A field guide to managing residential contractors
Monday, 11 February 2019
We all encounter a cast of characters who come into our homes to do work like plumbing, repairs, renovations, painting or cleaning.
Like snowflakes, each character is unique, with their own unique talents and, um, challenges. Here we present a field guide to contractors and special tips handling them, should you ever run across them in your own abode.
When someone you know offers to do work
SPECIES: Freddy Your Friend
CALL SOUNDS LIKE: “Oh, don't spend all that money on a contractor. I can do it for you for, like, a fraction of the price.”
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: A generalist, Freddy has a wide but shallow pool of knowledge. He may spend most of his time running to and from the hardware store.
SPECIAL HANDLING TIPS: With the proper communication and supervision — plus supplemental payment in beer and pizza — Freddy can handle any jobs that don't require special licensing. Installing a towel bar is fine, but rewiring your home is best left to the professionals.
When you're quoted a high price
SPECIES: Doctor Drama
CALL SOUNDS LIKE: “You see this drip here? This means that it's not just the toilet we have to replace, but we'll probably have to rip out the tub, too. And the floor and a big part of this wall.”
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Rolls up in a Mercedes-Benz and complains about how late his assistants are as he waits for them to arrive in a separate truck.
SPECIAL HANDLING TIPS:Politely thank him for the estimate, back away slowly, and call for a second opinion as soon as he's out of earshot.
When your contractor doesn't show up
SPECIES: Nancy No-Show
CALL SOUNDS LIKE:“I have to finish up another job but it won't take long so I'll be there this afternoon.”
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Comes in to begin work, leaves it half-finished, disappears for days at a time, and her voicemail is full when you try to leave her a message.
SPECIAL HANDLING TIPS: Hold back as much money as possible. It's OK to pay a small retainer fee for materials, but if she wants full pay, she's got to finish the job.
GO NUCLEAR: If you still get radio silence after multiple contact attempts, send her a text: “I'm having a garage sale, hope you don't mind if we get rid of all the tools you left here. Thanks!”
This applies even if she didn't leave tools.
When your contractor leaves a mess
SPECIES: Wreck-It Ronald
CALL SOUNDS LIKE: “Yeah, cleanup wasn't in our agreement and we got, like, seventeen other installations today so we need to get going, like, right now.”
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Does the job but leaves a wake of destruction behind for you to handle.
SPECIAL HANDLING TIPS: Take pictures of the mess and send them to his boss, if he has one. Make sure you document everything, and be prepared to post pictures and leave reviews on social media if they don't resolve any problems.
When your contractor gets personal
SPECIES: Tammy T.M.I.
CALL SOUNDS LIKE: “Well, I guess I can come work but my back is really hurting me today. I can fit you in between dialysis and marriage counseling. My sister-in-law, what a piece of work she is. Oh, let me show you these pictures of my goiter they removed.”
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTIC: Uncanny ability to evoke sympathy from even the iciest employer, and setting up excuses for shoddy work because of all her many personal problems.
SPECIAL HANDLING TIPS: Sit at the computer with earphones because you are "on a deadline." Alternately, have cell phone in hand and pretend to have a long, involved conversation.
When your contractor is amazing
SPECIES: Perfect Paul
CALL SOUNDS LIKE: “Sure, no problem! I can handle that either today or tomorrow, what's better for you?”
DISTINGUISHING CHARACTERISTICS: Works well, is always on time, and does it at a reasonable price. Never fails to clean up after himself. Body smell is neutral to pleasant; pants cover the entire backside, even during a risky "reach-way-back-below-the-sink" maneuver.
SPECIAL HANDLING TIPS: Offer him coffee, water, a sandwich, or treat even though he will likely politely refuse. Recommend him to all your friends. Share your delight on your social networks and provide his contact information.
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