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Still Working Hard! 1997 - 2017

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Frequently Asked Questions




Q:

What kinds of work do you do?

A:
We do almost everything involved in residential and some types of commercial work. If you need something, just give us a call and we can tell you if it is something we do. Our niche is small and medium sized projects (one day to two months) and we do many projects that other contractors have turned down because the project required unusually creative thinking.

Q:

Am I going to have to buy the material or do you buy it?

A:
We always purchase and deliver all the material ourselves. The only exception is some item that you have to choose yourself like a ceiling fan, faucet or something like that. We can always pick that item up for you if it is something that you cannot deliver yourself. Contractors that want you to get the material, especially something like lumber, are inexperienced and possibly incompetent to do the work. Please avoid such contractors if you do not want to lose a lot of time and money.

Q:

Why do you refuse to give estimates over the phone? Why do you have to see the job in person?

A:
Each job has its own peculiarities. Perhaps access to the work area is a problem. Maybe there is an expensive marble floor to protect. We cannot guess these types of issues over the phone. We also find that many customers simply do not know how to describe accurately what the job actually is over the phone. Sometimes they do not know the right words or their idea of a big or a small job is not accurate. These issues can change the price quite a bit. We feel that it is not at all in the customer's interest to receive a "guess" estimate. Why? If we guess high, we will not get the job. Later, another contractor may give an appropriate and cheaper estimate in person, even if we would have given a lower price ourselves in person. We would never get a chance after guessing too high. Also, if we guess low, one of two bad things could happen. The customer will get mad when we show up in person and give a much higher price or if the customer then calls other companies for estimates, they will believe that the right price range is way too low and reject all good estimates. Possibly, the customer will end up accepting a low price from an incompetent contractor which is a guarantee of disaster when they walk off the job, after running out of money to finish. We wish we could give estimates over the phone. We just cannot. It would be bad for you and bad for us.

Q:

Company A gave me an estimate. Can you meet or beat their price?

A:
We just do not and cannot do things that way. Why? Because except for the tiniest, simplest jobs, company A is not bidding on the same quality and/or materials and/or speed and/or even the same overall idea of what is going to happen on a large project. Do they include painting the trim on a door installation? Is there an extra charge to haul off debris? Did they include a fudge factor for smaller and highly likely problems once they open the wall or are they going to bill that later? Are they planning on using materials stolen from another job site? Perhaps the police will arrest them while working on your project? Are they going to spend the time and money to protect your stuff from dust? Will they clean up trash every day? Once a week? Not at all? The truth is that we cannot read their minds so all we can do is give you our price and try to communicate to you what our intentions are for the project and let you decide if one company's price of $1200 is actually cheaper than our bid of $1700 or vice versa! Be sure you understand what they or we may need to bill you for if something comes up unexpectedly and if all of the expected problems are already included in the price. Some companies get the job by bidding too low and ask for more money in a seemingly honest way after the job is started, but it is really just a trick, they knew from the start that their entry price was too low and you end up spending more than our "higher price." Once they start, it is too late to go with someone else.

Q:

Company A says they can do the job for $700 but your estimate is $1500. Explain how there can be such a huge difference in price.

A:
Sometimes such a large price difference can be explained by one company charging too high and the other company being so good at a particular type of work that they can be unusually cheap. Nevertheless, this sort of difference should raise some red flags about Company A. The truth is there are many new companies springing up all the time or established companies are starting to do a new type of work. We frequently find that some other company has offered a great sounding bid that is actually not high enough to even cover the cost of materials. This is often due to inexperience, which is why the person offering such a low price is often very enthusiastic and seems to be a person you can trust. The problem is that honest intentions and enthusiasm cannot make up for a big shortage of cash to pay employees and buy materials. These sorts of contractors either disappear in shame and do not answer your phone calls or they have you fork over more money so that they can finish, often adding up to more money than the bids from the other "higher" priced companies! Do not pay too much, but be careful not to pay too little. Always ask contractors to explain why they charge more or less than other contractors unless the difference is small.

