Awhile back I wrote a column about sleazy contractors who do substandard work. I discussed the tile job in my bathroom and the intense feeling of helplessness when I discovered the grout hadn’t been properly sealed, the company’s license was revoked, and no one would return my calls.
I wanted to write an update, not because you should have any interest in my bathroom, but because of a larger point that it illustrates.
After doing a little research, I learned that the company still had
an active bond, so I filed a claim against it. An investigator
named Toby Williams came to inspect the site. Toby quickly
determined that the shower tile had been installed directly onto
the dry wall without even the benefit of a few hundred
dollars’ worth of backer board. I’m actually lucky the
grout was coming apart. If it had held, I would’ve had no
clue of this much larger problem until the tiles started falling
off in a year or so.
To make matters worse, the tile, which covers the entire bathroom,
was very expensive and is no longer being made. Now all of it needs
to be redone. I’m just hoping that I’m first in line to
collect on the bond.
This experience has left me with a different view of how to select a contractor.
During Toby’s visit, I asked about his business and what he
sees happening in the field. He said that the overall number of
claims has vastly increased over the past couple of years, and he
can barely keep up with demand. In 90 percent of these cases, he
told me, he finds in favor of the homeowner. “Consumers will
almost always try to work with a contractor before filing against
them,” he said. “Good companies will generally fix the
Along with the massive uptick in shoddy home remodels, Toby’s
also seeing a lot more problems with pools. The reason for these
trends are the same, he believes. “When the economy went
down, people started taking on projects they had no idea how to do.
They needed the work. It’s been long enough now that those
jobs are falling apart.”
It’s still unclear if I can recoup my costs for fixing the
bathroom. But going forward, when selecting a contractor I’ll
first find out how much experience they have doing exactly the same
work I need. Then I’ll restrict my reference calls to only
Along those lines, it seems to me that pool contractors might be
smart to sell themselves as highly experienced in the specific type
of pool and site conditions the customer presented (assuming, of
course, that it’s true).
Another step I’ll take in the future is to research the
status of a contractor’s bond, and find out if anyone has
ever filed a claim against them.
Again, pool builders might work that information into their sales
calls. In the past few years, I received about a dozen bids from
contractors for various jobs, and no one has ever mentioned a bond.
Pool builders get almost as much bad press as politicians, and
explaining who holds their bond will help consumers feel more
secure doing business with them.
In the meantime, people like Toby have their work cut out for them.