The Great Kitchen Contract Hoax (Do NOT make This Mistake)

My neighbour Shari and her husband Josh renovated their kitchen this past Spring.  They chose someone who came highly referred by their friends. He had installed two kitchens for them and they were beautiful.

This is the note I received from Shari:

“We went to Home Depot and a few other kitchen stores but decided to go with him since we saw his work in our friends home.

We paid the first half of what was owing for the completed kitchen. His contract stated that we were to pay half upfront, and the final half was due upon delivery and in our minds completion of the kitchen.

On the day of the installation, he arrived with a young employee and installed most of the kitchen in under four hours. All that was missing was the doors.

After he left Josh and I took a look at his work and were dismayed to find all the chips and damage. The fridge panel was crooked. (below) He cut part of the crown moulding too short and just patched in a one-inch piece to hide it. etc.

We emailed him right away listing the imperfections and he said ‘Don’t worry we are not done’. He was coming back to fix it and put the doors on. He told us to keep our check-measure appointment with the countertop company to keep it all moving and on schedule.

The counter guy arrived and said he couldn’t measure them since the fridge panel was installed incorrectly. 

A few days later two young employees showed up and put up the doors and handles. Every handle was crooked. They filled the chips and holes and left. Josh emailed the kitchen guy right away with pictures and a detailed list of all deficiencies.

A week later the kitchen contractor messaged Josh to confirm he was coming back that day and requested that the final payment was waiting for him.

Josh declined and responded, ‘When we are sure the problems are corrected we will cut you a cheque the same day’. The kitchen guy refused and said he would not come back to do any more work. He noted that the contract stated that final payment was due upon delivery.  He told us he could have delivered the kitchen in boxes and the payment would have been due.

We consulted with a lawyer and she confirmed that according to the way the contract was written, we had no choice but to pay him what we owed.  After that, he came back and fixed the crooked handles and patched a few holes but obviously, the gables remained, given the kitchen would have had to be entirely disassembled to move them.

We have a friend who is a contractor who gave us some advice and helped with a few little things. The rest we have just had to live with. It would have cost an additional $3000 in repairs.

The lawyer said that the contract should have said “Final payment due upon completion of the installation”.

I’m telling you this story so you can also make this adjustment to a contract when you plan your kitchen or bathroom renovation.

I asked Shari if I could style her kitchen and post this story on the blog to save anyone else from going through this.

I’ll also share the other thing I learned from renovating my three bathrooms this summer, at the end of this post.

First, here’s Shari’s new kitchen. She had been following my blog and decided that her small kitchen would be best in white-on-white.

They had lived in the house for 12 years and eight years ago they stained their oak cabinets brown (below).

Shari and Josh already had medium brown hardwood floors in their house (see their living room in this post) and I told them to continue the same floors into their kitchen and dining room.

They did not have more of the same floors they had installed in their living room and hallway so they took a sample and went to every single flooring store in the lower mainland but could not find anything close.

So they ordered tons of samples from online stores and finally found this one in California. They paid more for shipping, but in the end it was an almost perfect match!

I was so impressed, I did not notice they were different at all!

Shari liked the white beveled subway tile so that’s what they installed along with off-white quartz countertops.

Just in case you think all my styling ideas come from the clear blue sky, they don’t. When I was thinking about what I would bring (or buy) to style Shari’s kitchen, I was reviewing my ‘Kitchens and bathroom styling’ Pinterest board and came across this image:

via Pinterest

I didn’t have a tall 3-tiered stand, but I do have a small white one, so I puttered around, picked some white Fall Daisies from my garden and some small faux pears from another display in my kitchen along with some tiny bowls and Ramekins that Terreeia uses when she’s prepping meals or serving condiments during dinner parties.

I have all kinds of random vases and I happened to find some tiny ones someone gave me once for placeholders at a dinner party.

When you have a white (or off white or cream) kitchen or bathroom, you can introduce almost any colour you want!

It’s a beautiful thing.

Related post: The Best White Bathrooms

This was the kitchen/dining room before (below):

Before

Josh found the new light fixture (below) on Craigslist.

The person selling it had won it and it was originally valued at $3000. She was trying to get more for it but no one would pay, so she finally lowered the price to $150.

I think it makes the dining area! If anyone knows the original source, please post the link in the comments!

