Choosing the Lowest Bidder Always Seems
Like a Smart Way to Save Money...
But It Rarely Works Out.
I have been called as an expert witness in the home remodeling industry. I have seen home remodeling disasters up close and I am committed to ensuring that your project is successful. In an industry that sometimes gets negative publicity, EBCON Corporation provides our clients with reliability, quality, and boutique service.
The California State Licensing Board website has a wealth of information for consumers. The information provided on the California website helps protect homeowners from unscrupulous contractors.
The information on this page is provided so you have the education and information you need to prevent your home remodel from turning into a disaster.
Most homeowners won’t be able to tell if a contractor has the required experience to complete their type of project.
Unfortunately there are some unscrupulous contractors that will take advantage of the homeowner’s lack of experience. Some contractors will take on a project even if they don’t have the proper experience.
The information on this page is provided to help homeowners avoid hiring a remodeling contractor who will frustrate you with poor quality or leave you with a half-finished project.
5 Points to Consider Before You Hire a Remodeling Contractor
With a Very Attractive Bid
Today you can learn a lot about a company by doing a Google search. It is one more thing you can do so your dream project turns out to be a dream and not a nightmare.
Typical Results You Can Expect When You Hire the Lowest Bidder
Windows – Bargain windows (10 windows for $1,000.00 etc.,) are not really a bargain. These windows will cost a lot more in energy loss in the long run than the up front “savings” and you will experience more repair problems than with quality custom windows. Well-made windows are custom-manufactured to fit each opening. This ensures the proper sealing of the opening, reduces air infiltration, and provides more energy efficiency which directly affects your utility bill.
Most of the bargain windows lack any sort of extensive or lifetime warranties. Quality windows typically have a lifetime warranty on the insulated glass and the manufacturer will replace any failed panels at no cost to the owner. Some higher-end manufacturers will even replace the glass should it crack for WHATEVER reason…labor and material is covered under these warranties!
There is a process to properly install the windows whether they are replacement windows or new construction windows. If the proper techniques and materials are not used, the installer may cause a failure in the house’s exterior waterproofing. This causes air leaks and water to penetrate the building’s envelope causing direct damage to sheetrock, cabinets, floors, and may contribute to the growth of mold in the wall cavities.
The bottom line is this – bargain windows improperly installed will make your house cold in the winter and hot in the summer and will cost you far more in utility bills and potential repairs. This is one area that every low bidder will use to take advantage of you and make more money at your expense.
Doors – Bargain doors are also available at all the big box retailers, but if they do not fit properly they will not be energy efficient and the fit and finish will not be what you expect. Most of the exterior doors sold at the big box retailers are mass produced with 4-9/16” jambs and the jambs are designed to work with 2x4 walls with ½” of sheathing on each side. But most of the walls in older homes vary in thickness from 4-3/4” thick to 5-1/4” thick and the newer homes with 2x6 walls are usually 6-9/16” thick.
Using these mass-produced doors will require custom jamb extensions and more work to properly fit the doors. Some doors in older homes also need to be cut down to fit the existing opening height as doors today are made differently than they were in the older homes where the sills are recessed. Professionals can determine the proper size door and jamb for you and order a door that provides the best energy efficiency, fit and finish.
Roofing – Proper roof installation starts with hiring a professional, licensed roofer who carriers all required forms of insurance. Roofers have the HIGHEST incidents of workmen’s compensation claims. It is imperative that your roofer is licensed, bonded, and carries the proper insurance and that his crew is trained in all Cal-OSHA safety practices. If not, you as the homeowner may be liable should someone be injured.
Most homeowners will never get up on a roof to inspect the work and unscrupulous contractors know this. Improper or inappropriate installations will create problems with storms and the associated winds and rain. This can create leaks that may result in damage to drywall, cabinets, carpet, etc.
