Do You Know How to Find a Trusty Contractor?

Start with these Helpful Hints

The question of finding and knowing who to hire to do work for us has always plagued consumers.

A sweet lady in Ballard had a clogged main sewer line, so she called a company she had seen advertised a lot for help. The technician seemed friendly and professional and surveyed all the plumbing fixtures.

Finally, in the basement he pulled a toilet and used a camera to find the clog. He showed her the video, said he was sorry but that he needed to add a clean-out in the main line, and the only good way to do it was to dig down outside about four feet, cut into the line and install one that could be accessed from the outside.

He confidently talked about code and her old plumbing, and how this would make any future problems much easier and cheaper to service. She agreed to proceed, paid him $700+ for that day and signed his proposal for $12,500 so he could start the next day. Fortunately, one of her sons stopped by that evening, saw the proposal, and asked her about it. His mom got very defensive and didn't want to discuss it. It was her home, money, and she could take care of it herself.

Her son used to be a General Contractor, so he had a basic knowledge of things and he went down to the basement. In a few minutes he called his mom downstairs, and showed her an existing 4" clean-out in the main sewer line, just before it went through the basement wall. The new clean-out would have been installed just on the outside and about four feet from the existing one.

Needless to say, they canceled the job and her son did what he could to get her money back, but without much success.

Our company serves over 500 clients a month, and sadly we see this kind of thing every month or two. When it comes to choosing a contractor to help you with something you can't do, don't have the time to do, or simply don't want to do, it's hard to know who to choose if you don't already know someone. Even then, they sometimes aren't available and we need to find someone else.

A whole referral industry has developed that supposedly “solves” the problem with contractors who are “screened,” “vetted” or checked in some way, and ironically this need is so strong often people will take the word of a completely unknown stranger on the internet for a “reference / referral” and proceed.

Without exception the first and best referral source is from a personal connection or relationship. Ask your friends, your family, neighbors and colleagues if they know a company that will meet your needs, and if they have used them. It's easy to pull a name out of thin air sometimes; but the real test is if they have used them.

In business, a good source often overlooked is the trade associations that support your industry; word gets around quickly if there are any “red flags” about an individual or company.

If you get a recommendation or referral, it's always a good idea to check how things went.

  • Availability. Did they return calls? Show up on time? Do the work as scheduled and planned?

  • Integrity. Did they over-promise and under-deliver, or vise-versa? Did they do what they said they would? Were un-expected problems and lo; extra work handled fairly? Was there anything major that could have/should have been known before starting i.e. any “big expensive surprises?”

  • Professionalism and Credibility. How did they 'look'? Clothing? Vehicles? Organized? Messy personally? Messy vehicle? Was the worksite messy or did it seem organized and safe? Any issues with licenses or insurances not being current?

  • Pricing. When all is said and done; do they think they got a good value? How did it compare in the market-place? Were there any un-expected charges / expenses and were they handled fairly and per the contract?

Sometimes of course, you can't check with friends or associates, or when you do they don't know anyone. That makes it tougher to find a person / contractor you can trust and work with. If I find myself in that situation I normally consider and / or try some of the following:

  • Look on the internet for whom/ what I need, using services like Facebook, Angie's List, LinkedIn, etc. I look for local people / companies that seem to have good and necessary information available without a bunch of digging. When I find a couple names or companies I'm interested in, I try to gather as much information as I can about them and learn about them, including ...

  • How long have they been in business? Where is their physical address?

  • Who is the owner and/or principal or manager? How long have they been there? If found, I Google/ Linked-In them and learn.

  • Through the State L & I site, are their licenses, insurances and bond current? Has there been any disciplinary activity? Any un-resolved?

  • How does their BBB report look? Anything un-answered or un-resolved?

  • How does their Dun and Bradstreet look?

  • What training and/or credentials do they have for their people?

  • Do they have background checks, pre-employment and (at least) annually?

These days, finding a new person or company to help and work with us canbe a bit tough, and always a gamble but I hope the suggestions mentioned above are helpful. Note: I highly recommend choosing your plumbing, HVAC, and electrical contractor before an emergency arises.

Finally, in this arena it's always good to remember two wise sayings, "If i seems too good to be true: it usually is' and "Trust; but verify."

Copyright © 2019 Bruce Davis Sr., Day & Nite Plumbing and Heating Inc. Reprinted by Permission. Bruce Davis Sr., Licensed Journeyman Plumber, Licensed Electrician, HVAC/R, Electrical Administrator, HVAC/R, Certified WA State C.E.U. Instructor, is President of Day and Nite Plumbing and Heating, a 60 year old family owned and operated plumbing and heating business in Lynnwood, Washington.

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