I regularly inspect floors on behalf of customers that have had their flooring project go horribly wrong. In almost every case, I have heard stories about how the flooring contractors hired by these folks started out very nice and professional, only to turn out to be a wolf in sheep’s clothing after they signed on the bottom line and the job began.
It’s hard to hear about all the bad apples in my industry, as they make us flooring professionals with integrity look bad. Therefore, I wanted to share a few tips on how homeowners can prevent some flooring disasters before they occur.
Flooring contractors to stay away from:
1. Sanford and Son
If the contractor rolls up in a beat up truck with duct tape holding the fenders on, run. I have found that contractors that don’t clean and maintain their vehicles and equipment are not that detail oriented. Details are everything when it comes to a successful flooring project.
2. Two Drunks in a Truck
If a contractor comes to a bid smelling like a brewery or like a homeless guy, run. This should go without saying, but it happens all the time.
3. Need a Loan
If a contractor asks for money to buy equipment needed to complete your job, run. I have heard about this happening several times. The contractor will have a sob story about how they were a talented contractor fallen on bad times and will do your project at an amazing price, but they just need you to rent them a sander from a big box store or buy them an edger. I can tell you, not once have I run across a contractor like this that was skilled and they will disappear like the wind once your project goes bad.
4. Tower of Babel
If you can’t understand a word the contractor says, run. This is not a dig at immigrants; some of the most talented floor guys I know have come from other countries. However, you should stay away from contractors that you can’t communicate with. The main issue is that you can’t properly convey what your expectations are as a customer. Communications problems make it even harder to work out problems when they arise.
5. Fly By Nights
If the contractors have out of state licenses plates, run. This is very common with hurricane chasing roofers, and driveway sealing “gypsies,” but it happens with flooring contractors as well. If a contractor is from another state, you can expect that they will be in that other state when you need some warranty work done. Often, they are back in the other state before the polyurethane dries. Worst case, these guys will simply take your deposit and run.
6. Full Payment Up Front
If a contractor wants full payment up front, run. This applies to all contractors. Never hire a contractor that needs full payment up front. If contractor is in such bad economic shape that they need all of your money up front just to get the job started, there is a good chance that the money will be spent before they even buy your materials, or they will run out of money before the job is completed. If the job is actually completed and requires warranty work, the contractor may not have any money left to fix the problems and you will have to pay another contractor to get the problem fixed.
7. Salesman in a Cadillac
If the sales guy shows up in a suit driving a Cadillac, run. You will pay too much as this guy probably is a third party sales rep, working on commission. You won’t get the best deals or value with these guys and they are very persuasive and smooth talking. They will try and sell you the products that give them the best commission, which is not usually the best product for your project.
8. Sign, Sign, Sign
If a contractor pressures you sign a contact on the spot, run. High pressure salesmen are something to avoid. High pressure sales tactics work by increasing your stress levels, which reduces your critical thinking and ability to say no. This puts you at a disadvantage to the skilled high pressure salesman. Once you get put under pressure, these guys will lock you into a contract which prevents you getting comparable bids from other contractors. Another problem with being pressured to sign on the spot is that you don’t have time to check references or compare bids with other contractors.
9. All or Nothing Project Bidders
If a contractor writes a total project bid that is vague, run. Most projects in the flooring business are bid by the square foot and most contractors will give a bid that spells a per square foot price. Flooring contractors that avoid giving a per square foot price often bid this way so you can’t easily compare their bid with other contractors’ bids. Often, these contractors will be higher priced than their competitors. They also could be hiding the true square footage of your project.
10. Superbowl Sized Marketing
If the contractor spends Superbowl type money on TV and radio ads, run. I am all about sensible marketing, but be careful when hiring the contractor that is running tons of TV and radio ads. TV and radio ads are quite expensive, and the cost of those ads will be reflected in the price of your project. These guys may be good to work with, but they will probably be at the higher end of the price range spectrum.