When you hire a contractor to build o remodel your home, you expect professional, quality work. But sometimes, after the job is complete and you settle into your new space, you start encountering signs of trouble – things like doors sticking, a fresh coat of paint peeling, or a crack appearing in your new foundation. Most people don’t even think about contractor warranties until a problem comes up, but they should. Warranties are an important part of the agreement between homeowners and contractors.
Large commercial projects have a “Clerk of the Works” on-site who specializes in preventing warranty issues from coming up. This person evaluates the workmanship quality and verifies the project is completed properly. In residential projects, these arrangements are extremely rare. Most people are either unaware of this option or unwilling to take on the added expense.
Here are a few ways you can protect the investment in your home.
A project goes south. It happens to the most experienced contractors and sometimes it’s not their fault. In these situations, contractors need to communicate with their client, explaining all the possible options and their consequences.
It is tempting to try to cut corners to reduce upfront costs, but compromising the quality of the work usually results in higher costs later on. Listen to your contractor’s recommendations and weight your options carefully.
If a client still insists on forgoing best practices, the contractor needs to protect themselves by specifying in the contract that they will not be obligated to make repairs free of charge if problems arise.
If you see any issues after the project is completed, don’t wait to reach out to your contractor. Document the problem in writing and contact them right away. Small problems can become big ones if left unchecked, and warranties do not improve over time as we all know. Some people wait and accumulate a list of complaints before reaching out, which is a bad idea. You can always add to the list later on. Let your contractor know what’s happening right away and give them a reasonable amount of time to fix the issue.
How much time should that be? It depends on how urgent the situation is and whether seasonal weather conditions stand in the way. For instance, a leaky roof should be fixed immediately to avoid interior surface damage or mold growth but to repair a crack in the foundation it may take months. No matter how disappointed you are about needing repairs, try to be flexible and establish a time frame for the contractor to make things right. Also, make sure you are clear about your expectations.
In most cases, just making your contractor aware of the issue is enough to get it resolved. Reputable builders want happy customers. If the fix does not solve the underlying problem, make sure you document the situation and remain in constant contact.
If your builder does not follow through with a remedy, be sure to keep a record of the problem, along with your attempts to get them to fix it. You’ll need that if legal action is necessary. We hope it never comes to that, but if you aren’t getting anywhere with your contractor, it may be time to contact an attorney and the state of Vermont Consumer Assistance program. You can reach them at (800) 649-2424 or (802) 656-3183.
This is why it’s so important to hire a builder you can trust. We’ve written about ways to find a good Vermont contractor in an earlier post, and we encourage you to follow these crucial steps.
If you hire a company with a great reputation, they will have the desire and resources to make any corrective action to make you happy. The more substantial the repair, the more impact it will have on their reputation, so it’s worthwhile to hire a credible builder, not a cheap one. If your contractor goes out of business, all the warranties you were promised are worthless. Hiring a reputable contractor will save you countless headaches and dollars down the road.