Part Two: How to choose a contractor to remodel your bathroom

As promised, here is Part Two of our article about choosing a contractor to remodel your bathroom! If you missed Part One, you can go back and read it here.

We’re going to continue our interview with Arthur Short of Nothing Short of a Handyman2. We’re going to talk about pushy salesmen, common contractor scams, why buying a foreclosed property might not be a great idea, and the importance of licensing.

Is the contracting company hounding you?

No one likes being harassed by pushy salespeople, right? Arthur said, “Whenever a salesman hounds me to see if I’m ready to sign the agreement, it’s a warning to me.”

We asked him why this was such a red flag. He added, “A contractor should have better things to do than to keep calling customers to see if they have questions about the proposal. If they keep calling me, that tells me they aren’t busy. I only want people that are in demand to do work for me.”

That’s why Arthur has the philosophy of giving a customer a quote that’s good for 30 days. “If they have questions, they have my phone number on the contract,” he said. “I won’t chase them. I understand that sometimes people are just not ready to commit or get started. They’ll contact me when they’re ready. In the meanwhile, I have plenty to do to keep us busy.”

You don’t have to put up with pushy salespeople who want you to sign today. You have the right to sleep on any home improvement contract before signing it when you’re choosing a contractor to remodel your bathroom.

You also might want to keep looking if the contractor that you found:

  • Seems a bit too hungry for your business.
  • Can’t give you a specific start date.
  • Seems anxious or nervous.
  • Changes anything on the contract without discussing it with you first.

Beware of these common contracting scams and homeowner pitfalls

There are plenty of contractors out there that are perfectly willing to take your money and never come back. It’s people like them who give home improvement contractors a bad name. A con artist can quickly talk you out of your money, and even street smart people get hustled every day. That’s why it’s important to only work with contractors that you heard about from family and friends who have had good experiences with them. As a rule, don’t do business with a doorbell ringer. Reputable contractors don’t go knocking on doors looking for business.

Another good tip is to never pay the bill in full until the job is 100% done to your satisfaction. “I’ve had to stop people from writing me a check in full at the beginning of the job,” Arthur said. “I tell them to never pay the job in full upfront. You should hold back some of the money to make sure the job is done to your satisfaction.” Arthur only asks for 50% up front. “I don’t want anything else from them until the job is done and they’re a happy customer.”

Is there a written contract?

Make sure they provide you with a detailed contract that specifies what they’ll be doing and what materials they will be using. The contract should detail what’s included and what’s excluded, and it should also outline your warranty for the work. Never give money to anyone before having a written contract that both of you sign.

If a contractor doesn’t have a professional contract, that should be a warning red flag to you that they are not a serious businessman.

Beware of mysterious change orders.

A change order gives the contractor permission to do something above and beyond what the contract calls for. Remember, you must authorize all change orders in writing before any changes are started. Verbal agreements are not sufficient. Any change must be in the form of a signed addendum to the contract. Some scam artists will give you a cheap price up front and then try to charge you for extras that you didn’t authorize. Never pay for a change order that you didn’t authorize. This way both the homeowner and the contractor are protected.

Sometimes Arthur gets called in to fix bad workmanship from other contractors.

We asked Arthur if he ever has to fix poor workmanship from other companies. He answered, “Yes all the time. Many big box retailers sell hardwood flooring and offer installation. Unfortunately, they don’t stand behind their work. We’ve had to go back and rip out flooring and reinstall it again properly for our clients.”

So, the lesson is to choose a local small business to work with rather than a big chain store when you’re selecting a contractor to remodel your bathroom. This way you’re most likely in contact with the owner, who can address any concerns you might have.

“Sometimes the contractor will leave unfinished work,” Arthur added. “This drives my clients crazy. For example, an electrician may cut holes to run wires to add a light or an outlet. Then they leave without repairing the drywall. Now the customer has holes in their bathroom walls and ceilings. This means they now have to hire a drywall repair guy and a painter to finish the job. It winds up costing them a lot more because they have to pay three different contractors to get the job done.”

You’ll save money if you hire a remodeling company that can do all the work in-house. Ask them if they can take care of everything you need, not just part of the job. And remember to check your proposal for exclusions like drywall repair, painting, and cleanup.”

What could happen if you buy a house without checking it out beforehand?

“One of our clients bought a house without ever having a builder look at it for them, and this caused some major problems later on,” Arthur said. We asked Arthur to elaborate a bit more about home inspectors. He answered, “Sadly, some hired home inspectors don’t point out serious structural issues. In the example I’m thinking of, the home inspector was recommended by the realtor. Apparently, the realtor didn’t want the home inspector to point anything out that would jeopardize closing on the sale. As a result, the inspector pointed out a few cosmetic things that were easily seen. However, the big structural problem due to rain getting behind the siding and rotting out the whole door frame was not brought to the purchaser’s attention. Apparently, the original homeowner also knew about the problem and concealed it.” How did Arthur know the original homeowner must have been aware? “When we pulled the molding off the door that needed replacing we could see there was no header or frame. It had all rotted out. Cosmetic repairs had been made to hide the problem. In the end, it cost the new homeowner almost $6,000 to fix the water damage.”