Q:

I could do this project myself. Why should I hire you?

A:
Please see our article: "Should you do it yourself or hire someone?"

You can also look at our Do It Yourself plans on our products page.

Q:

I know this project needs to be done, but I have been putting it off. Why should I get it done now?

A:
Some problems can be put off as long as you can stand the ugliness or inconvenience. But, sometimes these grow much more expensive the longer you wait. Certain smaller repairs finally get so bad that major repairs are then called for.

Exterior painting is like that. Painting needs to be done when the paint gets chalky but is still fully stuck to the siding and trim. Once paint starts to peel, it is too late for a cheap paint job. But if you still wait just a little bit longer, then the siding and trim will get so rotten that they cannot be painted at all and will have to be replaced. An inexpensive maintenance has now turned into a major project! Painting is not cheap but compared to replacing all of the siding and trim, which will also have to be painted at the same time, often with three coats, repainting on time is a bargain!

Do you have a light that flickers? Do you have loose cords falling out of the electrical outlets? Even if you do not have a fire, there is only a small amount of wire available to use at the box behind the plugs, switches and light fixtures. Once the insulation burns off, a whole new wire has to be run. Now, a cheap fix has become really expensive!

Do you have a small water leak in the roof? Once those rafters and joists rot away (the wood gets wet long before you can see water stains on the ceiling) you have got a big problem. What harm will mold do to your family and homeowners insurance? How about trying to sell a house with a toxic mold problem? It is better and cheaper to fix the leak quickly rather than remove the mold and repair wood rot later. The only good reason to wait might be save enough money to do everything all at once instead of in stages.

Nevertheless, some things may need a temporary fix until enough money is saved up for a permanent fix. A temporary, ugly fix can end up cheaper overall than waiting months with further damage happening until the proper fix can be done.

Q:

Do your employees do all the work or do you subcontract everything out to other companies?

A:
Neither. We use our employees or subcontractors to do our work, depending on a project's exact need for speed, quality and cost. It is just a better way of controlling quality and getting everything done when it needs to be done at both an acceptable price and a suitable profit. We do use subcontractors for work that they can do at a lower cost than our employees due to specialized expensive tools they have and/or specialized experience. We keep using the same contractors when they meet our standards. In this case, everybody wins. We can charge you less money and still make our fair share. We have to pay for our overhead on the job no matter who does it.

Q:

I want to add a room, remodel my kitchen or some other large project. I am trying to hire an electrician, a plumber, do the walls myself, find someone else to do the drywall and then paint myself and maybe try to do the moulding after all the other contractors do part of the job first , then return after I to finish my part. I plan to hire all these contractors myself, buy the materials myself, and also do some of the work too. Why won't any of the contractors I called return my calls, come out to see the job or turn in a bid?

A:
You have just described a contractor's worst nightmare job. We might not give you a bid either if you insisted on doing things this way. This job is set up so that everyone is depending on someone else before they can finish and get paid. What if the drywall contractor does not show up or does substandard work that is not acceptable? What if you do not buy the right stuff and cannot return it because you need to go to your regular job? What if the plumber goes to jail for unpaid traffic tickets? What if you mistakenly ask the plumber to do the outside work when he needs to do the inside work first so that the outside work can be finished all at once? Also, as the homeowner, you do not have the same clout with any of the subcontractors the contractors you hire may use, since you do not pay them directly. A general contractor can hold back payment in order to force the work to get finished or could even pay another subcontractor to finish. You might think you are saving money getting involved so intimately with the project but you will probably not find a good and well-established contractor that will want to be involved in such a high risk job like this. We have been burned by every example above and more. You are probably wiser to have a single general contractor in charge. At most, you hire one other contractor yourself or you do some small part of the job that you are definitely qualified to do. Of course, if you really are qualified to act as your own general contractor, that is fine, but you might be happier and less stressed out by not being one for your own home.



Last Updated: August 4, 2011