How to Spot a Bad Contractor (Expanded Upon)

When you hire contractors to work on a project, you want them to value your business. But some contractors start off looking like Jekyll and end up acting a lot more like Hyde.

It’s normal for unforeseen problems to arise throughout a project but when these problems get out of control, it can lead to poor-quality workmanship and stress for the homeowner. Here are some warning signs to keep an eye out for.

Pay Attention to Their Reputation

There are plenty of great contractors out there who will go above and beyond to deliver top-notch service. Unfortunately, there are also a lot of bad ones who can leave you with poor-quality work.

One of the biggest warning signs is a contractor who wants to rush you into signing a contract or upfront payment check. While it’s normal for contractors to require some amount of down payment or materials upfront, you should never feel pressured into signing anything before you have had a chance to read it over thoroughly and ensure that there aren’t any clauses that could end up costing you extra money if something goes wrong with your project further down the line.

Another big red flag is a contractor who is evasive about their progress and timelines. A good contractor will be able to clearly communicate what they are doing and why, and will be able to answer any questions that you may have. A vague or evasive contractor is often an indication that they are hiding something, or that they don’t have the experience or knowledge to properly complete the job.

It’s also a good idea to check online reviews before hiring a contractor. This can give you a good window into how they have treated past clients, and their level of professionalism. You can also use sites like Levelset to check a contractor’s payment history, which can be a great indicator of their reliability and integrity.

Check Their Credentials and Licenses

Whether you’re working on home improvement projects or developing real estate, it is important to work with professionals who can deliver quality services. Unfortunately, hiring an unprofessional contractor can cost you time and money. Fortunately, there are several red flags you can look out for to spot a bad contractor before it’s too late.

Contractors should be willing to provide copies of their credentials, insurance policies, and bonds upon request. If they are hesitant or unwilling to do so, it’s likely because they either don’t take their jobs seriously enough or they have a history of misbehavior.

Another common sign of a bad contractor is that they insist on being paid in cash. This is a big warning sign because contractors who prefer cash are often fraudulent and don’t want to leave a paper trail in case of disputes. If you’re not comfortable paying in cash, try to negotiate a down payment that is less than the full project cost and check state laws regarding how much can be collected upfront.

Finally, if the contractor wants to rush you into signing a contract or depositing your check, this is a good indication that they’re in a hurry because they need the money for other purposes. They may also be insecure about their abilities or afraid you won’t pay them. In any case, don’t work with them. Instead, find a contractor who will take the time to write up a contract that clearly states all fees and requirements and who will stick to their word.

Ask for References

If you’re considering hiring someone to complete your home improvement project, it’s important to ask for references from past clients. This can give you an idea of their quality of work, how they communicated with their clients, and any issues that may have arisen during the project.

It’s also important to note how long the contractor has been in business. If they’re new to the industry and have little to no experience, it might be a red flag that they’re not being honest about their capabilities.

A reputable contractor will be proud to show off their work and provide you with positive feedback. They should be willing to share a list of previous projects with you and provide details about their craftsmanship, timeliness, and cost. If they’re hesitant to provide you with references, this is another red flag that they’re not being honest.

While it’s normal for some construction projects to run into delays, a bad contractor will make excuses and fail to meet the original deadlines they agreed to. If a contractor continually pushes back your project, it’s time to find a new one,

Look for Effective Communication

When it comes to finding good contractors, effective communication is key. If a contractor doesn’t make it a priority to respond to your inquiries or show up on time, they are likely not a professional and shouldn’t be working with you on your project. They should also be able to answer your questions in a clear and concise way, ensuring that you have understood their explanations.

Another red flag to look out for is if they are unwilling to sign contracts that clearly outline the work that will be done and the agreed upon price. This is a big no-no because it can cause serious problems down the road, as well as legal issues.

It is also important to consider whether or not a contractor is willing to take the necessary steps to complete their projects, such as getting building permits or complying with local codes. It is not uncommon for bad contractors to try and cut corners, but this can end up costing you in the long run.

Cloe Thompson, a DIY influencer and real estate investor, experienced this firsthand when her original contractor ignored building permits and failed to follow regulations, which resulted in the entire renovation being halted. This ended up costing her more money and time than she had anticipated, so it is important to be able to recognize the warning signs of a bad contractor, so all in all, if you’re in Kendal for example, try looking for a good quality building contractor based near Kendal.

Pay Attention to Extra Charges

Contractor fraud is an issue that can lead to projects gone wrong, costly renovations, and even ripped off homeowners. Fortunately, there are several red flags that can help you spot a bad contractor before they start their work.

A good contractor will make it clear what their initial quote includes and then provide you with an estimate for any additional costs such as materials, permits, or labor. If a contractor demands to be paid in cash only or doesn’t provide any receipts or documentation, that is a big red flag that they may have some shady inclinations. You should always pay with a check or credit card so there is a paper trail in the event of any disputes.

Additionally, it’s important to make sure that your contractor has the proper credentials and licenses to perform their work. A reputable contractor should be able to easily provide you with copies of their insurance, bond, and licensing documents.

If a contractor does not have the proper licenses or insurance, this could lead to significant legal and financial issues in the future. It is also important to remember that any home under construction or renovation is considered a workplace and that it is the contractor’s responsibility to adhere to all building codes and safety regulations. Contractors that ignore these requirements are putting themselves and others in danger. Additionally, if you notice any work being done without the appropriate permit or is not up to code, that is another major red flag.

Check Out Their Portfolio

If a contractor refuses to provide you with a portfolio of past projects, or doesn’t give you references that will answer your questions about their experiences working with them, it may be time to move on to someone else. A good contractor will be proud to showcase their work and happy to discuss how they worked with clients to achieve the desired result.

In addition to a project portfolio, it’s also important to look at contractor reviews. If a contractor has an overwhelming number of bad reviews, that should be a red flag.

Finally, it’s worth checking to see if the contractor has been recognized by local community organizations or awarded any special accolades. This can give you a sense of whether or not the contractor is well-respected by the people who live and work in the area where they are working.

It’s always best to take your time when choosing a contractor to work with on any type of project. By taking the time to check out a potential contractor’s reputation, credentials and licenses, ask for referrals from trusted neighbors, get cost estimates in writing and avoid extra charges, you can be sure that you’re hiring an experienced and qualified professional who will take care of your home improvement needs. You’ll be glad you did. Levelset’s Contractor Profiles contain useful data about a contractor’s payment history, liens, subcontractor reviews and more.