Your contractor seems enthusiastic. You got his name from a neighbor. He actually shows up at your home, and his estimate seems fair enough (not too high, not too low). And, when you decide to hire him, for the first few days on the job, everything is great. Then, one day, he somehow “forgets” to return. He disappears into thin air. He won’t answer your phone calls or emails. Just…nothing.
Although plenty of great floor installers exist, unfortunately, it’s not always easy to find them. You seek an experienced, trustworthy company who not only offers quality work without price gouging but also follows through on promises made.
Below are some bad wood flooring contractor behaviors to be wary of. Unfortunately, sometimes you don’t find out you’ve been treated badly until after the contractor begins the job (or after a year passes and your flooring fails). That is why research is a must to reduce your risk before you sign any contracts.
Your contractor does not perform moisture testing of any kind before the installation. When you ask her about it and express your concern about the proper performance of your species of wood within the conditions of your building, she seems irritated with you and dismisses the moisture testing as “unimportant.” This should set off alarm bells. Run. And fast.
Your contractor seems offended when you ask him questions about his business license. Run extra fast and far from this one. Get your contractor’s business license number and contact the state in which you live to verify that he is indeed licensed. But don’t stop there; also verify that the license is still valid.
Your contractor is evasive about proof of insurance and bonding. You MUST also get proof from your contractor’s insurance company that he is insured and bonded. Don’t accept his offer to fax you proof of his insurance from his office—insist on getting paperwork directly from the insurance company. Don’t worry about “offending.” This is your property and your money. You have a right to know who you’re dealing with. If an unlicensed, uninsured contractor tears up your floors or burns your house to the ground, do you think your homeowner’s insurance will cover you? Think again. They won’t if your contractor isn’t insured and bonded. Don’t cut corners here; do your research.
Your contractor works when she wants to work. She shows up when it’s most convenient for her. This is bad business. Because it can be a hassle to find good help, many customers believe they should tolerate bad behavior from contractors. A contractor who behaves professionally will show up on time, ready to work.
To be fair, everyone can have a bad day on occasion, with valid reasons for lateness/short-notice cancellation (nasty weather, accidents, sudden illnesses, and the occasional act of God). But it is a minimum expectation to get regular and timely communication from your contractor so you know when he’s running late, experiencing an act of God, or whatever.
As an aside, although there is some truth to the claim that few trade schools teach apprentices good business and customer service skills, that does not rationalize bad behavior. Your contractor may have apprenticed with a mentor who left tools behind (to the point he forgot which customers had which tools), showed up when he felt like it, and cut corners; however, the apprentice is an adult and has a choice in whether to pick up his mentor’s glaringly bad habits.
Your contractor hires illegal workers to save money on taxes and worker’s compensation. An ultra-low quote should make you suspicious. Your contractor is cutting corners somewhere, and he could very well be using illegal labor with little to no experience. Sure, you may get their work for half the price of the woman down the street, but sooner or later you may find yourself calling that woman who charges a more competitive rate. She can fix the problems made by your bargain contractor. Ask your contractor to describe the workers who will be doing the job in terms of their knowledge and experience.
Your flooring contractor is stingy with nails. Whether this results from genuine inexperience or underhanded corner cutting is irrelevant: it’s bad news. The trouble is, you can’t see when they pull this trick. You only find out later that someone was careless and took a shortcut when your floor boards loosen or develop unsightly gaps. You may eventually see this contractor again, only this time from your television on an episode of The People’s Court; if he routinely treats customers by cutting corners or not learning proper methods, his antics may come back to haunt him in arbitration. If he’s not caught at your home, then maybe he will receive his just desserts when he pulls a stunt at your neighbor’s place. Someone will probably catch him in time.
Your contractor is a slob. He not only leaves messes behind but, to cut corners, does a shoddy job of cleaning the subfloor and installs your hardwood atop a dirty subfloor.
As the hardwood flooring industry preaches, subfloors must be clean, flat and dry when your flooring is installed.
They “mismeasure” your square footage and overcharge you. And, like not using enough nails, it would be hard for you as a customer to even know the difference.
To protect yourself, measure your room sizes before you even start shopping for a contractor. Compare your measurements to the contractor’s measurements and, if they differ, measure the area again together because you can be sure someone made an error. Get a detailed written proposal from him that verifies the square footage and the rate you’ll be paying him.
The job takes much longer than promised to complete. She says it will take two days to lay flooring in a 400-square-foot room; after the fifth day, she and her crew are still not finished. Unless your contractor has a good reason and runs into an unanticipated problem that’s beyond her control, this is unacceptable.
Remember: your flooring contractor’s job is not just the physical work; he also has a responsibility to educate you about the project. Unfortunately, because this doesn’t always happen, do your own research, talk to friends, check Angie’s List, and also contact the NWFA for referrals. You may also visit websites of area architects and see what contractors’ names seem to pop up again and again. Take the time to dig around for facts before you hire to minimize your risk. You deserve to be treated with respect.