The Home Improvement Nightmare-Who’s To Blame and How To Avoid It

Unless you live in a remote part of the country with no television, newspaper or other people to talk to, there is a good chance you have heard or read about a home improvement scam or project gone wrong. It seems to be a fact in this country that when you go about doing a home improvement project you will usually encounter countless problems, delays and shoddy work.

The home improvement experience leaves most people stressed and vowing never to do another project again! So it is not surprising to hear that home improvement complaints rank at the top of consumer complaints nationwide year after year. Where does the blame fall for this epidemic of home improvement problems?

I am proud to say I was a home improvement contractor for almost 30 years and I was fortunate enough to win some of the industry’s highest awards. However, it has never ceased to amaze me the poor home improvement decisions that I have seen so many homeowners make. One of the more notable mistakes I would see done over and over again was when a homeowner would blindly hire someone to do a project because the person was a friend or a friend of a friend. To me this reasoning makes no sense.

Friendship and craftsmanship are not related, but for some reason a lot of people believe other wise. Another great example of homeowner apathy is hiring someone to do a project without ever putting anything in writing. Who in their right mind would ever agree to such a disastrous situation? Another very similar blunder would be for a homeowner to blindly accept an estimate on the back of a business card. Usually the only information that has room on the back of a business card is the PRICE.

A major mistake made by many people doing a home improvement project is letting price dictate the decision on who to hire. More problems occur because homeowners pick the lowest price they can find. Why? It is very simple. You can only produce a high quality project at a certain cost. High quality materials, expert labor, appropriate insurances and a reasonable profit to stay in business, cost a certain amount of money.

If someone can do that same project under that amount, what do you think is going to happen when the job is being done? That’s right, the person or company is going to do anything they can to try and make a profit. All of the possibilities that could result from the person you hired, as the low bidder, trying to make a profit, are simply all BAD for the homeowner. In home improvements you get exactly what you pay for.

Let’s not forget to put some of the blame on people looking to work on your home. Over the years I have seen some of my competitors commit heinous business practices. (Surprise!!) I have seen contractors switch materials to lesser quality without customer approval, use unqualified labor, overcharge homeowners for “unforeseen problems”, try to up sell the customer once the project starts, etc.,etc.,etc…….it makes you wonder if you can trust anyone?

So where does the blame fall for all the home improvement complaints year after year? I guess it would be easy to blame the homeowner for not educating themselves on what to do when attempting a project. However the next question would be where does a homeowner get “educated”? Maybe a better question would be when does a homeowner find the time to get “educated”? Education is a great tool if you have the time to do the research. Most people don’t have the time or want to take the time to do hours and hours of research on how to go about getting a home improvement done correctly.

Oops I almost forgot Uncle Sam. A lot of people, including myself, think the government makes it too easy for someone, who has no ethics or skills, to do home improvement work. Why are there still some states that do not have licensing for people doing home improvements? And in the states that do have licensing, why are some of these states issuing licenses without the applicant needing to demonstrate any type of competence in home improvement work? This is like giving out a driver’s license without taking a road test. Doesn’t make much sense to me.

One last situation to blame, one that I would never forgive myself for not mentioning. Home improvement television shows have become the latest fad in television. You can hardly change television channels without a home improvement program popping up. The influx of home improvement shows on television has been phenomenal. However, most of these shows tend to unrealistically glorify the home improvement project as being easy to do with nothing ever going wrong. The last time I looked, nothing ever goes perfect, including home improvement projects. Little, if any information is mentioned on these shows, about how not to be “taken to the cleaners” when doing a project.

One would have to conclude that there is plenty of blame to go around when it comes to the problems homeowners face when attempting a home improvement project. Unfortunately, most of these problems have been around for many years and if you are expecting a “quick fix”, I think you might be waiting a very long time.

Since I retired from the home improvement industry two (2) years ago I decided it was time to stop worrying about who or what to blame about the constant wave of home improvement complaints (it really seems to be a waste of energy since nothing seems to change) and to put together a way for homeowners to fight back and get the home improvement results that they deserve.