never cleaned our gutters. Dh found a leak and was going to take care of it, but has never got around to it. I had to climb up on the lower roof to remove some of the Dish equipment and saw the buildup in the gutter. It does need a cleaning, to prevent more damage.

Funny enough, a lot of gutter places around here do pigeon cleanup and bird proofing, etc. I had NO IDEA. We hired a guy to put up bird proofing and he moved away. Last time we just called a big pest control company to fix one area, but they didn't clean up all the bird droppings on the roof. Looks like we can get the painter or the gutter cleaner to spray that off. & it's nice to know who to call if we ever have any problems. (Knock on wood, but haven't had any bird issues in a while. The birds are pretty bad around here - well, they were).

I may renew my gutter cleaning/fixing efforts this weekend. Might as well get it done.

Why not do our own? Oy vey! Not the proper tools/ladders/guts for the crazy high gutters. Will spend $150 for a pro. It's a steal.

Going forward, will probably have to do a wee bit more often than once a decade.

Oh yeah - we never wash our windows either. I don't see the point. Painter said they would be "cleaned" in the process with the spray - and they go over them with a squeegee so they look nice. Our house will look so shiny!

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I know - I have been so knee deep in work, I haven't felt terribly bloggy.

But, now I am knee deep in home improvements and long put off stuff - all costing money - and thus I swing the other way, to very bloggy.

1 Responses to “Contractor Stories”

  1. fern Says:

    Sigh. Contractors. They come in as many stripes as as a rainbow.

    It's so hard to find one who does quality work at a reasonable price. Most want to gouge you. Last year I did find a contractor who does great work at great prices, but his one serious shortcoming is that he never shows up when he says he will, and what should take a few weeks takes months. That's how my sun room went.

    But he lives right here in town, and if i am in the mood to chase after him, I sometimes get some progress.

    I found when getting house painting estimates (exterior) that the range in prices was incredible, leading me to conclude that there's little relationship between the work done and the price assigned.

    When i had clogged gutters last year, it was the same thing. I figured this was simple grunt work, so i hired the cheapest guy who spoke broken English. He never showed up. Serves me right i guess. I wasted time with others, 1 who didn't have a ladder, etc. I finally called the guy who installed the gutters and while he charged a premium, he came over immediately and went at it like a pro becus this is his livelihood, not a side job he's doing on the side.

    My general feeling is that most workmen are there to collect a check from you and so it's up to you to really stay on them or make sure the job's done right, when you can. I had one guy who cleaned my furnace unbolt a vise from a workbench in my basement and steal it from me. Never mind that i never used it, that's not the point.

    Can't tell you how pissed that made me and i've never again allowed a workman access to my home when I'm not there. People apparently do it all the time becus, i guess, they have no choice, but i refuse to do that.

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