SPOTTING BAD CONTRACTORS
FENCE CONTRACTOR CHEAT SHEET
YES, BAD HOME IMPROVEMENT CONTRACTORS are definitely out there, large advertising budget, pushy salesmen, must buy today, or out of a pick up truck and need some work.
Remember in school having a cheat sheet to study before a big test? Here is your BAD FENCE CONTRACTOR CHEAT SHEET! Downloadable PDF at the bottom of the page for you to use when interviewing fence contractors to work in your backyard.
So you are ready to purchase a backyard fence for a pool or children or to keep a pet in. You have checked out the fence materials, the styles and found what you really like. Now to call a fence contractor and have it installed. Do you have a list of questions to ask your potential fence contractor? Do you have the MOST IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK?
Hello, I am David Bryant, President of Bryant Fence Company and Southern Fence and Rail where we have been building backyard fencing for over 34 years. I still hear stories of homeowners being taken by unscrupulous people for thousands of dollars with little to no recourse. Within the last year over 40 victims have filed lawsuits against an Athens Fence company that made promises and took their money. Don Dare local TV personality has done a couple of reports on the problem and the lawsuits are in the courts, but the money is gone! So before you select the fence company with the largest advertising budget, or the most fencing in y0ur subdivision check out this page you may save yourself heartache and $1000’s of dollars.
BAD FENCE CONTRACTOR CHEAT SHEET
1. How long has this company been in business, (UNDER THE SAME NAME, sometimes they will change it just a little). If less than 5 years that could be a red flag. Don’t get me wrong, everyone has to start somewhere, but statistics show over 20% (1 in 5) small businesses DON’T MAKE IT PAST THE 5 YEAR MARK! It’s nice to help the small guy just starting out and keep your business local…but not at YOUR EXPENSE!
2. Licensed in the state where doing business? WOW! The State of Tennessee is cracking down on unlicensed contractors posing as licensed contractors. Why is this important? Where do you go if you have problems with your project? If they don’t have a license, what else have they dropped?
3. Does your contractor have the appropriate workman’s compensation coverage and liability insurance? Is it current? PROOF OF CURRENT INSURANCE? Sure you can find someone to work for you without the insurance and it will be cheaper…unless there is an injury. Job site safety is a high priority for real construction companies, to protect their employees and to minimize insurance premiums. Think your fence company doesn’t need work comp or liability insurance at your house? One accident (hurt back, or twisted knee) can easily develop into a $50,000 to $75,000 claim. Will your homeowners insurance cover you for unlicensed and uninsured contractors on your property? When the lawsuit happens, the lawyers ALWAYS go AFTER THE MONEY. If you have assets (your home) they can take it to pay the judgement.
4. Does your contractor have a business location that he owns? Is he working out of his rented house, rented office under a laundry, or his truck? If your fence contractor does not own the business location, business phone, cell phone, he may still be a good contractor. If he has been in business for over 5 years and has not purchased business property where is his investment in the community? A contractor with physical assets is easier to track down if you have a problem with your project. Paying rent, a contractor can simply skip town, or go across the street and rent a new spot with a new name.
5. Does your contractor have an investment in inventory? By that I mean does he only have enough product to do the current job, or is his company healthy enough to carry inventories of popular fencing for installation. That means a materials yard where inventory is kept, equipment to load and deliver materials to the job site. Without the investments in inventory and equipment your contractor can easily close up shop leaving you up a creek, as in the Athens Tennessee example above.
6. Does your fence contractor have great established credit with vendors and manufacturers? If he is buying and installing products on a regular basis he will need to purchase products. Call his vendors to see if he is established, stable, and has credit. If your contractor does not have regular vendors, he may be late paying, mismanaging money, or jumping around vendors. If that is the case, he may be in trouble.
