Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Good General Contractors Outnumber Bad Ones

There's plenty consumer complaints to go around in the general contractor business, but there are many more kudos for competent contractors.

by Broderick Perkins
© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Deadline Newsroom - Typically more than 40 percent of complaints against general contractors and building and construction trade companies hired by homeowners go unanswered, according to statistics from the Better Business Bureau.

But guess what?

There are far more builders who are good at what they do.

It's up to the homeowner to separate the chaff from the wheat.

Begin with referrals from family, friends, co-workers and other trusted people who've recently enjoyed a satisfactory home improvement project. There's nothing like a referral to a paid contractor who's just off an approved job.

Spend time checking out the background of several contractors you're considering for the job and do a background and financial check on any subcontractors.

Check the referrals through your state licensing agency. The license typically only comes with approved education and or experience and adherence to regulations. It also means you have somewhere to go to complain and seek redress should something go amiss. Don't hire an unlicensed contractor. He or she doesn't care enough to abide by the law. You don't want an outlaw in your home.

Run other checks on your referrals.

Experian, known more for credit reporting services, offers a service. It allows consumers to search for contractors in their area, check a specific contractor's business background, his or her bonded status, the status of his business license and insurance, how long the company has been in business, and if the contractor has any judgments or liens against him.

Other operations, including Angie's List; the League of California Homeowners and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry all offer similar services that take some of the guess work out of checking contractors' professional standing. There are plenty more.

Also check the contractor's standing with his or her local trade group. If you can successfully run your contractor's credentials through the state regulatory agency, consumer advocacy groups like and a trade group, chances are you'll know if you've got a winner or loser.

But there's even more you can do.

Avoid door-to-door solicitors, those who only accept cash, contractors without a listed business number in the local telephone directory (licensed or not) or Web site, or contractors offering deals to do your project with materials "leftover" from a previous job.

Likewise reject contractors who want you to obtain required building permits or those who offer a referral fee if you find them new customers.

Beware of offers that appear too good to be true, including exceptionally long guarantees or offers to do your home as a "demonstration project."

Take your business elsewhere if a contractor pressures you for an immediate decision to hire or insists you borrow money for the project through his preferred lender.

Good contractors will give you a binding estimate in writing. They also won't work without a written contract. Don't accept verbal agreements.

Get a contract that clearly spells out, in easy-to-understand terms, exactly what the project will cost, what will be accomplished the anticipated time frame for completing the job and a payment plan.

Accept only payment plans that let you pay as you go. Never pay for work upfront. Never fully pay for the job until the work is complete, inspected and satisfactory.

Don't hesitate to get an attorney to review the contract before you sign it, especially if you are dealing with a high-price-tag project.

• Get more home improvement news that really hits home from DeadlineNews.Com's Home Improvement Section.

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© 2008 DeadlineNews.Com

Broderick Perkins, an award-winning consumer journalist of 30 years, is publisher and executive editor of San Jose, CA-based DeadlineNews.Com, a real estate news and consulting service, and the new Deadline Newsroom, DeadlineNews.Com's new backshop. In both cases, it's where all the news really hits home.

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1 comment:

Lee said...

Ever wonder why you didn't know:

1. your new client was a slow-pay or no-pay?

2. your architect or engineer went to Contractor's Hell University?

3. your inspector whose sister had a grudge against you?

4. your window or cabinet supplier promised delivery in two weeks

and didn't show for two months?

5. your sub had a gambling problem?

6. your general was a stiff to every sub he ever hired?

Maybe you knew about these people, maybe you were damaged by them, but you took

the lumps, kept your mouth shut, and moved on to the next job, but the unfairness still

ticks you off, and you think about it, and wonder "What if my kid came after me on that job,

what would I do, or want done?"

We in the building trade don't whine. We do the job and bitch to no one but our wives

or husbands or significant others, and the problem guys don't go away, they just

keep on doing business the way they've always done.....and nobody stops them.

Until now. is out to strengthen the business of building.


We don't want to put them out of business, but we do want to arm our people

with information that will prevent problems before they can crop up.

If you are dealing with a liar, no matter how smooth, wouldn't it be better if

you knew when he was lying, where he was hedging? Of course. is a person to person website where anyone in the trades

can post a story about what to watch out for. And it's completely fair. The site will

automatically generate an e mail to the person posted, and that person can come back

and post a reply. (If you want to post anonymously you can, and you don't have to put in

the e mail of the other person if you don't want to.) was launched on April 2, 2007, and we've had 70,000 hits

so far, and we've had word back from all over the country from people in the trades

who feel great about getting their stories off their chest. We've also heard from Europe

and South America, so you see you are not alone.

Log onto and see how you feel about the site. Better yet,

have your significant other take a look.

We hope you see the value and use the site.


Lee W. Dodson

Carpenter, Contractor, Hillside Builder