Usually (but not always), the classic disaster recipe is a lack of solid estimation and outline of materials and processes, one guaranteed to create unwanted surprises for homeowners and bad feelings for everyone involved.
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To make the list, start with the general concept, then determine the specifics such as desired dimensions and materials used, then outline a quality standard, ideally one beyond the usual “works to be performed in a workmanlike manner.” Under this vague outline, all sorts of sins have taken place. Be particular, instead. “deck to be painted in a workmanlike manner, “deck to be painted in a workmanlike manner, “deck to receive one primer coat designed for bare wood (cedar), and two topcoats, using only exterior-grade products. “deck to receive one primer coat designed for bare wood (cedar), and two top coats, using only exterior-grade products, as a guideline.
This is paperwork, of course, something that few of us enjoy, but in terms of your job, this dull task is less than the amount of writing needed to prepare your small claims action against a contractor who used a mystery primer that did not bond as the flaking paint attests to you on the new deck. Third, obtain and check the references of the contractor, and check out the reference. Do not trust the one or two lines on a contractor’s website from satisfied customers, nor accept the reviews associated with referral websites with whom the contractor advertises or is listed. Alternatively, don’t just ask the referee about ease of dealing, punctuality and quality of work – go and look. Satisfied customers are generally happy to recommend a business that has treated them fairly and fulfilled their requirements, and everyone likes to be successful.
Yes, it takes time to check out references, but again, far less than playing catch-up with a contractor who has cashed your check and changed the name and number of the company to avoid the obligation of making customers happy.