Find a Good Contractor

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Find a Good Contractor

One of the biggest complaints I hear from clients is their frustration in finding a good contractor.  Perhaps, the best way to answer this is to look inward to figure out what you are doing wrong.  Here are the reasons you will never find a good contractor.

Consider your expectations.

There are roughly 10 items clients seem to desire in the perfect contractor.  After more than 45 years in the business and thousands of appointments, this list is as true today as it was in 1977.  Clients want the following in their perfect contractor:

  1. Find a Good ContractorSuper cheap (rock bottom prices)
  2. Incredibly fast and efficient
  3. Provide the highest quality professional work (perfection)
  4. Provide impressive tips, ideas, and designs for free
  5. Free detailed estimates
  6. Free multiple detailed estimates
  7. Be very punctual, highly reliable, stay on schedule, and always be available
  8. Perform change order work for free and/or never charge for additional customer requested work
  9. Start and finish any size project within a few weeks.
  10. Building permits are not required.

Can you see why you are having difficulty finding a good contractor – or hanging on to one?  Maybe your expectations are too high?  There are no contractors who can achieve all these requirements.

There are contractors, such as DAD’s Construction, that meet many of the above qualities.  However, if your top goal is the first item, you will never find a good contractor.  The Iron Triangle tells us there are 3 options for every project.  These are Fast, Good, and Cheap.  You can pick any 2. This highly recognized and well used project management tool reflects the fact that the three properties of a project are interrelated, and it is not possible to optimize all three – one will always suffer.

You want to find a good contractor.  Ask yourself “What is contracting anyways?”

Find a Good ContractorDo you want a truly successful project and pleasant experience?  Then it is critical that you understand that to find a good contractor, you must recognize that contracting is a service business.  It is not a product or commodity.

A product is like a toaster, cell phone, car, or iPad.  You figure out the model you want and simply go find the cheapest price.  Regardless of price, you get the same thing.

Contracting is a service; you get what you pay for.

Finding a good contractor is not the same as finding a cheap contractor.  These are polar opposites.

Stop taking the lowest estimate or bid if you want to find a good contractor.

Find a Good ContractorI do not know a better way to say this – stop taking the lowest estimate or bid!  There will rarely, if ever, be a situation where the lowest estimate produces the best job.  The lowest estimate virtually always guarantees the absolute lowest quality work.  Nothing good ever came from low quality.  You will not find a good contractor doing this.  You will find a cheap charlatan masquerading as a professional who will steal your money.

According to a recent survey, most homeowners underestimate the cost of renovations by as much as 50%.  Help your contractor help you before he arrives for the first visit.  You can do this by putting together a table of needs and wants.

Before you call a contractor, make the following table:

No.Must HaveLike to Have
Summary of my Master Bathroom remodel: We need a high quality, safe, long lasting master bathroom that will provide (1) a relaxing environment (2) accommodate us as we age in place.
1.Convert single sink to two sinks.More organized storage in my cabinets.
2.Remove tub and make a large shower. Bench seat with two shower heads.
3.Walk-in (curb-less) shower.Switchable privacy glass.
4.Chair height toilet.Washlet for my toilet.
5.Better ventilation.Replace window; add exhaust fan.

This list is only an example.  Your list should have a minimum of 5 items but no more than 10.  Include a short, clearly defined summary.  Present this list to your contractor on the first visit.  This tells the contractor that you are serious, thought the project through, and have clearly defined what you want.  The contractor now has the necessary information to have an intelligent, meaningful conversation with you.

Find a Good ContractorThis information also gives the contractor what is needed to properly advise you.  This list only works if you are completely honest.  Do not list high quality and long lasting and then tell the contractor you plan on moving in a few years (thinking that will get the price lower – it will not).  If you do not move and things start falling apart, that is on you.  Be completely honest.

Think about it.  How many times have you heard people recognize the flaw in hiring the lowest bidder?  How many times have you heard “it was built by the lowest bidder” after a major disaster?

Stop insisting on detailed estimates for free.  If you want to find a good contractor, respect, and value their decades of knowledge and experience.

The majority of contractors will not provide free detailed estimates.  If you want to find a good contractor, you must understand this.  Most will give you a rough estimate after the first visit.  A free estimate or rough estimate is basically taking your square footage of work space and multiplying it by some average price per square foot.  All it does is give you a rough, general idea of “something”.  There are simply too many unknowns and variables to consider.  It really has little meaning.  A meaningful contractor estimate requires many hours of hard work.

Here is the problem.  Most people do not understand the basics of business.  There is something called overhead.  The internet is full of false information illustrating that contractors simply markup their prices by 15%-50%.

Overhead represents real costs!  Things like advertising, office expenses, rent, utilities, insurance, licensing, accounting fees, taxes, employee expenses, automobile expenses, tools, etc.  These bills must be paid regardless of job size and are part of every job.  Overhead does not change from job to job.  It only changes if the cost of doing business changes (utilities, rent, taxes, insurance, etc. increase).  Overhead for a contractor averages 25%-60% of their revenue.  Expect much higher overhead for a contractor who has a showroom – that’s a lot of rent, utilities, and insurance expense every month!

There is also profit.  Every company must and should be allowed to earn a fair and reasonable profit.  Without profit, a contractor cannot survive.  Profit allows for growth and investment into the business.  Without these, a business, any business, will die.  A fair profit for a contractor is 10%-15%.

If you want to find a good contractor, it is important to understand the basic cost structure of a contractor.

So, let’s say a job has $6,000 in materials and $9,000 in labor ($30 per hour x 300 hours) for a total of $15,000.  Covering overhead and profit at the lowest rate adds another $5,250 for a total cost of $20,250.