We asked Arthur if a good contractor could have pointed this out before the family bought the home. Arthur answered, “Yes, all they had to do was check the crawl space to see the rotting floor near the door frame beneath the home.”

There are many foreclosures for sale in the greater Atlanta area. Sometimes a deal that is too good to be true is too good for a reason. There are reports of foreclosures where the contractors were never paid by the builder. When the builder went bankrupt, angry subcontractors cut electrical wires and plumbing pipes to get revenge. That’s why the unwary home buyer looking to get a deal on a house can get stuck with a lemon instead.

Arthur suggested, “Add a good home improvement contractor onto your Rolodex of go-to people if you are looking to buy a home.” If you also want to hire a home inspector, be sure to hire a trustworthy one that doesn’t have a business relationship with the realtor. You want both the home improvement contractor and the home inspector to be looking out for your interests, not the realtor’s or the home seller’s. However, remember that a home inspector doesn’t take the place of a trusted contractor.

Potential problems for bathroom remodels in older homes:

We asked Arthur about any problems that could arise when remodeling a bathroom. “This has become a specialty of ours: we’ll remove the existing bathtub and build a custom 4’x6’ walk-in shower for them. Sometimes there are old galvanized pipes that pose a problem. They need to be replaced with a better product that will last longer.”

Arthur went on to explain, “Other times there are structural issues with rotten floors or walls hidden by tile. The point is that a contractor can only bid your job by what they see. A contractor sometimes can’t get a true sense of what needs to be done until the original things are removed. To repair any hidden problems above and beyond the contract will require a change order signed by the homeowner.”

A wise homeowner will budget a little extra for unforeseen problems. If you don’t, your project may go over budget later on and put you in debt that you weren’t expecting.

Are they licensed to do the work?

Many times, a handyman or contractor will want to do the work for you, but they won’t have the proper licensing. If you don’t check first, how can you be sure that they know the correct way to do it? How do you know if they’ll meet the local laws and codes? If you’re spending thousands of dollars to remodel your bathroom, then you deserve to have a company that is licensed properly. Arthur added, “We carry certifications and licensing for HVAC, electrical, and plumbing. This saves you money in two ways. First, you don’t have to pay twice—in other words, you don’t have to pay someone to come back and fix the mistakes. Second, you don’t have to pay for a plumber, an electrician, and an HVAC contractor separately. One phone call does it all.”

We hope that this two-part article on what you need to know before hiring a contractor to remodel your bathroom has been helpful to you. Here at we’re focused on providing consumer-based information to help you make good decisions. After all, an incorrectly installed shower head or drain could cause water damage to your home. An incorrectly installed recessed can light or wall mount fixture could cause a house fire. Sure, you have home insurance to help protect you from these things, but the point is hiring a trustworthy company is the first step in protecting your home.

We want to thank Arthur Short of Nothing Short of a Handyman2 for answering our questions so generously. He is available to answer any questions you may have at his website. If you’d like to read Part One of this article, click here.

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Part One: How to choose a contractor to remodel your bathroom

If you’re looking to remodel your bathroom, read on!

You deserve an awesome bathroom, so we caught up with Arthur Short, whose company, Nothing Short of a Handyman2, has been remodeling Atlanta bathrooms with custom showers and gorgeous vanities since 2000. He’s got some great advice for choosing a contractor to remodel your bathroom!

Arthur told us that he’s always liked to work with his hands. We asked Arthur what’s been the key to his success, and he replied, “We’ve made a success of our business because we know it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. Instead, we work hard to make our clients happy. Many times, they become closer than family. They come back to us or refer friends to us year after year. This is the only way to build a contracting business.”

There are many home improvement contractors in Atlanta that could redo your bathroom. We asked Arthur to share a few pointers on how to select the right remodeling contractor to work with.

He quickly rattled off a few helpful questions to ask:

  • How long have they been in business?
  • Do they have references?
  • What kind of customer service do they provide?
  • What are they going to do and why are they going to do it? Can they explain their plan?
  • How do they handle themselves?
  • Will they use subcontractors or will they do the work themselves?
  • Do they have insurance?

Let’s take these one at a time.

How long have they been in business?

You want to make sure that the contractor you choose not only has the`experience to do the job but will be here to warranty the work later. You don’t want someone practicing on your bathroom plumbing, tile, and electrical wiring, do you?

Here are some things to look for…

  • Good online reviews.
  • A professional-looking, quality website.
  • If they have the same name and business phone number that they started with.

We asked Arthur why it’s so important that the company has had the same phone number since they opened their business. He said, “The only reason someone changes phone numbers is to duck angry customers and bill collectors. We’ve had the same business number since we started in 2000. I have people tell me all the time, ‘You did work for us years ago. I can’t believe you have the same phone number! Can you help our friends out?’”

