As spring is here, RSB is busy providing dozens of estimates monthly and it is very common for us to come across situations where homeowners are comparing several estimates for their project. There have been a couple of recent situations that should warrant a red flag being raised to a homeowner.
The most alarming is when one estimate is greatly lower than other estimates. When this is the case it is very common that either the contractor does not have enough knowledge on material cost to accurately bid the project or that the contractor is hiring illegal workers and/or doesn’t have the proper insurance. These situations tend to end badly especially if the contractor realizes after starting the project that they are losing money because the material is costing them more then they bid the job. It is situations like these where unethical contractors will walk off the job, not finish the project, or not pay their suppliers. If the suppliers don’t get paid, then a lien can be put on a home. This obviously is a worst case scenario, but it is important for a homeowner to look at the possible consequences of choosing a particular contractor when looking at the cheapest estimate.
“Beware of unethical contractors walking off the job, not finishing the project, or not paying their suppliers.”
Some of the questions that should be asked in this situation or whenever you are comparing estimates are the following:
- Why are you so much cheaper than another contractor?
- Have you priced out the material?
- Where do you purchase material? (If it is a big box store, they probably don’t have the best credit to use a lumberyard to purchase their material and this IS a red flag.)
- How many similar projects have you successfully completed?
- Do you have a reference list?
- Do you have insurance and if I choose you, can I get a Certificate of Insurance?
- Who is building my deck? Is it employees or sub-contractors?
Another red flag that was waived recently was when a homeowner from another part of the country called our business looking to see if we could build her a Trex® Transcends gate and ship it over 1,000 miles to her home since the contractor building her deck didn’t know how to build a gate which is something she wanted. In this situation, the gate should have been discussed at the time of estimating and added to the subsequent contract.
“Do you have insurance and if I choose you, can I get a Certificate of Insurance?”
If there are missing details on the contract, ask questions to make sure they are added and also make sure you contractor knows how to build your custom features. This should be done prior to signing a contract and not while the deck is being built like this poor homeowner. In this situation I actually walked her through where to look up a Certified TrexPro® Contractor on Trex’s website in her area. I suggested she contact one of these contractors to build the gate on site which is they way it should be done.
I know it can be cumbersome to ask so many questions, but building a deck especially a Trex® deck is a large investment. You want to make sure it is done right the first time! Spend the time upfront to know your contractor, check references, and iron out all the details. If you do this, you should be able to sit back in confidence while your new deck is being built and feel proud that you got it done right the first time!