Recently I hired a company to tackle a home maintenace issue that had been on my ”to do” list for a few years. Our house had a sealed crawl space in which improper materials had been used, causing an odor at times. Also the builder had filled it with unwanted construction debris which added to the problem. Since it was possible some mold and mildew was involved, we wanted to be sure we used a company that would remediate this if necessary.
I had obtained a couple of estimates from other companies but decided they would not deal with the problem as fully as necessary. I called up a company called Value Dry that specializes in damp basements and crawl spaces as this seemed to be just what we needed. The person that came to our house to give us an estimate was very professional and knowledgeable. He sat down with us and presented a plan that I believed would fix our crawl space problem for good. We signed the contract and scheduled the work for later in the month.
On day one of the project, I had my first clue that things were not okay when the crew called me from their truck to apologize for being late due to “traffic”. When I asked about one of the the first things they had to do when they started, I got a puzzled reply. They didn’t even know that it was on the list. Fortunately this item, which involved plumbing, was not absolutely necessary and could be skipped. When the crew arrived I could tell they were hard workers and friendly but not very knowledgeable in crawl space issues. I knew more about crawl space ventilation / insulation after thirty minutes of Internet research than these guys did. It was clear to me that I would have to watch every thing they did to be sure I got the job done right.
With my constant supervision, the project went reasonably well for the first two days as they cleaned out and restored the crawl space. It turned out there were no serious mold or mildew issues but they still treated the space to prevent any future problems. It was on the last day, when they had to replace the plywood subfloor, that things went very bad. It was clear to me that these guys didn’t have any carpentry skills and I could have done a better job. Their work was unacceptable and I had to argue over the phone with their manager to get the work redone by a real carpenter. The subfloor was redone by a carpenter but still the job was not done as well as I had hoped. I decided to have my tile installer resolve the remaining issues and be done with Value Dry.
Here are some lessons learned from my experience:
1) Get references from past customers that had similar work done.
Its not enough to see there are no complaints about the company on the Better Business Bureau. You need to talk to prior customers that had similar work done to get a good idea about the quality of work done and the crew’s abilities.
2) The person that gives the estimate should also be on the job site on day one or part of the work crew.
Things would have gone much better from the start had the estimator been with the crew on day one to go over what needed to be done. His knowledge would have been shared with the crew so they did what was promised and did it correctly.
3) Find out who will be the primary contact person when you have questions or issues as the work is being done.
I found out after the job started that the senior person was in a another state and supported locations in several states! There was no way this guy was going to show up in person to remediate the problems or see the bad workmanship.
4) Before the job starts discuss what materials will be used and how they will be used.
Had I done this I would have known from the start what to expect. I would not have had to resort to the Internet to learn about the correct way to insulate a crawl space and then tell the crew what to do.
I know that many other people have had serious problems with home contractors. I’d love to hear from others about what lessons you learned when the job didn’t go well.
Image courtesey Creative Commons / Flickr