Do they have good references?

Arthur said, “Look at their website again — it can serve as one of the best references for the contractor. What does it say about them? Is it professional? Their website reflects the kind of work they’ll do for you. Are there pictures on their website of the work they’ve done in the past? I have all kinds of pictures of work we’ve done on my website, and I tell customers that I’ll gladly give them the name and phone number of the homeowner that corresponds to the picture they want to know more about.”

He continued, “Are they confident in their work? Are they proud of past jobs they have done? I treat my customer’s home just like it was mine. I build a really good relationship with them so they are only happy to tell new customers about the work I have done for them.”

So before you hire a contractor, talk to their references and check out any pictures of work they’ve done. You can even use websites like or

What kind of customer service do they provide?

“Customer service is important to me personally,” Arthur said. “I’ve paid money out of my own pocket to get out of contracts with companies that gave me bad customer service. That’s why I treat my customers like family. I’m a hands-on business owner. I do the sales, proposals, management, and the physical work on the job site. My name is attached to it and so I want it done right.”

Arthur told us that he treats his employees like family too. He added, “When I go on vacation I don’t have to worry because I trust them. They know how I want it done and they have been trained to do it that way.”

Notice how the contractor talks to his helpers and about his employees. Customer service starts within the company itself. A wise business owner understands that his employees are his first customers. They know that if they take care of the employees first, the customer will always be taken care of too.

Returning phone calls.

Another point that Arthur brought up is how the contractor handles phone calls—specifically, whether or not they actually return them. He said, “Think about it. Why would a contractor refuse to return phone calls? The answer is that they are usually ducking and dodging unhappy customers. On the other hand, my business line is forwarded to my cell phone after hours so that I’m always available to my customers. After all, that’s what customer service should be about, right?”

Use how/if they answer the phone as a gauge of how they will do the work in your home. Are they professional? Do they answer the phone? How long does it take them to return your call? If they act unprofessionally when you want to give them money, how will they act when they have your money and you want customer service later on?

Ask them to explain what they’re going to do and why.

If they hem and haw about their plan, that should be a red flag. If they can’t explain it, they might not know what they’re doing, or they could be planning on taking your money and running. Look for a contractor that takes the time to educate you. If they can’t explain your “what” or “why” questions, it’s best to find someone that can. You deserve to feel comfortable with the entire remodeling process.

How do they handle themselves?

Arthur told us that his prospects start examining him from the moment that he pulls up to the house and walks up the driveway for an estimate. He recommends that you do the same. “What’s their appearance? What does their vehicle look like? Is it maintained? Is it clean? Does it look professional?”

He continued, “How do they handle themselves while in your home? If they don’t believe in themselves, then why should you? Trust your gut instincts. Remember, if you don’t feel comfortable about them personally then step away.”

It comes down to this: what does your gut tell you? Listen to your instincts. If your “Spidey senses” are tingling, there’s usually a good reason not to work with that remodeling company.

Will they use subcontractors or will they do the work themselves?

This is something to think about. Who will physically be doing the work at your home? Are they an employee or a subcontractor? Does it even matter? The answer is yes, it does. “The problem comes up if you have to sue the signer of the contract,” Arthur said. “Let’s say the contractor doesn’t finish the work according to the contract. It may be faulty or perhaps the GC takes your money and skips town. If a subcontractor did the work, then you have no recourse to protect yourself.”

Do they have insurance?

We asked Arthur why a homeowner has no protection with a subcontractor. He shared, “The sub did not sign your contract, so he doesn’t work for you. Instead, his contract was with the General Contractor that skipped town. Plus, many time subs do not carry insurance. You want to make sure that everyone working on your home remodel has proper insurance.”

Ask the contractor to see proof of insurance before you hire them. Then ask if all workers on your project will be covered. One of our foremost rules is to only work with contractors who have at the very least general liability insurance.

Do they offer suggestions, ideas, and advice to save you money?

Arthur has asked his clients why they like working with him. These are some of the answers he gets:

  • The other contractors talked down to me.
  • Other contractors spoke over my head, so I didn’t understand what they were saying.
  • Other contractors never offered any ideas. They didn’t have anything to offer even though I like getting new ideas.
  • Other contractors didn’t show me ways that I could save money.

Arthur said, “It comes down to this. You as the homeowner know what you want, but you might not be sure how to get there.”

If the contractor you’re considering fails these tests, you might want to keep looking to find the right company to work with. Look for a contractor that takes a consultative approach to helping you get what you want. Ask them for suggestions to see what they have to offer. A bathroom remodeler who’s done many jobs should have plenty of pictures of showers, vanities, lighting fixtures, and cabinet ideas for you to look at.

This concludes Part One of How to Choose a Contractor to Remodel Your Bathroom. In Part Two, we’ll talk about salesmen, licensing, common contractor scams, and why buying a foreclose might not be a great idea. Special thanks to Arthur Short! You can check out his company, Nothing Short of a Handyman2, on their website.