Related post: Three Steps to Make More Money Selling Furniture on Craigslist

Shari runs a daycare out of her house so she removes the faux lambskins during the day and for this reason she only has pillows on the built-in bench (not a seat cushion). This way everything remains washable!

I mentioned we could get faux leather seat cushions made but she showed me the damage on her two dining chairs (which are upholstered in brown leather) from her cats, so her bench remains cushionless.

Okay so, the cake is totally fake (below). It sits in my accessory room which is located off the garage and I have used it many times with different cake plates (Can you spot it in this post?). A photographer I worked with gave it to me a long time ago.

The cookies are real, I left them for Shari’s kids to enjoy 🙂

When I was taking photos of her kitchen this week I noticed a duck in her backyard and asked her about it, Shari said her husband was doing some work for a Vietnamese man last week (he manages a power line company) and the man asked her husband in broken English if he would like a duck, Josh said sure! The guy owned a restaurant so he figured it was pre-packaged or cooked.

The man disappeared and then Josh saw him go into a large duck pen and grab one.  Josh was thinking oh God, he killed the poor thing put it in a box, and into the back of Josh’s truck.

When Josh got home he opened the box, and the poor duck just had his feet tied up, but was very much alive and healthy!

The duck follows their dog around everywhere, haha. The vegetarian in me was very happy to hear this story!

Here’s a picture of Shari, her husband Josh and their two kids:

And last but not least, here’s what I learned about renovating this summer.

Never, ever, ever, ever completely pay a trade until he or she is finished the work you hired him or her to do or you are happy with the work he has done.

If you pay too quickly, they will either disappear or be VERY SLOW in coming back to finish what they started.

If you hire a designer or contractor who comes with their own trades, the world is different. Their trades are loyal to them and want to continue getting work from them so you shouldn’t have this problem. It’s, of course, one of the many reasons why you should hire a designer to help you with your renovation!

And, I don’t want to paint EVERY trade in the world with the same brush, however, I would say 99% of them fall into this category.

The trades my friend Jan brought were wonderful, however, I live in the country so we did have to hire a few locals.

The plumber we hired said yes to every job that came his way and as a result, would arrive at our house at 4 or 5:00 pm when I needed him to do something. He was exhausted and couldn’t even see straight at that point.

Finally, when I needed him to come back and install my freestanding tub and toilets, he again arrived at the end of the day and started talking about how some parts were missing. We sent him home and found a fabulous local plumber (by referral). It took him ALL DAY to do the work (because he had to move the drain which was installed incorrectly by the original plumber) and he did a beautiful job.

If you are in the Fraser Valley and need a plumber, contact Brian Stoner at 604-819-3379.

By the way, I had already paid the other plumber to do the work so I paid twice.

Did I mention DO NOT PAY YOUR TRADES UNTIL THEY HAVE DONE THE WORK TO YOUR SATISFACTION? Don’t do it.

Great lesson of the day right? If you have any hard lessons you’ve learned to add to this, please post them in the comments, they contribute to everyone!

I’m also excited to announce that I will be attending the KBIS show in Florida with Modenus in January!

Go here to see who else will be joining me!

Related posts:

The Single Worst Mistake to Make During Your Bathroom Renovation

10 Styling Lessons From Jeffrey Bilhuber

How to Photograph Your Projects to get More Business

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  1. Thanks for the cautionary tale. I like how you’ve styled the kitchen and appreciate that you shared your inspiration. The vegetarian in me also loves the duck story! New buddies!

  2. I generally structure payments as 50% upfront. 25% for substantial completion, which means clearing up major items on the punch list. Then a final 25% payment when EVERYTHING is absolutely correct. Also, I make really detailed contracts that include every action I expect the contractor to do. So rather than “install cabinets” I would write in the contract “install 10 new cabinets (5 uppers, 5 lowers) as outlined in the final design drawings.” You truly can not be too detailed when documenting what a contractor is supposed to deliver.

  3. Amen to not prepaying in full. I hired a granite company this past summer to repair multiple edge chips in my black granite, and they required prepayment for the amount of hours they bid, promising a refund if it took less time. It was a nightmare experience. They did shoddy work and it took a month to get a refund for unused hours. In the end, I had to hire another company to fix their shoddy workmanship. For what I paid, I could have nearly replaced the granite.