In addition, professional roofers can recommend the proper venting for your attic and will ensure that a spark arrestor is installed on your chimney. Attic venting is crucial to allow for proper air circulation which prevents mold, heat build-up during the summer, and extends the life of the roof. The spark arrestor on the chimney is a safety issue that prevents large, flammable sparks from leaving a wood-burning fireplace and igniting your roof, a neighbor’s roof, or overhanging trees.
Framing – It seems obvious but walls have to be plumb, aligned, and contain the proper number of studs and blocking or they will cause endless problems with the drywall, moldings, casements, trim work, tile, and cabinets.
One of the easiest ways for a bad contractor to save money is to hire a crew that can “blow and go.” These guys can slam up walls faster and quicker than anyone but once they are done and have left the job, the remaining subs are forced to scramble in order to clean up the mess. Oftentimes more money is spent in pickup-framing then the actual framing. Pickup-framing involves adding additional blocking where blocking was omitted, adjusting plates because of bows in the wall, or replacing studs that are warped or bent beyond repair.
All these repairs can delay the project, cause endless change orders, and cause all subsequent building activities to be based off poor craftsmanship in the building’s frame.
Not a good start!
Sheetrock and Drywall – You’ve probably noticed these issues in other homes - nail pops, seams that show and uneven sanding. These issues will begin to show up a couple of months after the job and after you have paid your final bill.
Today the push is to apply “Orange Peel” or “Knockdown” textures on walls and ceilings because they can hide many of the imperfections in the taping process but if the underlying taping is not done professionally and with care the seams will still show through these textures. Most of these are almost impossible to fix without starting over.
Don’t allow your contractor to use sheetrock from China (they will try to do that to save money) because it can have some very serious health consequences. Visit this article from the Wall Street Journal on the problems associated with this product or simply Google “Dangers of using Chinese Drywall.”
Paint – I use the comparison of painting to buying a car. You can buy a cheap clunker that serves the purpose of getting you from one location to another or you can purchase a high-end luxury automobile that serves the same function but has much more detail, quality, and dependability as part of the experience.
Painting is similar to a car. The final product is only as good as the prep work. Any person can apply cheap paint to a surface but a quality paint job is all in the material and preparation, much like the high-end automobile. If the surface prep work is not done properly you will end up with uneven seams, roller lines from the paint application, and flaking paint that sloughs off when the surface is wiped down.
Using professional painters can also give you peace of mind. They will carry the proper insurance so that you will not be liable for jobsite related injuries or for accidental property damage. If an accident occurs like spilling a gallon of paint on your floors or a worker falling off a ladder, the painter’s insurance will cover all of the cleaning and medical damages.
With the new EPA Laws regarding Lead paint, all professional painters and remodelers are required to be trained in safe lead practices and certified through the EPA when working on pre-1978 built homes and buildings. Professional painters know how to protect your family from potential lead poisoning. Non-certified painters and remodelers do not. They can expose you your family, and your pets to potentially hazardous lead dust.
Cabinetry – There is a wide range of choices in cabinetry. You can spend $10,000 to $50,000 on cabinets for the same kitchen. Spending more isn’t always the answer but spending a lot less rarely provides cabinets that look good and last. Drawers that come apart, loose hinges, shelves that warp, and poor finishes are just some of the issues with lower quality cabinets.
Inexperienced remodelers don’t have the skills to get the measurements right which can lead to significant modifications to the cabinet onsite. It can even mean cabinets will need to be reordered which can delay your project for many weeks.
A very common feature in low-grade cabinets is the use of particle board or pressed board for the box construction. The cheap cabinets claim to be “solid wood” but this refers only to the front frame; the rest of the box is composed of particle board. Any moisture that comes into contact with these cabinets (leak from the sink, dishwasher, refrigerator, or just excess water on the kitchen floor) can cause the cabinet to fall apart.
We always recommend quality cabinets that give you the most value for your money. All the cabinets that we use have ¾” plywood box construction, solid wood face frames and doors, and dovetailed drawers and pull-out sliding shelves. We use quality custom or manufactured cabinets depending on your needs. You will get what you pay for.
