Hot Topics: Contractor Responsibilities for Bath Reno

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Is it a red flag when a contractor is hard to pin down? This DIYer needs some work done in a property they own out-of-state, but isn't able to get their contractor to commit to a date. As always, the forum has suggestions for whom to employ and how.

Original Post: Bath Reno: Contractor Responsibilities?

simonucdd Member

I'm currently in the process of finding a plumber/contractor for a medium-sized bath reno (my first time hiring people for a job of this type). The complicated part is that it's for a property I own in another state, so it's necessary to coordinate travel, my job, delivery of supplies, etc.

I found a local tradesman whom I thought would be good for the job (great references, a high but fair price, etc.), and he is aware of the fact that I need to fly in at specific times to oversee work. The trouble is, now that we are getting close to finalizing things, he is being somewhat evasive about timing: when I try to have him agree to specific dates, I get responses such as "I think it shouldn't be a problem to start some time next week" or "If something happens and you have to leave, just leave a key with your neighbor," or "I can get started in the next few days."

In my limited experience with tradespeople, I have found that, unfortunately, many of them do indeed keep you hanging, arrive late, etc. But my question is this: If I am writing up a contract with this person (who is charging top dollar), do I have the right to ask that he commit, as part of the contract, to specific days? Is this just unreasonable? If it is unreasonable, please feel free to tell me.

Norm201 Member

Things happen, so being late or evasive on specific times is not an unusual problem. Your job won't be his only job. However, you can write into a contract provisions to allow for such things. I can't think of the term that is used, but being late would reduce his price by a certain percentage. You need to be very specific. Will weather be a factor? Will travel time be a factor? Will supplies that you provide be a factor? What happens if you are late for an appointment? What about unforeseen conditions when the actual demo takes place? What about issuing of permits and the like? How about vendors having new product available when you're ready for them? How about items that you thought would work but must be changed due to to other problems? Have you put an amount of money in escrow? All this can be written into a contract. But both parties must be agreeable and you may have to give concessions to get him to agree to many of the above-mentioned items.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

As Norm stated, contractors have other jobs—and good contractors generally have a full schedule. It can be written into the contract that the job will be done on certain days, but you can also expect to pay a premium for that. Have you checked the contractor's references?

simonucdd Member

I understand what you are both saying—the tradesperson will have other jobs, things might come up on these other jobs, and that might impact upon any schedule he has with me.

Perhaps I should note (if it makes any difference) that this is a relatively small job, but one I can't do myself. All he needs to do is a) install the sink, floating cabinet, and faucet, and b) install the shower hardware. The hardware and cabinetry are all there, waiting. There's really nothing to buy.

If he can get these things installed, then I can live there while the rest of the work takes place (kitchen installation, flooring, painting, etc.). But without a sink and shower, it's not possible. If, for example, we agree to start on Wednesday, I fly in on Tuesday (and stay overnight at a hotel), and suddenly he needs to push the work ahead a few days—or even a week—I'm stuck in a hotel paying over $150/night.

But it sounds like this is a real possibility and I might just have to accept it. And I guess that's what I was asking—is there any way around this, is it okay to require a specific schedule, or should I realistically just prepare for the possibility that I'm going to be out a few more hundred bucks?

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Talk to your contractor and let him know your situation. Most are willing to go the extra mile and accommodate the customer. If you have ongoing communication, it's less likely there will be any surprises.

Shadeladie Super Moderator

You don't need a contractor for just those jobs. Probably one reason he's giving you the runaround is it might be too small a job. I'd call a local plumber or a handyman.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

I guess it depends on the definition of contractor. Many handymen could handle that job—just be sure to check references first! Not all plumbers are willing to install cabinets.

Shadeladie Super Moderator

Yeah, I guess I think of a contractor as one who oversees everything that can be done in a house. However, I guess a plumber is also a plumbing contractor!

simonucdd Member

I am using the term "contractor" loosely. I don't think he's a "handyman," but he's an experienced tradesperson who does all sorts of renovation work (judging from his online profile).

I have asked him to specify a date; he won't. And for a small job like this, it's a red flag. I'm just about to tell him "Thanks, but no thanks."

The problem has been that it's difficult trying to find someone across two time zones and at this point, I'm thinking I might just roll the dice, fly in, and try to find someone when I'm in the actual area. I may have to leave and fly back, but it seems it might be easier to find someone if I can meet them, let them in the property, let them see the work, etc.

marksr Forum Topic Moderator

Since he can't or won't specify a date, it sounds like you need to see if you can get someone else who will. As Shadie said, it's not that big of a job and he (or someone) should be able to work it in at a time that will work for you.

If you change your mind and want to diy, we can walk you through it.

Handyone Forum Topic Moderator

It sounds to me like it's too late to make any recommendations on a contractor type. This guy has already let you down. He started the job so he should finish it.

I only do it once in awhile, but I work on homes with no supervision—I sub for a national company. The arrangement is usually a lock box and we can enter the home anytime, get the work done, and the only inspection will be final (you don't pay if you are not happy).

I hope I'm not being rude, but if this guy makes you happy, make his job easier. Tell him it needs to be done by a certain date (done perfectly) and then look over everything at completion and your convenience.

If you need a finish plumber right away, I would call a kitchen and bath company and check their references before hiring. You can also check with the BBB. That could be substantial extra cost, though.

simonucdd Member

To marksr: Thanks for offering to talk me through the DIY! In a perfect world, I would indeed love to do this work myself, but I just don't have the tools or the know-how. I would love to find someone to teach me on-site because I enjoy DIY work (I've done tiling, mudding/taping, and some verrrrry basic plumbing), but hanging this floating sink cabinet and the complicated shower hardware are beyond my skill set.

To Handyone:

You were not rude at all and I appreciate the input. One thing: this guy has not started the work; he's only given me an estimate and now we're stuck on the date thing.

Another thing that struck me as odd: he said he would purchase the shower hardware, but I said I wanted a picture of the actual model before he bought it (because appearance is important) and I also wanted to know the cost before purchase. He sent me a couple of images via email, and when I asked if this was the actual set he wanted to purchase and if he could send me the make/model/price, he replied that he didn't have that information/didn't know how much it would cost. Really?

Norm201 Member

Someone mentioned to call a bath and tile store that does installation—I agree. One within the neighborhood would be a better bet. Make the deciding factor a drop dead finish date AFTER you both agree on material and cost of parts. Make it clear that payment won't be made unless the date can be maintained. BUT, give him plenty of time to get the fixtures and set up his time slots. Be prepared to pay 1/3 of the cost in a down payment. Something tells me you may be a bit too particular about when this date must be met. Is the date you need already set in stone?

Handyone Forum Topic Moderator

Many plumbers can install or fix anything in a bathroom, so that might be a good start.

I agree that the contractor should have a knowledge of hardware cost; it can vary greatly. He might not know the model number, but should inform you, for example, "Moen/Delta stainless steel with lifetime warranty" and show you the exact pictures.

Some contractors will not tell you the actual cost of certain materials and I think that's OK in some cases.

simonucdd Member

To Norm201: I've actually given him a time frame between June 7 and June 26, and said I can be there any of those days and would work around his schedule. Is that too tight?

Norm201 Member

No, not all. Find a new guy.

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