  4. Ooh! I’ll be at KBIS in January, too! I get to attend as a student member of NKBA as I’ve gone back to school this year to be certified in kitchen and bath design. I’m so excited! It all started with attending your workshop, Maria (5 years ago now). It was my first step into the world of design as I was looking ahead to the years beyond raising my kids. It gave me skill and confidence and now I’ve further narrowed down my interests and giftings to pursue what I’m really passionate about. I know being a TCE will only continue to give me skill and confidence beyond other K&B designers. It was the smartest money I ever spent. Hope to run into you in January!

  5. Maria
    The never pay before the job is finished is a hard lesson to learn .
    Our first house we learned the lesson .
    Our kitchen was a butchered mess .
    Once you pay you r then forgotten .
    If things don’t look right when they are doing the work , it’s not going to look right when they are done.
    When you question them and they say , “ we will fix that when we are done “.
    That’s a red flag .
    We now say that “ needs to be fixed now “.
    Thanks once again for a knowledgeable blog .
    Nancy

  6. Absolutely 100% agree with DON’T PAY UNTIL THEY ARE FINISHED – no matter how nice they are. Learned that lesson many years ago with renovating a house to flip. A valuable lesson that I share with many friends.
    Love your blog!

  7. I couldn’t agree more with your post Maria! I manage a lot of my renovations and my trades are fabulous! Why? Because they have clear expectations and a job list when they quote a job, the come when they are ‘assigned’ to come via my construction calendar, they know that I will be doing a pre walkthrough, a walkthrough mid way to check in on things, and a final walkthrough. If and when any deficiencies are addressed, then they are paid – by me. My trades know that when a job is done right, they are paid right away. It really is a win-win for all.

    For the client, we have progress payments set up. The initial deposit is to cover all of the product and ordering. Progress payments are scheduled in (again, with the construction calendar) once X,Y,Z trade is done. From a business point of view, I am never out of pocket or carrying anyone’s renovation. Work gets done, it’s good work = trades get paid. Period. My system works for my business and my clients because I am up front with how progress payments are created.

    On a seperate note, looking forward to seeing you at the KBIS show in Florida with Modenus!

    • Sheri, I do the same thing…I can’t even imagine asking my customers to pay until the job is all done! I like being in control of paying my subs so I can make sure they have completed the job and the customer is 100% satisfied…I just finished up a big remodel, I just ran into her at the store, and asked her if she’s all settled in now. She said no… because she decided to tackle the basement on her own, paid for vinyl flooring in full about a month ago, and she still is waiting on it to be installed! ..( I kind of had to chuckle, b/c my part of the job turned out fabulous!)

      • Paula,
        I think when we have our processes in place (like you and I do), it shows a number of things: 1. That we are professional. 2. That we understand the process of a renovation, and 3. It shows transparency.

        Funny about your client and their basement. I think many people think that project managing and/or being the contractor is an easy job. Not until they walk in our shoes do they fully realize all that is involved. 🙂

  8. When you’re having a job done, no matter if you’re on deadline or not, PUT A COMPLETION DATE IN THE CONTRACT that must be signed off/approved by you. Then insert a penalty for each day that the job is overrun. Discuss the timeframe in advance with the contractor and have them give you that date, then that’s what you hold them to. You’d be surprised at how much difference that makes in having the job done. I learned the hard way that a contractor will sometimes take on other jobs simultaneously and leave yours undone or take their sweet time in completing it.

  9. Wow! I would add; in addition to hiring a designer, hire a lawyer to write your contract up front, and follow-up any verbal agreements in writing by email. If this sounds extreme it’s not. I wish I had. See, “7 Things Every Remodeling Contract Must Have,” by Josh Garskof.
    Demand professional drawings, review carefully, and keep a copy, revising as needed to reflect agreed upon changes.
    Good luck—it’s a mine field out there.

  10. When we got estimates for our renovation, our favorite long-time (and perfectionist) contractor included an allowance that was way too low (but “normal” for most renovations). We didn’t realize that the estimate included more than just labor and thought his estimate for our new house was much too expensive and (regretfully!) didn’t hire him for our new house. We didn’t realize the estimates we compared weren’t “apples to apples.” Sad way to learn that every detail on an estimate needs to be questioned.

