Home renovations are a big investment. You want what you want, but the price tag of making your bathroom, kitchen, or porch into just what you want it to be can be daunting. That drives a lot of homeowners to consider hiring a buddy rather than going with a licensed professional.
The contractors that take on this type of work to “help out a friend” are perfectly good people and may even be skilled craftsmen, but hiring them over a licensed contractor is usually a mistake. Those in the construction business call these one-man outfits “chuck and a truck” and have seen the common issues that plague projects they take on.
Here are a few good reasons to reconsider going with your buddy for your next renovation project.
Even if your friend has years of experience in construction and can show you photos of really top-notch work they’ve done, that doesn’t mean they know how to do the whole project.
For renovation projects, a skilled craftsman will work on their one part of the larger project, without understanding all the other details that go into making the project an overall success. For these jobs, carpenters step into a project that’s already planned out. They have a clear roadmap to follow that ensures they do their part of the job correctly – a roadmap provided by the licensed contractor who runs the project.
A person can spend decades working in construction without learning the skills needed to run a project. They need to know how to create a clear plan for the overall project that takes every part of it into account, how to hire the right specialists to realize that plan, and how to recognize whether everyone hired is doing their jobs well throughout the project.
Your buddy probably doesn’t have all that down, or they would already be a licensed contractor.
Because your buddy’s only had to focus on their part of the job in past projects, they don’t know all the associated costs of a renovation project to be aware of. And worse, they may think they do know. They can confidently provide an estimate based on the knowledge they have that leaves out a lot of parts of the job they didn’t even know to factor in.
Over the course of the project, they’ll then little by little hit up against all the costs they left out of the original estimate. Your expenses will grow – they could even double or triple – and you’re stuck with the larger price tag. If you can’t afford it, tough. Your house is in disarray because you’re already halfway into the renovation. And if you can’t pay, your friend can walk away at any time with no accountability.
That’s a worst-case scenario, but even if you can find the cash to finish the project with your buddy, you’d still be diminishing your savings on a version of the project that you thought you could afford. Whereas a more knowledgeable contractor can help you create a realistic budget that still achieves the main things you want in your renovations.
The licensing process for general contractors is important for two main reasons:
- In order to get your general contractor license in North Carolina, you have to pass an extensive exam that covers the many areas of knowledge a general contractor needs to successfully run a renovation project.
- The licensing board in North Carolina shows their confidence in the licensing process by putting their money where their mouth is. They have a recovery fund that exists to pay out damages to anyone whose project with a licensed contractor fails.
Licensed contractors not only have to pass a difficult test to qualify, but they have to keep working and proving themselves year after year to stay current. Any contractor with a history of walking away from unfinished projects or failing to deliver what the customer paid them for won’t be able to maintain a license.
A contractor only goes to the trouble of getting and keeping a license if they treat their work as a serious career. And anyone that’s building a long-term business has a lot at stake when they take on your project – their success depends on a solid reputation.
A “chuck and a truck” hasn’t made the same kind of investment in building a business. The stakes are much lower for them if the project fails. They can walk away, leaving you with all the consequences and no real options for holding them accountable.
If your friend’s a professional contractor, then they probably have a day job working with a construction company. If they approach your project as something they do on the side for some extra cash, it won’t be getting their full attention.
They’ll struggle to stick with any real deadlines. If they’re only able to show up at the times that are convenient to them, the project will drag on for as long as it takes (if they make it all the way to the end).
And what happens when they need to meet with another specialist during work hours? The person you hire for your renovation project needs to be there when the plumber or electrician comes by to provide instructions and make sure everything gets done right. If they’re off at their real job instead, your project will suffer for it.
They might be your buddy now, but what happens if the project goes way over budget or doesn’t turn out the way you want it to? In any industry, mixing the personal and professional can get messy. When you’re dealing with something as personal as your home, that’s only more the case.
If you value the friendship you have now, asking your buddy to take on the work and responsibility of a renovation project you really care about could be setting you both up for failure. How will you grab a beer together or sit across the table at family gatherings with someone who destroyed your kitchen before giving up on the project or cost you thousands of dollars in expenses you weren’t prepared for?
You can have experience without having the right experience. Your buddy may be amazing at their job, but unless their job is to work as a licensed general contractor, trusting them with your renovation project brings a lot of risk. Protect yourself, your home, and your relationship by hiring a licensed contractor from day one.
Any good general contractor will meet you for a consultation for free, so you have the chance to get a feel for their expertise and work experience before making a commitment. Before you make any decisions that could cost you big, set up a consultation to get an expert opinion on your project. You’ll walk away with a much clearer idea of what to expect and how to get started.