9 Things Your Contractor Doesn't Want You to Know

contractor handing keys to owner
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When you need a contractor for a job, it can mean the difference between a finished project that meets timelines and budget constraints and one that ends up half done when the money runs out.

Contractors are the essential link for many successful projects, acting as the puppeteer pulling the strings to keep everyone on track.

But your contractor may not be as upfront as you think, even when you put a lot of effort into cultivating a good working relationship.

Watch out for what’s not being said before, and during, the project.

1. They May Be Hiding Something

Thoroughly investigate any contractor you hire. Ensure they are licensed, bonded, and insured as required by the state or your own criteria.

Even at that you may not know about a past criminal record or shoddy side work the state doesn’t know about. Get referrals from actual customers. Ask questions to get the answers you need.

2. They Won’t Be on the Job Site Daily

contractors looking at tablet from off site location

Many homeowners envision the contractor at the job site before the crew arrives and after they leave each day.

Although the contractor will have times when he or she is onsite, wearing a hardhat with a clipboard in hand, there may be days or even weeks in between visits.

A contractor’s job is to coordinate supplies and subcontractor work, schedule inspections, apply for permits, and manage the workflow in a way that meets your timeline and budget.

Much of that happens from a desk and not on the jobsite so don’t be surprised when they’re not around.

3. They May Be Focused on Other Relationships

Although it’s important to have direct and frequent conversations with your contractor, you should know you may not be his or her primary concern.

They may be more concerned about maintaining a relationship with specific suppliers or subcontractors. Putting these vendors at the top of their priority list might mean your contractor isn’t giving you all the options out there.

Rather than putting in the legwork to discover and cultivate relationships with new vendors, it’s easier for contractors to call up the guy they’ve been using for years.

Just be aware you may have to do some of the legwork if you have a preference for a certain local company or a product the contractor doesn’t offer up.

4. They Don’t Have all the Answers

contractor explaining home plans to woman

Your contractor is your go-to when you have questions. But he may not want you to know he doesn’t actually have all the answers.

A good contractor will admit when it’s outside his expertise but find the answers in a reliable and expedient way.

5. They’re Not an Expert in all Areas of the Project

Along the same lines, a contractor is a Jack of all trades, but a master of few.

While they understand project flow and likely have a long-standing background in many aspects of the project, no one person knows everything about everything.

They rely on subcontractors that specialize in flooring, tilework, asbestos removal, cabinetry, HVAC systems, plumbing, electrical, etc. but likely don’t have the skills to complete all those tasks themselves.

6. They’re Not Engineers, Architects, or Interior Designers

During your initial meeting your contractor may fail to mention it’s your job to make sure the project plan meets your goals.

This means if you need engineering expertise or an architectural design you’ll need to source that information yourself.

Similarly, to achieve the interior design you have in mind might require a member of your team separate from your contractor.

In short, know what a contractor does and doesn’t do, in case they don’t mention it.

7. Our Work Times May Not Mesh with Yours

Contractors will communicate with you about your expected project completion timeline, but the breakdown of that timeline is typically pretty fluid.

That might mean they don’t show up for days on end or they expect the house to be open and available at times that aren’t convenient for you.

If it’s crucial they don’t show up during certain hours, make it clear in the beginning.

8. The Project Will Be More Messy and Expensive Than Planned

messy construction materials

When looking towards the finish line, often contractors don’t discuss what it will take to get there.

You may find you unexpectedly are out of water for several days or the power needs to be shut off, or a section of the house will be inaccessible for weeks.

While contractors are thinking of how to achieve the goal, they often forget to (or avoid) communicate about these obstacles.

9. The Rule of Expediency, Budget, and Expertise

There’s a rule in construction that outlines three aspects of the project--expediency, budget, and expertise. You can expect to get two out of three.

If a project is done quickly and on budget, it may not be done well.

If it's done well and quickly, it won’t be cheap.

If it’s done within budget with a high level of expertise, it won’t be fast.

Decide what your priorities are and be realistic about what that means for the quality of the finished project.