  11. After hiring a con-tractor (now I know why they call themselves that) and paying 30K only to have to have it re-done by another carpenter, I learned a couple of things.
    1) get references from the local lumber yards – they know who is good/bad.
    2) get everything in writing – don’t trust a handshake and a nice smiling face.

  12. I’m in a kitchen remodel as well and I have decided that I will be happy when I am living with and using my new kitchen. In the meantime, I am trying to get over thinking of everything ahead of time. (Ha!) No one else does. I haven’t had any contract problems at least and I would definitely not complete payment if I wanted something fixed. I also ditched the first plumber and went back to my regular plumber which is who I should have gone with in the first place. Anyway, I’ve done enough housing projects to know going in that it never turns out perfectly unless you have unlimited funds to throw. So I’ll pull my hair until everything’s done and then get over it. Maria, I will send you pictures.

  13. As usual, informative post Maria! Yes, do NOT pay your trades until you are satisfied. But on the flip side, if you are totally nitpicky like my husband, you have to remember to be reasonable about your expectations. 🙂 And use good manners when asking for people to fix things since you catch more bees with honey….although I wish that every trade were as conscientious about doing things right as I try to be.

    As an aside, how should have the contract been worded?

    I have taken your TCE course and it was a game changer for my business. Maria, I am waiting for you to come up with a class for photo styling because I’d like to also be a True Photostylist Expert. Think about it. And the next time you are in Charlotte, come say hi!

  14. This is a great article! Luckily that has not happened to me but one of my close designer friends experienced a similar story. She hired a well known kitchen design company and they told her that the kitchen would be completed in two weeks. Well they would work for a few hours and then disappear to probably another job. Their work was sloppy and drawers did not close right, cabinets didn’t line up etc. When she would call them they told her that they were trying to finish another job and they would get back to hers as soon as they could. Long story short after two months, not 2 weeks, they came back and just slapped things together. She was so unhappy with the whole project and refused to pay them. They told her if she didn’t they would put a lean against her house. She finally sued them but didn’t get anything from it other than a hard lesson learned. Too bad that one would have to go through the agony when all you want is a beautiful finished product.

    Your staging looks fantastic Maria! I also have been staging homes for sale but not sure that is a good way to go. The client is trying to move and the house is a mess so staging is much harder.

  15. I’m currently in the time-consuming and outright unpleasant process of trying to get a flooring company to do right by us. We went to them for luxury vinyl plank for our master bedroom which they installed nearly a year ago. It looks beautiful from afar, but as soon as you step on it, the planks flex down and others you can feel the uneven floor underneath. The installer obviously didn’t level the concrete underlayment and now you can feel all the ripples and hollow spots. They told us it would “even out” with time, so I gave them the last payment. Big mistake. Now I can’t get them to admit that the installation wasn’t done properly (the installation is still under warranty for a few more weeks). They want to come out and “inject glue” into all the hollow spots, which means drilling holes in my new floor! Plus it doesn’t solve the problem of the hills, dips and valleys you can feel underfoot. I’m trying to convince them that they need to come out and take up the flooring, level the concrete, and then reinstall the flooring. Getting quality work shouldn’t be so hard to get. Wish me luck!

  16. Ha ha Maria….I LOVED that duck story and laughed out loud when I read it 🙂 Another great blog …and cautionary tale for people who are working with contractors! Beautiful styling!! xokaren

  17. Nice post..have a lot to tell but fortunately for humanity headache prevents me from writing lenghty emotional posts..:)
    yes..you want whoever works for you/with you to be able to see straight you know..not to be exausted. Plumber..or even more important, a surgeon..:)
    It’s still a very nice cozy space. and lovely family, of course!
    The fixture is totally fab. ceramics, right? I’m into lighting and due to many reaons-especially vintage one..if I manage to stunble upon the answer I’ll be back:)

  18. That’s a Muscovy duck. They are the only domesticated duck breed not derived from mallards. They are known to have a lot of personality. (That is all I can contribute as I continue to procrastinate on remodeling my kitchen!)

  19. Yep, to most contractors these one-off jobs for a run of the mill homeowner are low on the priority list. You WILL get shuffled round, have no shows on days you expected them, etc if a bigger job is also being done. Be clear in your contract and withhold payment if you are unsatisfied! Many”s the time we’ve kept some money in our pocket because a trade didn’t care enough to finish their work with us/do it right.

