So, you have some changes you want to make in your home, but they are beyond what you are capable of or, you don't want to spend the time doing it. So, you hire a contractor. Contractors are skilled, knowledgeable, hopefully licensed and do this kind of work on a daily basis. But, what happens when the work the contractor is doing is not up to your standards? Most contractors I have dealt with in work and on my own home have been great, but it takes just one bad apple to sour the whole bunch. So how should you approach the contractor if their work is lackluster?
Before the Work Begins
Before the contractor even begins working on your home, tell them your expectations and I highly recommend doing this in writing. Let him/her know any specific details, colors, patterns or anything else specific that you are looking for. No matter if the project turns out great or subpar, you will have these expectations to reference back to if needed.
When you First Notice Something is Wrong...
Take lots of photos! This is your documentation of the issue, so that if you and the contractor have words in the future, you can use these photos as your evidence. Taking photos of the stages of the project also helps you, as the owner, see how the project was constructed. If something goes wrong in the future from this project, a leak, discoloration, sagging, whatever it is, you can research the method the contractor used and reference your photos to determine if their methods were a factor in the problem.
Initially Communicating the Problem
If you are able, check on the progress of the project every couple of days so you can see how the job is going and let the contractor know of any concerns before the project is complete. This helps the contractor and you by saving time and resources. If you find that while the project is still in progress there is work that is not meeting your standards, communicate with your contractor. Most of the time, they are receptive of your concerns and want you to be happy with the work they are doing. Calmly and rationally communicate what part of the work is not meeting your expectations. The contractor fixing what you are not happy with should not cost you as the owner unless...
You, as the owner, changed your mind on how you wanted the job designed or done by the contractor mid-way through the project and that change resulted in additional cost.
You, as the owner, added additional scope to the project. This is any additional requirements or features that were added after the initial project scope was agreed upon and was quoted for.
Also, if you have a verbal conversation with your contractor, follow up the conversation with an e-mail or text to confirm everything. Think of these as meeting notes. This helps add another layer of communication while making sure everyone is on the same page with the project expectations and next steps.
If You Ask The Contractor to Fix the Work a Second Time or More
If the contractor has re-done the job for a second time, or more, and you are not happy with the work, what do you do? Try communicating how you want the contractor to fix the issue with a different form of communication. Use a drawing, picture or video to relay your vision.
If you feel the contractor just isn't listening to you or is brushing off your concern, this can be the most frustrating part. You as the homeowner are the one who has to look at and live with the work the contractor does. Do not ever settle! Keep fighting (not literally) until you get what you are paying for. Never let the contractor make your opinion feel undervalued or brushed off. If you do begin to feel this way, and you have told him/her repeatedly to fix the issue, here are some options to consider.
Talk to their boss or supervisor. This method should be used closer to a last resort, but sometimes, it comes to that point. Call their boss or supervisor and explain the entire situation with the contractor from start to finish. Let their boss/supervisor know how you voiced your expectations and where and how they were not met. Hopefully, they will assign you a new contractor to fix and finish the job.
Find a new contractor. If you have just had enough and are not feeling heard in your concerns, this is the time to find a new contractor. No, this is not ideal, but ask friends, family or neighbors in your area if they have any recommendations for a replacement. Before you sever ties with your existing contractor (the one who has been unable to fix the work), confirm you are not in a contractual obligation with the contractor. Signing an invoice or quote for the job, is not a contract. Respect the contractor enough to tell him/her that you are moving forward with a different contractor, rather than ghost your current contractor, and move forward with someone new.
Withhold payment. If you are in too deep with your current contractor, and they begin to get combative with what you as the owner are asking of them, withhold their payment. When they say 'money talks', they aren't wrong. This sounds harsh, but sometimes, it's the only "talking" that will get anywhere.
Like I said previously, many contractors are hard-working and great individuals who are just trying to make a living, so don't think every contractor is out there to make your life harder. But, unfortunately, there are some out there. Enough out there for me to write this. Do you have any other methods you have used with a contractor that have worked (besides yelling at them) to get the job done correctly? Let me know in the comments.