Contractor Problems

Plan to work with your contractor to solve inevitable problems.

It's easy to see why things go wrong in remodeling. Every job is unique, making miscommunication and errors inevitable. The big question during a remodel should not be: Will something go wrong? It should be: How can the homeowner and contractor work together to solve the problem?

As long as the goal is to solve the problem and get the job done, rather than to prove who's wrong, there are ways to work out problems that should be tried long before legal action is considered. Here are things that can go wrong during a remodel and ways to solve them:

The quality of the work is not acceptable.

Before you bring this fact to the attention of your contractor, be sure it is a valid complaint. Nothing is perfect, and that goes double for skilled labor. To determine the level of perfection you should expect for your remodel, study the level of perfection in the rest of your house or in a newly built home during an open house. It's not uncommon to find, on close inspection, less-than-perfect paint jobs, tile jobs, and woodwork. Yet the overall quality is sufficient for most standards.

However, if the quality of a portion of your remodel is significantly below normal standards, it is time to approach the contractor or subcontractor. Make sure you start by being nice. Construction workers will often go out of their way to correct problems for homeowners who are kind, rather than caustic.

While not all remodeling projects take longer than planned, there are legitimate reasons that many do. The biggest culprit is unexpected conditions that can only be discovered during demolition, such as rotted framing lumber or a cracked concrete subfloor. Most contracts state up front that these occurrences can delay the finish date. Manufacturers or suppliers who don't deliver when promised also can cause delays.

In the worst-case scenario, the contractor has taken on too much work. When this happens and the contractor is not meeting the timetable spelled out in the contract, he or she has violated the contract and the homeowner is within his or her rights to fire the contractor.

To avoid such a situation in the first place, call the contractor's references in advance and ask whether the contractor showed up when expected and finished the job on time.

If workers are using foul language, playing loud music, leaving the site messy, or exhibiting any number of other unwanted behaviors, you do not have to put up with it. The key is to communicate your concerns to the company owner. Simply state that you want the behavior to change or you do not want that person in your home.

Homeowners who can clearly communicate their needs, without rancor or anger, will find those needs met more often than not.

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