    • Please read this if you live in CALIFORNIA.
      State law in California protects you from this situation. A licensed contractor here cannot ask for more than a $1,000 OR 10% DOWN PAYMENT, which ever is LESS to begin a job. Go to the California State Contractors Board to check the license before hiring anyone. Do not hire an unlicensed contractor. Do not pay extra for supplies ahead of time. (They should have credit or funds themselves to begin the job.) After the work starts pay them as the work progresses but do not let your payments get ahead of the work completed. Withhold a last payment until you have time to inspect the work. Get lien releases from the subcontractors so that you have proof that they were paid, so that they cannot put a lien on you house title. For more info on this go to the Calif State Contractors website.

    • Haha, yes I forgot to mention that, they named him Donald and are keeping him as a pet! She said he seems pretty happy to be there which I can just imagine given where he’s been leading up to potentially being someones dinner 🙂
      Thanks for your comment!
      Maria

  20. I’ve never had to deal with contractors. My husband is handy & has done all the work we needed. But as he’s gotten older, he’s gotten slower.
    Next year I want to re-do some things in my laundry room. I want to hire a contractor because my washer & dryer will be out of commission while the work is being completed. And I don’t want to be going to the laundromat any longer than I have to. I’m dreading having to find someone I can trust to do the work.

  21. That is a very cute duck.

    Great advice and a sad story. A red flag went up for me as soon as I read the contract wording–I thought exactly what the contractor said, that he could have demanded payment while everything was still in boxes. Awful.

    We are extraordinarily fortunate to have a fabulous contractor, who has handled our to-the-stud bathroom and kitchen renovations and our expansion. I booked him a year in advance for the kitchen/expansion because he is in such demand. All repeat business and referrals; he does not advertise. If I had had to wait two years for him, I would have. The people he brings in are not cheap, but almost everything they do is perfect. When the kitchen faucet was 1/8″ off perfectly horizontal, the plumber came back and fixed it, no problem. Tradesmen like these are pure gold.

    Also, hiring a kitchen designer really paid off. In addition to the design, she worked with the cabinet people and recommended the best stone place in the area. She did all the measurements, which would have really stressed me out. Oh, and she also figured out the lighting. Maria’s advice about hiring a designer is solid. With a project as complicated as a kitchen, you do not want to mess up. I handled the bathroom design myself, and also the addition interior, because they were much easier.

  22. I also believe it’s important to make sure your contractor can “communicate effectively”…the last one we hired – after getting 3 bids – it was a big job – was the one who knew how to TEXT and give me a quick answer when issues came up…Our long-time, previous contractor would only communicate with me at night, via phone – so maddening…I loved his work, but could not handle that method of relaying information for another large project.

  23. All I can add is that calling someone back 5 or 6 years later to do another project for you requires the exact same process you went through when you didn’t know the worker. We learned that on a small project, but it reminded us that the man wasn’t family, with our interests at heart, and he was older and maybe tired!

  24. We had our kitchen remodeled this Spring. It was a complete gut job and we are thrilled with the result. The contractor was well recommended and even took us to other client’s homes to see his previous work. We put 10% down (as required in our state) and he had a current license. There were a couple of delays but, all and all, everything was done to our satisfaction.
    Great duck story!

  25. What a great post, Maria! Remodeling is not for the faint of heart!
    The stories I have to tell about contractors! For some reason I was given the opportunity with our last home remodel to have to basically have everything that was remodeled – REDONE!
    The painter was living in our house , did a horrible painting job and stained our new tile floor. – Fired them too late – tried to let them ‘fix” it. They made it worse.
    The cabinet maker remade a cabinet without telling us so the granite countertops did not fit when they came to install. We had to buy 2 more slabs of granite.
    The flooring company installed the tile floor in the dining room when we asked them not to so we could have a Nana Wall installed and then see how we needed to tie the floor to be level with the door.
    The roofing company that was redoing our back balcony didn’t give their subcontractor enough material to finish the job and they did not cover anything up knowing a huge thunderstorm was approaching so we had water damage.
    The General contractor moved to Colorado before the job was finished saying he had another job.

