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Monday, July 13, 2015

What I Learned By Watching "Catch A Contractor"

I definitely don't claim to be a handyman of any sort. 

Although I do work in the hardware section of a department store, and have learned a lot about the items that I sell in that area, I will be the first to admit that I have never used about 65-70% of the products that we sell there.

Of course, everyone knows how to use a tape measure.  I know everyone knows what a toolbox is.  Most everyone has owned a portable fan at some point.  And I am quite positive that everyone here has painted something with semi-gloss, satin, flat, or eggshell finish paint.

But I've never installed any sort of plumbing.  I would flood the whole place.  I've never done any sort of wiring whatsoever.  I would likely burn down the structure.  And please, for the love of God, do not let me near a circular saw, a hacksaw, or a reciprocating saw.  I like my arms and legs just fine ON my body, thank you!

Thankfully, I happen to know a few people who are willing to help me with home improvement projects.  I have a home, and it needs improving, and I know I can't do it all by myself!  Though I definitely don't mind learning how to fix things.  Now that I have the opportunity and the responsibility of having my own home, I should bone up on it so that I can save money by doing it myself.

Or, at the very least, not strive to be Canada's Worst Handyman.  Thankfully, the show is on hiatus right now, so I won't have to worry just yet.

But when it comes to big jobs and huge projects such as replacing a roof, or fixing a staircase, or knocking out a wall in a house to make a room bigger...I think I'll play it safe and leave it up to a professional.

And hiring a professional to redo your home can be a risky thing in itself.  I know you have sites like Angie's List to help you out in finding the perfect contractor for your home, but aside from that you really have to do your research when it comes to finding the right people for the job.  Things like finding out if they have the specific license to do home repairs, seeing samples of their work, talking to people who have hired them before.  It never hurts to know who you're hiring.

After all, you definitely don't want to spend a lot of money on home improvements if the work done does nothing to improve the home. 

Now, luckily, I did my research, and when it comes down to working on fixing up the home, I trust the people who will be working on it completely.  But so many people have had great expectations, and they end up nearly broke and with a home that is completely uninhabitable.  And that would be a complete nightmare.

I suppose that watching the Spike show "Catch A Contractor" has served as the inspiration behind today's posting, and if you've ever watched this show, you know how scary it can be.  And, I'm guessing that when Adam Carolla and Skip Bedell agreed to host a show where they find the worst built homes in the state of California, they didn't quite expect there to be so many hack contractors!

I've watched several episodes of the show, and I can't believe what I see a lot of the time.  Ceilings that are one crack short of collapsing on people.  Windows that are so drafty that there's no point of even putting glass on them.  Kitchens that have no drawers, bathrooms that have no bathtubs, and backyards that are deemed unsafe for the general public. 

And the reason why these homes are in such horrible condition?  Well, a lot of the times, the contractors that they hire have absolutely no license whatsoever.  This makes it really hard to call them professional contractors.  And for another reason, many homeowners make the mistake of paying for the work to be done before a single nail is hammered in.  There was one episode where a couple paid a contractor nearly $20,000 up front before anything was done, and what they ended up with was having a home that was one step away from being condemned.

Now, fortunately, Adam and Skip always have a team of investigators to help the homeowners find the contractors to try and get them to fix the mistakes that they made.  Skip's wife, Allison, who is a private investigator, is often the brains behind the operation, and with help from a decoy, they manage to lure the contractor to a sting house in order to confront him.

It is here that the contractor has three options readily available.  The first option is that he/she pays the money back to the homeowners, but nobody ever chooses this option, as most times the money is spent...and it would make for a really short episode.  Choice #2 is that they roll up their sleeves and help Adam and Skip do the work the proper way, hopefully learning some things along the way.

And Choice #3 is that they do absolutely nothing about it, refuse to help put things right, and the homeowners take them to court to settle things.

In most cases, the contractors choose #2.  But even if they build and dash, Adam and Skip will at least stick around and redo the rooms that were mangled up the first time. 

And I have to say, watching the work get fixed is actually the best part of the whole show.  Not only do we see them do the work the right way, but in between segments, Adam and Skip give us tips at home on how to do our own home improvements, what materials to use to do the best job possible, and the consequences that can take place when shortcuts are taken.  And, yes...I have been taking notes lately.  It's good advice!

By the end of the episode, the results are absolutely worth it, and Adam and Skip's work look like something that you would see in a furniture showroom.  It is definitely like night and day for sure.

And usually there is one final confrontation between the contractor and the homeowners that the contractor screwed over in the first place.  In some rare occasions, the contractor has seen the error of their ways, and has made peace with the homeowners.  And in one even rarer occasion, the homeowners were the one in the wrong and the contractor was the one who looked more like the victim.  But usually the final meet and greet usually involves the homeowner telling the contractor to go to hell.

Which is strangely satisfying.

So, after watching "To Catch A Contractor", there are some rules that should apply to anyone who owns a home.

1 - Do your research and make sure your contractor has a license.  In most cases, databases are available and their names should at least show up in a general Google search.

2 - Never pay the full amount that a job is worth until the completion of the job itself.  Doling it out in small installments will keep the contractor coming back to do the job the right way.

3 - Don't be afraid to check on the contractor and offer some input.  Just because the contractor is an expert doesn't mean that he/she isn't receptive to any ideas.  Working together is definitely an asset.

I'm sure I'll have more to add as I get into my new place and fix it up.  Not too much longer now! 

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