Good Contractor, Bad Contractor

Patrick BarthetOther

Just like every other industry or profession, construction has its share of both good and bad contractors. Though sometimes difficult to spot, there are a number of signs that do distinguish the two.

The bad contractor will almost certainly request a significant deposit, won’t be too keen on signing any sort of contract, and will rarely keep a regular schedule. If a contractor’s bid is significantly lower than others you’ve received, you should be concerned. Whether the contractor underbid the work because of carelessly reviewing the plans and specifications, or because the contractor isn’t familiar with this type of work, or worse, because the contractor intends to catch you in a bait and switch (getting you hooked through a very low bid and then hitting you with a series of unfounded change orders), this is a red flag. Too good to be true usually is.  Does the contractor have a real address or a PO Box? And is the contractor unable to provide you references – the names and telephone numbers of recent customers for whom the contractor has worked? All of these can be signs that you may be headed in the wrong direction for your upcoming project.

On the other hand, the good contractor will look for an initial payment with a clear relationship to anticipated start up costs, will present a standard form of construction contract, and will be happy to incorporate a specific timeframe for project milestones and completion. The good contractor won’t have any problem providing you a copy of his or her license, insurance certificate and reference list. The fact that the contractor you’re contacting has a tight schedule and may be busy is actually a good sign. It generally means that that contractor has a lot of work, and may be well worth the wait.

Construction is often a difficult and unsure process, with any number of unforeseen circumstances and events impacting successful completion. Having a good contractor direct the course of construction can go a long way to assure a more satisfactory result. It may be a little more expensive but will pay dividends down the road, not the least of which should be a properly permitted, inspected and built structure.