    This is just a taste of what we went through. We fought with every company but they all acted like it was not their fault and they didn’t understand why we would be upset and walked away without their last check! I hired all these companies after getting referrals but the thing I did not do was verify them with the Better Business Bureau! I have learned my lesson very thoroughly! Maria is correct – Hold that last check until everything is done right! But sometimes even then, that is little consolation since the work still needs to be done and you have to find the right contractor to do it correct and you still have to pay them as well! I learned due diligence goes a long way!

  26. Thank you for this advice. It goes for movers also! We once hired a couple of guys to move us, which was to be a two-day effort. They showed up on the first day and worked hard. My house-mate at the time decided to go ahead and pay them, and they never showed up to do the second day of moving. We had already gifted them a newish king size mattress in addition to the moving expenses. I think they stole some drinking glasses too . . . probably to toast themselves on their deviousness.

    It’s hard to figure out how some people look at themselves in the mirror.

    As far as cats and upholstery, yeah leather is a problem. It’s very durable except for claws. Stuff like velvet or corduroy is better because their claw goes in and comes out neatly. Avoid stuff with easily snagged threads.

  27. We just had our kitchen renovated in August/September. I love the end result, but it wasn’t without a few tears; the contractor refused to fix some things and the timeline was extended from 4 to 6 weeks. But, it did come in on budget and the major stuff (cabinets, tile, flooring, counters) was installed beautifully.

    As usual, your advise is excellent, Maria! I also want to suggest that customers put as many *details as possible* in the contract. While we refused to pay the last installment until we were satisfied, we did end up accepting a few things that we originally did not want. For example:
    * I verbally requested a light gray grout for to go with the off-white subway tile (I thought it would work well with the fantasy brown marble counters). Imagine my shock when I returned home to find white grout! The contractor knew his guys messed up too. I complained, but in the end kept the white grout and actually like it (dare I say better than I would have liked the gray).
    *The contractor suggested we move the ceiling light fixture because it would look nicer over the kitchen table. We agreed. However, we failed to realize that the contractor would leave a gaping hole in our ceiling where the fixture was originally installed and refused to patch it because “it is against code to burry it”. When we suggested they not burry it, but remove it completely, they bulked because of the extra work. In the end, they did it because we held off the final payment (again, great advice!). We had to call someone in to fix they terrible patch job, though.
    *We got a gray/brown luxury vinyl. We love the look and the ease of cleaning (so far). However, the contractor installed trim moldings in oak-a color that matches nothing in the kitchen (not the brown/gray floor or white baseboard moldings) AND missed a few spots where trim moldings should have been installed. We insisted they come back and not only add molding where it was forgotten, but replace existing with white. Yeah, it’s a little thing, but painting it would have been a pain.
    *They ran electric for a light over the sink, but refused to install the standard light we bought. I read the contract and agree that we didn’t specify that the light be installed, so we offered to pay extra for it-and they refused-it would have taken them less than an hour. I think they just wanted to be done the job.

  28. Hard lesson 1: Contractors are people and sometimes people die or get divorced. I know two people who experienced this with their contractors, and it definitely created huge problems for their projects. Many contractors are not good money managers and when the new jobs stop due to death or divorce, their businesses collapse.

    Hard lesson 2: If it bothers you at the time, it will still probably bother you later. I know of a few things I let go because I was more eager to have a job finished and the people out of my house then get them corrected. Maybe would have been better to keep a posted list of things that need to be corrected/fixed when I noticed them.

    • Thanks, haha well it’s not exactly $3000 but maybe it was here in Canada? I didn’t know you could use any image to find something on google, thanks for that hot tip! Maria

  29. This painful lesson is ALWAYS applicable to EVERY CONTRACT one enters into.
    They look like such a sweet little family, I’m sorry this happened to them.
    See you soon, Maria!!!
    xo, Paula

  30. Your freind is not alone. My original roofer did this & left saftey hazards all over the place (parts fell on the ground even). Thankfully the “contract” was very poorly written. That life experience caused me to stumble in to being good friends with a wise & seasoned contract law atty (he & his wife had similar not-legal hobbies to me so we socialized a lot until they moved for retirement)

