3 Warning Signs of a Bad Contractor

pioneer (10)If you’re at a social function and you want to gather a crowd start talking about home improvement/repair projects.  It seems that everyone has a contractor from hell story, often more than one.  If you don’t want to be a part of that group, here are 3 things to pay attention to.

1. You have a bad feeling about him.  It’s a lot easier to never hire someone in the beginning than trying to get out of a contract at a later date.  Be aware of your personal feelings about him while when he’s standing in the middle of your basement talking about the project.  Trust your gut.

How’s he treating the kids or dog?  Would you feel comfortable having him in the house alone?  If you’re a woman — is he talking down to you or dismissing your concerns/questions?  (Yes guys, this is a thing.)  What’s his attitude like; helpful and interested or distracted and indifferent?  Do you seem to be communicating well and does he understand your ideas?

2. She’s really focused on money.  Primarily focusing on money, and not your job, is a classic sign of a contractor in trouble or one who’s “shady”.  She, absolutely, should discuss money, budgets and payment schedules with you.  But, it shouldn’t be the focus of her interest. 

Is she asking for too big of a down payment or full payment upfront?  Is she a cash only business?  Is she giving a low ball bid or using a “today only deal” to pressure you into making an immediate decision?

Also, look for signs of cash flow problems or under funding.  What does her truck and the tools in it look like?  (Red flag and a true story – A “roofer” showed up to bid a project and asked the home owner to borrow a ladder.)  Depending on the job, ask if she has the proper equipment for it or if she’ll be renting. 

3.  He’s in over his head.  Everyone has to start somewhere, but you don’t want him to practice on your house.  He should be able to prove his experience in dealing with projects similar to yours.  His skills and knowledge should match your project.  He may be a wonderful bathroom remodeler, but that doesn’t mean he can build a deck. 

Do you know more about the project and what’s required than him?  Do his questions and answers show competency or inexperience?  Does he give well thought out ideas for the project?  Can he give examples of how he’s’ solved problems similar to yours on other jobs?

He should be a professional.  A professional: knows what permits are required, when and how to pull them, has insurance (workers’ compensation and liability), is bonded if the situation requires it and holds the proper licenses.  He’ll provide all this information to you as a standard practice of doing business.

It’s not always easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys, but there are things you can do to minimize your risk.  Paying good attention in the beginning can go a long way to avoiding problems in the future. 


Nicole Abbott is a professional writer who’s had over 150 articles published.  She’s a business consultant and former psycho-therapist with over 20 years of experience in mental health, business and addiction.  She’s a coach, lecturer, trainer and facilitator.  She has conducted over 200 workshops, trainings, presentations, seminars and college classes. 

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