The Weekenders: Finding Contractors

  |  October 5, 2012
Dream bathroom

My dream bathroom. We’re using this for inspiration.

In some ways, we’ve been lucky with getting help with fixing and doing things around our house.  In other ways, not so much.  There were a few big issues we needed to get fixed right away after we closed on the house.  First we needed to get a 1,000 gallon buried oil tank dug up, cleaned, certified and removed (on the very strict advice of our lawyer).  Second,  we needed to address a mold issue in the attic which meant getting a company to come out and treat the mold plus we had to address some venting issues in the attic so the mold wouldn’t come back.

In both cases, we went to the source that we normally go to for resources and answers: the Internet.  For the oil tank, we got quotes from some local people (the guy down the road who installed the tank initially) but ended up hiring Tank Goodness  (brilliant branding – how could we not hire him with a name like that?) He was great and we were really happy with the work he did.  We never met the mold people, but they did a good job, and they gave us a 30 year guarantee and will come back if we need them.

For the venting, we used a local, highly recommended contractor.  He was horrible to work with and did a horrible job.  He never returned calls, never told us when he was going to do the work, didn’t do what we asked him to do, and obviously hired unskilled workers to do the work we thought he was going to do, and didn’t supervise them at all.  It took him four months to do the work that should have taken a few days. Consequently, we still don’t have adequate ventilation in the attic, and we have a leak in the roof where he did some other work.  I could go on, but I won’t.

Our lesson from all of this – don’t use local-local contractors – local-local means your neighbors who live down the road who drive past your house all the time.

I think I’ve mentioned before that we would love to have the time to do a lot of the work on the house ourselves.  But since we can’t, we have to find people to do it for us.  Since our experience last year, we’ve had a much harder time finding people that we trust to do work for us.  In some cases it seems like it’s because we are kind of out of the way – we’re an hour from Kingston and a little bit more from Saugerties.  A lot of contractors from those areas, will only go as far as Phonecia for jobs that will take more than a few days.   Contractors from Delaware county (Margaretville, Delhi, Roxbury) don’t seem to be willing to come the 45 minutes to an hour to where we are.  There are contractors on “the mountain top” (Hunter, Windham, Prattsville) but they are harder to locate – mainly because they have less of an online presence since Internet service is so spotty in the region.  Many rural service people don’t realize how important having an online presence really is for bringing in business.

We asked friends for referrals, but not everyone we know is doing the sort of home improvement work that we are doing, or they seem to have much bigger, more flexible budgets.  We tried using Angie’s List, but there weren’t any listings for contractors in our area, so it wasn’t very useful.  But then, Mr. Sticks discovered Service Magic  (now apparently called Home Advisor).  Through this site, we found a company, KC Construction to installed Gutter Pro seamless gutters on the house.     They were also great to work with, gave us a good deal on covering our eaves with aluminum fascia, and the gutters look great.  The jury is still out though on how well they work and if they will stand up to winter ice and snow.

Through Service Magic we also found a contractor that we’re hiring to re-do our bathrooms upstairs.  We are really excited about working with him – he seems to understand what we want, he’s been very prompt about returning calls and emails, and he made us 3-D renderings to help us decide on a layout!  I’m not going to jinx it by naming him yet, but we have high hopes.

The most difficult part of all of the home improvement decisions we’ve made so far is figuring out if what you are paying someone is too much, or if the deal you are getting is too good.   For example, a local tree man quoted $1,000 to trim our beautiful weeping willow in our backyard.  A few phone calls later and a superb job was done by Arbor Art  (a company we drive past on Rt. 28 in Shokan every Friday night and Monday morning) for only $400.  For the most part, we’ve tried to get multiple bids for work, but it’s difficult comparing the guy down the road to a more established person who’s backed by a larger company that is more professional.  In theory, we’d like to work with the little guy and support the local-local economy, but in practice, that hasn’t always worked out for us.

What kind of experiences have any of you had with finding people to do work for you?

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