    What I have discovered in the 10+ years of “fixing up” my krappy kottage is that some will want a down payment the first time you do business with them to ensure your serious & that they at least break even if you don’t pay. I have a friend who is a “remodeler”, he has told me that 10-30% of their customers don’t pay regards of quality of work. Usually after the first project is paid in full, without a hitch, then after that most of the people i’ve used will be normal business associates with no money due till the end. I’ve had about 5 that have taken the down payment money & ran. There was one person that disappeared with enough money on the line I actually was on the verge of a court date before he returned my money(almost a year later).
    Also this is weird however, if you can tactfully do so, get a picture of the license plate on their vehicle because that will verify identity if you do need to pursue for some reason… i know this sounds sick & sad, i had one person leave in the middle of a job after dragging it out for over 3 weeks, took all building materials that he could grab before i got home from work. Then discovered the business name he was using actually belonged to a different guy and the human name on the cards was a pseudo name, never did find out who he actually was but if i’d taken a picture of the license plate i could have confirmed identity and filed a police report for his actions.

    No matter how good the professional’s references, always do a google or similar search in case they were good a few years ago but are now cutting corners – I’ve had that happen twice. Also google the phone number for reveiws in case the business changed hands recently (retirement, new partner/associate, etc). I had a phenomenal plumber for many years, when i met him he fixed my botched bathroom remodel wonderfully https://mariakillam.com/3-ways-to-refresh-your-house-for-you-before-you-sell-before-and-after/with many little recommendations to make daily life or cleaning easier. One day 2 years ago, a handy man wrecked my plumbing when i wasn’t home (trying to pad the bill) and the plumber told me his son would be out to fix the damage. The day of the plumbing work, son told me 3 hours into the repairs, he’d run to the store a couple blocks away for 15 min to get a washer…. 1.5 hours later he surfaced & caused me to pick up a kid from sports practice in freezing temps half an hour late. The final outcome of the work was not very good to boot & had to be redone a few months later due to slow leaks. I did google a few days after the son’s repair and discovered in the recent reviews had nose dived in the last 6+ mo because the son had taken over and didn’t learn his Dad’s dedication to service & quality. i called the Dad and he would only say he’d retired. So anyone that isn’t a friend I google, check home county records for red flags and i also check the site for local licensing entity. if the licensing info doesn’t match, i’ll call the contact info on the license to politely verify who i’m dealing with in case of a fraud. if licensing entity isn’t easy for find online, call the nearest building code enforcement office & ask what state or county entity tracks licensed & bonded tradesmen.

    One other thing I’ve learned, if you know exactly what you want, get your own materials to ensure accuracy & quality. I’ve had both friends & business associates tell me about having everything lined out in a contract or email and coming home to a different tile color, grout color or something else totally not what they wanted but it was done & money was due for completed work.
    If there is going to be a contract be sure to define what you want, i had one guy that just put “new bath room sink base” in multiple times & wouldn’t put “24in medium stain oak sink base with at least 2 drawers using customer provided drawer handles.” Technically speaking he could have given me a sink on a cardboard box with the way he was phrasing it in his contract. Chances are he wasn’t going to give me what i wanted.

    It’s your home. Not theirs. Rock the project like your going to live in it because you will! 🙂 Also, ignore any contractor that tries to tell you that you need to do X cause you’ll probably be wanting to sell in 5 years or “won’t be here long”, that short term perspective usually is a sign that they either want to move leftover product(s) in their garage or their work won’t last over time. You don’t know what the future holds and how long you’ll be there. if you have all the work well done then it’ll be easier to sell in 5 or 50 years and your life will be less stressful.
    sorry this is so long – i just don’t want anyone to ever go through what i’ve been through. if this info helps even one family then it’s worth it.

  31. After reading through the comments, the one lesson I learned that I didn’t see below is that you (or someone you trust) needs to be available to oversee the work. Some people mentioned things that happened when they weren’t around – this is your fix. Their goal is to get the job done as quickly as possible and get paid. If you aren’t around, they become the decision maker to complete the project. This decision maker may be the guys that have been left on the job while the owner is visiting another project site. I’ve also learned after my backyard reno that contractors assume (nicest way I can put it) that you know certain things will happen during a reno. i.e. my yard was destroyed while they did the hardscaping and they made no effort to clean it up. I had to have soil brought in to level the lawn and then sod installed so my dogs didn’t track mud everywhere. This was a large expense I wasn’t prepared for. As a homeowner, my assumption would be if you mess it up, you fix it. That’s clearly not the case. This was a contractor I had used before and was very happy to recommend to others. Unfortunately that is no longer the case.