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Another Home Improvement Horror Story

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Another Home Improvement Horror Story

Why reputable companies have an obligation to educate and protect consumers from shady contractors

By Drew Barto July 7, 2023
Woman experiences home improvement nightmare
Photo: Aghavni | stock.adobe.com
This article first appeared in the July/Aug 2023 issue of Pro Remodeler.

Anyone with a hammer can call themselves a contractor. And that’s a big problem.

While reputable home improvement companies work tirelessly to provide first-class customer service, all it takes is one bad experience with a replacement contractor for a homeowner to unfairly lump the whole industry together.

A friend recently received an education she didn’t ask for when she hired two very different companies to work on her home.

A First-Class Customer Experience

My friend’s first project was a whole-house window replacement. The company she chose specialized in windows and had a five-star rating on Google across more than 500 reviews.

This company’s bid came in firmly at the high end of her estimates. But, she ultimately decided to pay more for peace of mind knowing she was dealing with reputable professionals.

The installation went flawlessly. The communication and craftsmanship were top-notch. My friend was pleased with her purchase despite paying a premium price.

A Home Improvement Nightmare

She then hired a low-cost local contractor to build a deck. Recommendations for the contractor were half-hearted, but she wanted to give money to someone from her town.

She just splurged on her windows, but this guy quoted her half the price of the closest competitor’s bid.

No surprise: A nightmarish experience ensued.

While anyone with a hammer can call themselves a contractor, it takes a whole lot more to become a legitimate home improvement business.

This self-proclaimed jack-of-all-trades turned out to be a one-man crew with occasional helpers. Arrival times were more like ranges he’d throw out just to give my friend enough hope that her deck would one day be completed.

When he did show up, he’d rarely put in full workdays. He seemed too busy chasing the next deposit or payment from other jobs. The too-good-to-be-true quote turned out to be just that. Throughout her project, the contractor asked for more money for materials, either because he couldn’t measure or do math, or it could have been that he kept the bid low initially to get the job.

On the rainiest days, he drove his truck through her yard to the back of her house. And then he’d exit on the opposite side.

By the end, it looked like he designed a dirt track speedway around her home. Three months later, the race track remains—with no offer to fix it.

My friend felt angry and stuck. She just wanted her new deck done and to not deal with him anymore. So, she kept paying what he asked until it was finally finished.

But it was never fully finished. It failed inspection. Months later, calls and texts to the contractor remain mostly unanswered.

Don’t Let Prospects Become Victims

I feel awful for my friend and for anyone else who has experienced this.

But I’m grateful to be building relationships with so many of you who aren’t like this nightmare of a contractor. You show up and do the right job at the right price daily. For every job well done by your team, another homeowner gets ripped off by a dishonest counterpart.

The industry is so competitive that customers don’t always know who to believe when you tell them horror stories about what could go wrong.

While anyone with a hammer can call themselves a contractor, it takes a whole lot more to become a legitimate home improvement business.

written by

Drew Barto

Drew Barto is director of home improvement for Pro Remodeler. He most recently served as the Director of Marketing at Energy Swing Windows in Pittsburgh. Contact him at dbarto@sgcmail.com or 412-607-7820.

Comments (4)

  • Submitted by Jeffrey Eckes (not verified) on Wed, 09/13/2023 - 14:26



    I wanted to say thank you for this! I have been writing in professional and consumer mags for some time with exactly this focus. I recommend that anyone that can, reach out to your local real estate and 'home' magazines and start writing for them about this and other subjects. I always know when one of my articles drops, I get a rash of emails looking for a builder, which is another good treason to take the time to write.

    Here are two of my latest features, both education consumers on how to find a 'worthy' contractor, and how to do their own estimate so they know how fair the costing is.


    Love to have your thoughts...

    Jeff Eckes
    LDR Group

  • Submitted by Bob Montgomery… (not verified) on Wed, 09/13/2023 - 18:04


    The biggest problem is that in lean times, builders molt and become "remodelers". As builders, they don't know their asses from a hole in the ground in the first place and then their incompetence triples in mere minutes.

    Unfortunate the woman was taken for a ride, but, in a way she deserved it. One does not spend big on one contracting firm and then nickle and dime to get a deck built. Her family will spend hours standing on the deck and it may collapse under their feet. She was hoist by her own petard.

  • Submitted by Jason Larsen (not verified) on Fri, 03/15/2024 - 08:02



    This article is spot on. I'm constantly telling my sales team that when they lose a sale to low price, it's because they didn't do their job educating the customer why that isn't in their best interest. We failed the customer and allowed them to become a victim, most of them don't know any better. Jack-of-all-trades, simply means Master of none.

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