Home Improvement--General/selecting a contractor

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QUESTION: Hi Tony -
I live on Long Island.  I'm upgrading a half bath and totally renovating the bathroom in the master bedroom.  I'm going to get at least three estimates.  I'm questioning whether I'm better off with a local contractor who lives in the area or a very large contractor with showrooms.

I've been burned and overcharged in the past by a contractor with a big showroom, but that doesn't mean they are all dishonest.  I'm making this decision on my own and appreciate your input.

Thank you for your time and for offering your expertise.

Judy

ANSWER: Judy,

Regardless of which you choose look for someone with a good reputation.  If they are an honest contractor that does quality work, they will have clients that are happy to give them a good recommendation. Ask for contact information (phone or e-mail)from some of their past clients. They should be able to provide a minimum of five or more past clients.  A contractor's  response to your request may tell you something about them also.  They are not going to give you the names of unhappy clients anyway, but if you speak with three or four people they have worked for you should get a feel for how they conduct business.  

Assuming honesty all around, from a cost standpoint, usually the larger the company the more overhead they must charge for.  Conversely a small company (like the one I own) may not always be properly equipped to handle larger projects.

Discuss your project requirements with the potential contractors and if you approve of them on a personal level choose a smaller company that is competent to perform your work.

As a small business owner I am somewhat biased towards smaller contractors, for what I believe are valid reasons.  If you choose the big show room contractor, the actual work will almost certainly be done by an in house crew or possibly sub-contractors. Neither the owner nor the showroom sales rep. is likely to supervise the work, so the ideas you discuss with the sales rep. may be filtered through several people by the time the work is done. Subtle details that are important to you may seem inconsequential to others or completely lost as instructions are relayed through the hierarchy.  With smaller contractors the owner will likely be supervising and or doing the work, making communications smoother and quality of workmanship a higher priority.

I hope I have been of some service in helping you choose a great contractor and wish you much success with your project.



---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Tony: thank you for your quick response.  This morning I had a salesman from a very large contracting company. He was arrogant with a bad attitude.  His company contacted me through Home Advisers.  Kept telling me he's just a pencil pusher and not the guy that "swings the hammer."  The worst was the disparaging remarks he made about local independent contractors and how they arrive in their beat up pick up trucks and will tell you they can't come over until their kid's soccer game is over.  So, he's done.  I'm going with one of the  local guys who lives in the neighborhood and cannot hide behind a big corporation.  Thank you for your time.  You presented a fair balance of things to think about for consideration, and I appreciate your time.

Answer
Judy,

Glad I was of some service to you and again wish you much success with your renovation project.  If you have the time and are so inclined there is a followup section on AllExpert's website where you can rate my answer for clarity, knowledge and a couple of other things.  Please take a moment to rate my answer and perhaps it will encourage someone else to use this forum.

Best regards,

Home Improvement--General

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Tony Wood

Expertise

I can answer a wide range of home improvement and maintenance questions. My expertise is in carpentry, painting, framing, siding/boxing, doors, windows, decks and screen and glass enclosures. Wood's Home Maintenance Service

Experience

I am a life time resident of North Carolina with over 30 years experience in multiple facets of the industrial, commercial and residential construction industry. For the past 23 years I have owned and operated Wood's Home Maintenance Service , providing services primarily in Johnston, Wake and Sampson Counties of North Carolina.

Organizations
NFIB

Publications
Several Home improvement articles published on Angie's List and other online forums.

Education/Credentials
High School graduate ~ proficient in CAD (computer aided design), Open Office program suite.

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