Granite and Marble – This can be a big investment and if it isn’t done right you will feel like you made a mistake. Just like painting, granite installation is all in the prep work…in this case the templates. Templates are used to precisely measure your kitchen, find irregularities in the walls, check the cabinetry for level, and indicate where holes and seams need to be installed. If the template is not prepared correctly, the countertop simply will not fit properly. It will have uneven seams, and if the sub-decking shifts, the seams will get larger and filling these in only makes it look worse.
One of the details that you can observe in a quality fabrication is the edge detailing. Often countertops are ¾” in thickness and will have a laminated edge along the front to give the appearance of a thick 1 ½” slab. Although this technique is popular, many consumers are not aware of the varying fabrication techniques used to laminate the edge.
A countertop laminated edge detail that is done right is not visible. The seam is either cut on a miter making the joint almost disappear or, depending on the profile of the laminated piece, may be cut across the front and laminated to the underside. The key with this second technique is the material must be from the same area so the veins and naturally occurring characteristics in the stone are consistent and uniform. Oftentimes, to save money, remnants from other slabs or scraps from different locations are used for this laminated edge. The color and markings in the stone are not consistent and the edge detail looks horrible.
Plumbing – Cheap plumbing components, especially the ones behind the walls, can begin to leak and cause long-term damage to floors, walls and ceilings. Leaks can create mold issues and mold is very expensive to remediate and can also lead to insurability issues.
Local building codes are constantly changing and a licensed, quality plumber will be knowledgeable about all changes, saving you from needless change orders and hassles with the inspector should they find fault with an item not to code.
Proper plumbing techniques can prevent contaminated ground water and irrigation water from entering your house’s drinking supply. Backflow preventers properly installed on all hose bibs, wells, irrigation lines, and detachable bathroom hand-held wands are all new code issues that a plumber should be knowledgeable about.
Electrical – This is one place where you want to make sure you have a licensed and experienced electrician do the work. I am going to recommend that you do a YouTube search on “bad electrical jobs”. The videos you will find are unbelievable. This is an area where saving money can have disastrous consequences.
Many insurance companies require that a licensed electrician perform all upgrades and electrical work. Otherwise, you might not be covered should something go disastrously wrong.
A professional electrician will know all local codes, codes that change frequently, and can make recommendations to avoid building code violations and safety hazards. They should also know the latest and greatest in energy conservation to help reduce your electrical utility bill. Such items as LED lights, motion-timers, ARC fault detectors, and GFCI outlets for wet locations are all items that professional electricians know and use on a routine basis.
Many quality electricians can also help with lighting recommendations and layout. If you have special items that you want to illuminate or just need ample coverage for general purpose lighting they can help.
HVAC – This is another area where the unsuspecting homeowner can be taken. It can appear to be cheaper upfront, when comparing bids amongst contractors, but often the less expensive bid uses a system with lower energy efficiency (SEER) rating, which will have a direct impact on your monthly utility bill.
Your HVAC system (Heating, Ventilation, & Air Conditioning) needs to be properly sized and balanced for your house. A unit that is too large will be noisy, use way more energy than necessary, and will constantly be turning off and on. The reverse is also true. If your system is undersized the furnace will be constantly running trying to heat and maintain the requested temperature causing needless energy waste.
Proper placement of the heat registers and adjusting the flow is just as important. An inadequate number of registers to a room, poor placement of the registers, or not adjusting the flow can cause certain rooms and areas in the room to feel cold while other locations will be sweltering. A professional HVAC installer will have the knowledge and ability to properly vent and adjust your registers for optimal performance.
If you want to do an addition for extra living space, or simply improve the layout and functionality of your home by renovating your kitchen, bathrooms, master bedroom, home office or any other area of your home, we can help turn your dream into reality.
Serving the Bay Area and Silicon Valley:
Atherton, Belmont, Burlingame, Cupertino, Foster City, Hillsborough,
Los Altos, Los Gatos, Menlo Park, Mountain View, Redwood City,
Palo Alto, San Carlos, San Mateo, Saratoga, and Woodside.