Heads up if you use a general contractor in New Jersey
Ah yes, home improvements. Something so many of us want to do when it comes to our own homes.
Especially when you first move in and want to start tackling projects right away. We tend to come up with a list of things we want to get done within a certain time frame and try to hold ourselves to that.
But then, life gets in the way. Maybe other "things" break in the home that must be addressed right away. Or maybe money becomes an issue, forcing you to push off what you want to get done.
Or, perhaps the ridiculous amount of hoops required to jump through for all the permits causes delays. You get the picture, it doesn't always go according to plan.
But once you finally do get to that point when work can finally start, a whole new timeline sets in. Of course, we always want the work to go smoothly and seamlessly.
But it's at this early stage that we need to be extra careful to ensure we're not left with any headaches at the conclusion of the project. With more homeowners starting to feel a bit more comfortable with going forward on their projects, I wanted to share a couple of stories with you to help you take proper steps as you get started.
Both of these stories involve kitchen renovations and what happened afterward. Keep in mind, however, that this particular issue could happen with any type of home project, not just kitchens.
The first is one I can relate to, as it has some parallels to an issue I dealt with regarding my own kitchen project. Before I go any further, I do want to point out that not all general contractors will do this to you.
Mine, for example, got our kitchen project done exceptionally fast. Of course, we didn't have any of our work start until all cabinets, tiles, and appliances were in, which most likely contributed to the speedy work.
A friend of mine, however, wasn't so lucky. Their renovation dragged on a lot longer than ours. Also, they had certain time frames promised that turned out to be unrealistic.
The part of the stories that are similar, however, is when that final payment was made. In both cases, once the general contractor got their final payment, it suddenly seemed like they wanted nothing to do with us.
In my case, we were having a bit of an issue with the quality of how our floor was done. It wasn't properly done the first time, but the general contractor did notice a problem initially and had someone else come out to redo it.
That, however, was done before the final payment was given. It was a couple of months later after the work wrapped up when the grout in the floors suddenly cracked apart in one area causing a bunch of tiles to loosen when walked on.
In my case, progress has been painfully slow trying to get in contact with anyone at the company. Essentially, it was like we were purposely being ignored to even ask a simple question regarding the job.
Fortunately for us, everything else in our kitchen is holding up fine. Unfortunately, we still haven't been able to address the grout situation on the floor, which is a bit frustrating. Even emails have been unsuccessful.
My friends' kitchen project, however, is a different story. Essentially, that one had a lot more quality issues and the homeowner also can't get an email response from their contractor, let alone a phone call.
The common thread with both these stories is how general contractors tend to ignore you once they have your final payment. Again, not all general contractors fall into this category, but a few do.
Now, here's the mistake both myself and my friend made that we realized after the fact. Although we signed a contract, we didn't realize how vaguely it was written regarding the quality of work.
In fact, we didn't realize at first that even the permit from our town said not to pay the contractor until the work was 100% complete and we were fully satisfied. That, however, was in very fine print and was never stressed by the town at first.
In our case, we ended up giving the final payment to the subcontractor that came to our home before he left, as per directed by the general contractor. Something we realize now we shouldn't have done so quickly.
My friend, however, gave their final check before the contractor even fully cleaned up their debris. In that case, once the general contractor had all their money, that was it. The crews never finished cleaning and didn't respond to calls, all with more quality issues that eventually manifested that shouldn't have been.
Although not every project involves a kitchen, this kind of thing could happen with any home project. It could be anything ranging from new construction to a simple renovation.
Here's what I wish we did from the very start that I'd encourage you to do as well. It might just save you headaches come to the end of your project, or at least provide greater peace of mind.
First, ask about what kind of guarantees or warranties the general contractor puts on their quality of work. A general contractor should stand by their work up to a certain period after the job is complete and be willing to respond to your calls or emails in a timely manner.
A general time frame would also be good to include, along with at what points in the projects certain payments are due. This way it's clearly understood what should be completed when the next installment is due.
Keep in mind, however, that time frames can be tricky since many things can complicate it. What should be agreed upon, however, are the specific points along the way as to when those payments should be made.
Also, have it in writing and signed by both parties. This way, it provides you with some assurances should any problems arise after the job is completed.
And once the project is concluded, make sure the general contractor comes by and does a final walk-through with you and gives you an opportunity to ask questions before handing over that final payment. In both projects mentioned above, the general contractor never did that but already had that final check.
Yes, both of these scenarios are minor compared to much bigger issues others have had to deal with regarding general contractors, but they're still things to watch out for. The quality of the work is a big deal.
You pay these folks a decent amount to do the job right. The least they can do is not ignore you the second they get all their money and leave you high and dry should any issue come up afterward.
So before even starting, make sure the contractor clearly explains what the procedures are once work is complete should any issues come up. Also, have them explain everything that you don't understand about the contract.
And of course, don't feel pressured to have to give them their final payment until they do a final walkthrough with you once the job is complete. Most importantly, don't let them intimidate you into paying when the job's not complete.
Remember, you're the boss, not them. You're paying an expert to do a job for you, and they shouldn't receive final payment until the job is done right.