At some point in a farm’s life, an improvement will become necessary. Whether it is remodeling the house, building animal shelters or sheds for equipment and things, or maybe it is a repair. Unless you are a fully skilled do-it-yourselfer, you will need to hire out some or all of the work. We have hired help many times in the past, but for some reason this year has presented challenges like we have never experienced before. The first project was an outbuilding (chicken coop), and the second was the attached chicken run. Seems simple enough, right? So we thought…
The first contractor had done work for us several times before with good result, and was originally recommended by a friend. One would expect this experience would be the same as “always”. Well, he had only done small projects for us, and this job was a little larger. It turns out, it was out of his range. Everything started out well, but as time went on his other projects and clients seemed to call for his attention more urgently. Gaps of time with no progress became longer and longer. In the end, we became frustrated, it got a little ugly, and our long standing and solid working relationship with this guy was demolished. Looking back, I realize my mistake. Hopefully he does as well. I should have asked if he had done a project of this size and scope before. Even the best of intentions on both sides going into a project are not enough to make up for inexperience in projects of this size and type.
The second project this year also required a contractor, so this time I looked to Angie’s List and Yelp for recommendations. I found a contractor that was listed with the highest rating on both sites. Should be foolproof, right? Well, not so much. The contractor had great recommendations, but they spoke of a father and son team. When I interviewed the contractor, he mentioned his father had retired and he had taken over. At that moment, I should have asked for current references from projects similar to ours and in the time frame since his father’s retirement. Our experience with this contractor was the exact opposite of the reviews on the web, and hands down the worst construction experience we have ever had. His workers revealed that many of his recent projects were house flips, so there was no client and no family living at the home.
Interestingly enough, when things were still going well with contractor #2, we asked for an estimate on a project we haven’t started yet. My husband told him hp front that we were getting several competitive bids. He never submitted the bid after several reminders to send or bring it. Hmmm, not interested when presented with competition? Not a good sign.
When selecting a contractor, there are a plethora of resources available to consumers. Checklists, sample questions to ask, instant verification of their credentials, and access to comments from other clients such as yourself. Take your time to do some research before inviting someone into your home or onto your property. The Federal Trade Commission has THIS advice about hiring contractors. Great information. I the meantime, I hope you have taken away these tips for selecting a contractor to go along with the FTC’s recommendations:
1. Ask for and check current references.
2. Ask the contractor if they have done projects similar to yours, and then verify those references.
3. Get competitive bids, and make it known you are doing so.