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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