Monday, October 24, 2005

The contractors from hell

It used to be that mid-way through a major home project, something about the contractor would get my goat.

My, how things have changed. Now I want to throttle most of them right out of the gate. In the past month, I've been annoyed by eight contractors, only four of whom actually turned up in person.

Contractor #1 was the stamped concrete guy who assured me that he did all his estimates on Sunday and would be by at 2:30 Sunday afternoon. I stayed home, waiting; he never showed up or called.

Contractors #2 and #3 were paver installers. One had me fill out a request for an appointment, but apparently filed it in his trash can. The other, recommended by the local stone yard, never returned either of my phone calls.

Contractor #4 was also a paver installer. He returned my call, showed up for an appointment, and spent most of his time trying to convince me to use a particular style of paver he "always uses." The fact that I wanted a different style (by the same supplier, whose catalog he brought along) just didn't even begin to sink in. Plus he didn't want to use a polymerized sand, and had no experience with it.

Contractor #5 was our cleaning person, who shows up for about 2/3 of her scheduled cleaning dates, usually calling to cancel 15 minutes before start time.

Contractor #6 was the fill-in cleaning person I tried out. She was slow, but thorough and very thoughtful. The disqualifying factor here was her insistance on using an"environmentally safe" cleaning solution that had a cloying smell that practically drove me out of the house (and it lingered for days). I asked about using use the cleansers I have (bon ami, vinegar Windex, Murphy's oil soap and a marmoleum cleaner sold by the Environmental Home Store) but she made it clear that wasn't going to happen. Phew!

Contractor #7 was recommended by a salesperson at the plumbing fixtures store as someone who could install a Panasonic fan to replace the mind-numbing Nutone currently roaring away in our bathroom. He cancelled two or three appointments; when he eventually showed up, it was clear he knew a huge amount about fan installation. Unfortunately, he would be moonlighting from his regular job with a busy contractor, and had no idea when he could start. He suggested that I call him and nag him in three weeks! When he started muttering about having to remove part of the ceiling, coming back to do drywall, etc., I had an ugly premonition. It involved a gaping hole that would remain in the bathroom ceiling for the next two months while I chased him down to finish the job. He tried to convince me to hire his son-in-law to do the patio, but I managed to shoo him away.

Contractor #8 does specialty gardening, and was recommended by the (very competent) gardener I hired for a consultation. He warned me that the specialist would try to sell me on a series of treatments, but said that I really needed only one. As predicted, when I called the specialist he launched into a real hard sell about how this garden treatment needed to be done four times a year, and how he'd come over to analyze my garden and show me why it was crucial that I sign up for the entire four-treatment annual series. Stifling my incredulity, I gave him my phone number, but he never called to make an appointment -- essentially leaving my money on the table since I was ready and eager to pay him for the first treatment.

This is worse than dating.


  1. Anonymous4:22 PM

    Sounds like you might be a Seattle-ite. There are ways to get good contractors, occasionally. We're using a neighborhood email list that has so far done us quite well. Usually a good contractor has made the rounds to several houses in our neighborhood.

  2. Yes, I am a Seattle-ite! I've been patient, and am lining up a new wave of patio contractors. I've talked with two guys who are both excellent, and one of them is actually affordable as well. As for the Nutone fan...I'm discouraged.