7. Does your contractor have experience in your specific kind of fencing? This is really important because in over 34 years of fencing I have seen lots of “fence companies” come and go. All of them advertise they specialize in …every kind of fencing out there from industrial to residential. Although fencing is setting posts, attaching rails and pickets and hanging gates, there is a tremendous difference between industrial and residential. Furthermore, there is a huge difference in the installation between residential chain link, wood, aluminum, vinyl, wrought iron fence. For example, Bryant Fence Company is expert at wood, vinyl, and aluminum fencing where as we refer wrought iron work to companies that specialize in that product.
8. Does your contractor have experienced people installing your project? Do they hire new people every week as they need them? Does the salesman or owner supervise the ongoing work? You want to make sure the experienced crew working on your yard is experienced in your vinyl fencing and not on their first rodeo. Can they keep it on the ground, make special cuts, hang gates on a slope? Real professionals can do this.
9. Does your contractor respect your property and work to minimize impact from fence construction? This means do they clean up the scrap waste, clean up dirt from fence post holes (leaving piles of dirt for kids or pets to track into the home), keeping equipment off the property or at a minimum? Working on residential fencing means carrying materials around the back from the street or driveway.
10. Does your contractor use real 100% concrete on fence post footers or mix up gravel on back of truck calling it “concrete”? Does your fence contractor CONCRETE EVERY POST? With no inspection of the concrete mix, how do you know WHAT the fence crew is putting in the ground? We use 100% real concrete (premixed in a bag). The quality of the concrete is quality of the foundation of your fence. Poor or inadequate concrete, or gravel will directly affect the stability and life of your fence. To save money, some contractors will pour concrete (or just gravel) on only THREE SIDES OF THE POST! Cutting corners here to save money! Where else are they cutting corners? Are they saving you money if you have to replace the fence in 4 – 6 years?
11. Does your contractor give you a written warranty? Fence materials, fence labor, gates, gate labor, gate hardware warranty? What is covered? Material only or the cost of labor to change out and replace? By whom is the warranty issued? the manufacturer, the fabricator, the fence contractor? Does your contractor have examples where the warranty has been used, and what were the results?
To give you a great example, treated for termites pine fencing has a 10 year warranty! What does that mean? Warpage, cupping, cracking splitting? NO! The warranty on treated for termites lumber is by the CHEMICAL MANUFACTURER warranty for structural integrity of the lumber from insect damage. The warranty covers only the cost of the replacement post, not the labor to remove or reinstall!
12. Does your contractor have testimonials from customers? Were they all happy? How about an unhappy customer and how did they resolve the problem? Your contractor should be able to give you some local fences to drive by and look at of the same type of fencing you are purchasing for your home. Not just recent projects (one year or less) but some older projects (5-10 years) to see how they hold up. So for aluminum fence, aluminum fence addresses, for vinyl fences – vinyl fence addresses, and wood fences – wood fence addresses. Check our website for the online map of our fence installations. You can drive by and see our work BEFORE talking to us.
13. Is your fence contractor a member (in GREAT STANDING) with a third party like BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU. If the contractor is ACCREDITED that is even better! Does your contractor have great references on Google, Yahoo, Angies List?
14. Is your fence contractor experienced in the fence materials and styles that you want for your property? Will he spend the time to answer your questions or does he blow off your questions, or skirt around the answers.
You are purchasing a quality backyard fence and expect to pay from $3,000 – $18,000 depending on the amount of fencing, the fencing materials, and the quality of the installation company. Do your homework, educate yourself about the fencing and the fence contractor. After all, this is an investment in your home. So there you have it! Selecting a quality contractor means asking the TOUGH QUESTIONS and passing on the contractor when he cannot or will not take the time to answer your TOUGH QUESTIONS.
Now asking your potential fence contractors these tough questions will not guarantee you a quality contractor, but it should really help weed out the BAD CONTRACTORS and the FENCE CONTRACTORS ON THE BUBBLE. What you really want is a quality fence contractor that will make your life easier!
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