Trying to Find a Good Contractor: A Home Renovation Horror Story

Apr 23, 2021 | Personal Insurance

With the real estate industry booming and since we have time to focus on the plans for home improvement during the pandemic, there will always be a need for some contractors to help with these projects for many homes. Today we get to know what it takes to find a good contractor through a real-life home renovation horror story.

Not A Home?

“A chair is still a chair even when there’s no one sitting there

But a chair is not a house and a house is not a home

When there’s no one there to hold you tight

And no one there you can kiss goodnight…”

So goes the Luther Vandross hit. No one can deny it. A house is just that – a structure with foundations, roof, walls, ceiling, windows, and doors. It is fit for human habitation and is secure and comfortable protection against the elements of nature.

As Luther very aptly puts it, a house can be called home once there is the presence of love within the confines of the physical structure.

With much love and care, a homeowner will want nothing better and strive for the improvement, beautification, and protection of the said home, including all items inside the premises.

From a personal financial standpoint, a house is one of the most expensive and yet the most sound investment an individual can make.

So it makes total sense to ensure that such an investment will withstand the ravages of time by, of course, making it as sturdy and durable as possible.

So in any planned renovation or beautification, protecting the investment must come as first priority. The key to it is finding the right contractor to do the job. This, however, is easier said than done.

Contractor Problems

Her name is Jody Costello. Back in 1998, she and her husband, Don, wanted to renovate their San Diego, California home to make room for her aging mom with the intention of having her around in her waning years.

With not much experience in renovation and construction, a morning news commercial caught her ear. It talks about award-winning and highly recognized designs.

A construction company built with years of competent experience and whose battle cry is achieving the ultimate satisfaction of clients who come to their doors.

After hearing this paid advertisement consistently for the next few days, Jodi fell, hook, line and sinker. What she didn’t know was she too will become a news headline for this botched contractor job.

Trouble Brewing

As the news report continues, she would later meet the salesman, who parroted and re-affirmed all the information in the radio, and she agreed to have them draw up the plans. Jody was more than sold, she was excited, and more importantly, had saved enough money for the project.

Not long after, and without batting an eyelash, she wrote a check for a thirty thousand dollars ($30,000.00) down payment. Being an admitted greenhorn when it comes to this kind of undertaking, she didn’t know that the Business and Professions Code of California only requires either ten percent (10%) or one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) upfront, whichever was lower, to start work.

She was also too naive to have seen some red flag warnings. Like when, in a matter of days of shelling out the money, the contractor shows up in their home driving a brand new (ahem!) thirty thousand dollar ($30,000.00) truck. Sad to say, all went pretty much downhill from there.

More Problems

First came the delay in commencing work, due to supply chain issues (so the contractor claimed). The timeline which was earlier drawn up would be reduced to a mere wish list instead of an actual-time monitoring tool. Jodi would get used to hearing countless excuses each time she would make follow-ups.

Then came questions as to the details of plans and adding to that, the lack of supervision over the workers on the ground. The scariest repercussion of which was when Jodi and her husband began complaining of splitting headaches and spells of sleepiness even during the daytime. 

They would later be admitted to an Emergency Room with symptoms identified by the doctor as Carbon Monoxide poisoning. As it turned out, it was due to carelessness (and unsupervised, if I may reiterate) on the part of the workers, tearing up the hot water vent thereby leaking the noxious, colorless, odorless fumes back into the house. 

The most problematic result of the lack of guidance of the workers showed up in the measuring tape as an excess height of the structure built that is a foot and a half over the thirty-foot limit set by the City Code.

Domino Effect

Akin to a single piece of domino toppling over, this was just the beginning of numerous, costly, aesthetically compromising, frustrating redesigns and reconfiguration that would further deviate from the original plan.

Of course, as what the code requires, an alteration to the design would have to go through the process of resubmitting plans, and reinspection from the city safety and compliance engineers, hoping for their soonest approval, of course.

In the original timeline, the project would have long concluded even before the rains came. With uncompleted roofing and ceiling works, the situation turned into a surreal, wet and wild ride from here on in.

The downpour came a bit early, catching Jody at a bad time as she and her husband were with some friends having dinner.

With a little bit of foresight, the contractor should have done the math – open sections of roofing and rains add up to a multitude of problems, and in such an impending situation, should have called for a proactive course of action – draping plastic sheets over openings just to prevent water coming in.

When it rained, it really poured

Jody, midway through dinner, had to rush home and attempted to call an SOS to the contractor for assistance, to no avail. What they could do was lay buckets, pots, pans, and other containers that could be used to catch water dripping from the ceiling. Even after the plastic drapes came (a couple of days too late), water leaks would persist for a good several months.

Much later a safety engineer called by Jody would break more bad news confirming the threat of a second health scare – Molds. The levels detected were toxic, to say the least. Of course, the only cause of this was the persistent seepage of rainwater in nooks and crannies all throughout the house.

Shoddy workmanship, missed deadlines, incompetence, lack of supervision over workers, inability to respond to calls and letters to address problems, blatant violation of construction codes, and failure to see all the aforementioned forced the hand of Jody to sue and demand remuneration from the contractor.

In the end, other contractors had to be called in to finish the job, but sadly, Jody’s mother didn’t live to see the day when her room was finished.

In Search of A Good Guy

There is no such thing as a perfect contractor but there have to be some good ones out there somewhere. Even the pricey ones have faults and they too make mistakes. So in choosing candidates, it is best to begin by asking around.

Talk to people who have had renovation and construction works done to their homes. As bad news and experiences get shared more frequently than good ones, chances are you will hear about the bad eggs. Eliminate these from your choices. 

You can also come up with a shortlist of contractors, asked for their company profile, references, and list of clients they have served. You can contact these customers and ask about their experiences.

Have the contractors in your shortlist submit a bid. It’s best to shell out some money to hire someone capable to review the bids and compare the line items “apples to apples”.

This also goes for the contract. Seek help when it comes to reviewing the terms and conditions stipulated therein, making sure that you are protected from a lopsided agreement.

Also, make sure that they have the right business insurance in place such as contractors insurance and workers comp insurance to name a few.

Finally, it makes total sense not to hire the one with the most pricey contract, but hiring the cheapest one is equally compromising, especially if the bid amount difference is considerable.

Protect Your Investment at All Times

Unless you are an all-knowing seer, life for most everyone, is a series of unforeseen events. With insurance, you know that you are secured against the worst-case scenario and this gives you peace of mind, and with it a better quality of life.

Before signing the dotted line with your contractor, make sure you go through your homeowner’s insurance policy and consider the following coverage:

  • Dwelling Under Renovation – this answers for structural damage and loss of construction materials during the renovation period
  • Vacant Home Insurance – if you are to relocate for the duration of the construction, these will protect you from the unexpected, such as when Jody’s home got rained in
  • Contractors Insurance – this is for the part of the contractor. Make sure you are dealing with someone who has a liability, workers compensation, and property insurance at the very least. Make sure you request a copy of their certificate of insurance to be added to your documentation.

For your insurance concerns, there’s no need to sweat out the small stuff, you simply pick up your phone and talk to the experts. Whether it’s home insurance, car insurance or you simply want to ask for guidance from insurance experts, a timely call for help is always critical.

So if you need sound advice, don’t hesitate to contact us. We will always be there to make your life hassle and stress-free by finding the perfect solution for your insurance needs.

At Advantage Insurance Solutions (AIS) we can assure you of quality protection for individuals, families, and businesses in Denver, Colorado, and throughout the United States by helping you choose the best carrier for your insurance needs.