How to Spot a Bad Contractor

Finding the right home remodeler can be a difficult task, and while we have covered the basics of how to find a good remodeling professional, we have not discussed how to spot a bad contractor in a while. With that in mind, I want to discuss some ways you can easily spot one of these scoundrels from a mile away.

If you read our previous articles on finding a good contractor (and followed the advice to the best of your ability), odds are you will avoid these fly-by-night contractors who come in and end up doing more damage than good to your home and, arguably, your greatest investment.

However, sometimes we are tempted by an offer that sounds too good to be true (it usually is) or are referred to a contractor by a friend who was fortunate enough to have a decent experience. Perhaps the job they hired the contractor for was small or within the bad contractors scope, or maybe they gambled and just got lucky.

Either way, whether you are looking for a home contractor, were referred to one by a friend or family member, or are currently employing one, here are some easy signs to spot a bad remodeling contractor.

Bad Contractors Do not Have References

One of the first things you should ask any potential contractor is if he has references. If the contractor does not have any, or says that it is against his company’s policy to give out previous customers’ information, it is a sure sign that the contractor has something to hide. Real remodelers have good references that are more than happy to recommend them to future clients.

Bad Contractors Do Not Give Written Guarantees

Real contractors do not shy away from written, detailed guarantees, clearly outlining what is covered, what is not covered, and for how long. If a contractor refuses to provide a written guarantee, or tries to get you to accept a verbal one, move on.

Is the Contractor Licensed and Insured?

Each state has different qualifications for licensure (you can check with your local coding office for specifics), but most require a certain level of training to attain – and keep – a license. If a contractor cannot provide you with his license number and proof of insurance – including liability insurance – do not let them work on your home. If something goes wrong, you could be stuck with the mess and the bill.

Look for Easy Warning Signs

Bad contractors tend to have certain habits and tricks. For instance, they often employ tactics such as offering you a “special discount” if you hire them right away or offer you a limited time/cash only/under-the-table deal. They also are fond of giving out quick quotes without much thought, using scare tactics to make the job seem urgent and “scare” you into hiring them (“That roof is going to fall on your head any day now.”), or generally pressuring you into a decision without giving you time to think things through.

In addition to these “sales” tactics, look out for contractors who happen to be in your neighborhood, wrapping up some other job, and noticed your house could use some remodeling work.

Another small tip-off is the actual look of the contractor. Is he clean and professional in appearance? Is his work vehicle in good working order? Does he have business cards? These may appear to be minor things, but when taken together, they begin to paint a picture that you do not wish to be a part of.

Trust Your Instincts

Finally, one of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when hiring a contractor is not trusting their gut feelings. Ask anyone who has ever had a negative experience with a “contractor” and more likely than not, they will tell you they had a bad feeling right from the start. If you feel this way, or if communication with the potential contractor does not feel right to you, trust yourself and look elsewhere.