Okay, so you shop around for a contractor who is not good with the business side of things.  You find someone who is willing to do the job for $15,000.  Materials are still $6,000, labor is still $9,000, and overhead expenses are still $3,750 ($15,000 x 25%).  Subtracting overhead from labor lowers labor to $5,250 (overhead expenses must still be paid).  What happened?  Your contractor is now only making $17.50 per hour ($5,250/300 hours).  Subtracting out the 55% in payroll, insurance, and workers compensation taxes and your contractor is down to $7.88 per hour.

Do you still wonder why these guys disappear and go out of business?

The first visit to your home is generally free.  This allows both you and the contractor to become acquainted.  Don’t ask for an itemized free estimate.

Find a Good Contractor | DAD's Construction | Best Local ContractorSimply driving to your home to provide a rough estimate costs an average of $902.69.  Surprised?  It is expensive to perform any business in California!

Now layer in another $1,100-$1,500 for a free itemized estimate.  Now the contractor has spent $2,000-$2,400 and received not one penny for all this work.  Do this for 5 customers and the contractor is out of pocket $10,000-$12,000!  Nobody can afford this.  Could you afford to spend this kind of money each week and not be paid?  If you really want to find a good contractor, stop asking for free estimates.

One last comment on this topic.  When a Plumber or Electrician comes to your home, you are charged a service fee just for coming out to see you.  This service call fee typically ranges from $75-$150.  You pay this fee regardless if they perform any work.  Contrast this to the contractor.  It costs the contractor over $900 to visit you the first time.  The good contractors like DAD’s Construction provide you with decades of solid advice and information and charge you nothing during this first visit.  Asking for a free detailed estimate guarantees a good contractor will not work for you.

Good contractors don’t need your business.

Want to find a good contractor?  Then you must understand this basic premise.  Good contractors are always busy.  They can pick and choose who they want to work for and what jobs to take.  Anybody who can start your job immediately for a great price is not a good contractor.  You are in for a very unpleasant and expensive experience.

Pushing a contractor for free itemized estimates, a great deal, and low pricing will push a good contractor away faster than you can blink an eye.  You will either be told they are too busy to take on your job, never hear back from them, or receive a rough estimate that is double or triple their normal rate.

What does this leave you with?  A pool of people or contractors who will probably go out of business, not finish your job, do a very poor job, or keep raising the price and asking for more money during the job.

Changing your focus to find a good contractor.

Let’s review:

  1. Contracting is a service. It is not a product.  You get what you pay for.
  2. Find a Good Contractor | DAD's Construction | Best Local ContractorConsider your expectations. Maybe they are too high and need adjusting.
  3. Break the habit on taking the lowest bid or estimate.
  4. Stop insisting on free detailed estimates.
  5. Like any business, a contractor must be able to make a fair profit to pay the bills and do a good job.
  6. Make sure your interest line up. Don’t ask a kitchen and bathroom contractor to bid on a patio cover.
  7. Good contractors do not need your business.

Most importantly, finding a good contractor is not the same thing as finding a cheap contractor.  If you are having difficulty finding a good contractor, it’s probably because you have the wrong focus.

If you are primarily focused on price, you will always find the low-quality contractors.  Focus on the service they provide instead.  In doing this, you will enjoy a very positive and rewarding experience.

You find a good contractor – now what?

Best Bathroom Remodeling | DAD's ConstructionWhen you find a good contractor, you want to make sure he will want to work for you in the future and do a good job on the present job.  Let the contractor know why you hired him.  Something like “you’re not the lowest bid, but you seem like the best guy.”  This will make him feel valued, which will inspire him to do a better job.

Be pleasant and make it easy for him to work.  Offer a cheery “Good Morning!”  Keep your personal items away from the work area, driveway clear, and plenty of open space in the street in front of your house for contractor crew parking, unloading, deliveries, etc.

Keep the inside temperature of the house comfortable.  Offer a cool bottle of water to the workers.  Pay promptly.

These few courtesies will pay enormous dividends!  Don’t be surprised if you get a fair amount of extra work at no charge.  Everyone likes to be appreciated and valued.  When you do this, they will go to great lengths to make you happy!

Always Hire a Reliable and Dependable Contractor to Remodel your Home

Design Build Bathroom Remodel | Best Local Contractor DAD's ConstructionAlways work with a trustworthy contractor like DAD’s Construction.  We are experts in bathroom, kitchen, and interior remodeling.  We remodel and manage projects in an efficient manner.  DAD’s Construction will do everything to minimize the possibility of change orders.  Our team will make sure we have all the necessary information to prepare a proposal that meets your requirements.  Rest assured that we will provide you with a detailed, by line-item contract.  We will make sure that the contents of this agreement are properly and clearly communicated to you.  If you have questions or need updates regarding your project, we will always answer your inquiries.

How Can I Receive More Information on Remodeling my Home?

If you would like more information on enjoying the best bathroom, kitchen, and interior remodeling experience in Orange County, call Dan at (949) 380-0177 or at for a free in home consultation.  DAD’s serves all of South Orange County California.  This includes Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Foothill Ranch, Portola Hills, Ladera Ranch, Irvine, San Clemente, Dana Point, San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita, Coto de Caza, Dove Canyon, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Hills, Newport Beach, and Aliso Viejo.

Best Local Contractor - DAD's Construction

“Taking Care of Your Home . . . The Way We Would Our Own”

Daniel A. Derkum is the owner of DAD’s Construction, a leading South Orange County, California design-and-build remodeling and renovation Contractor,  © DAD’s Home Services & Construction, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.