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The 7 Biggest Mistakes People Make When Picking a Contractor and How to Avoid Them

Taken from "Link Mechanical Services, Inc." (

Mistake #1 – You pick a contractor based only on price!

The old adage is really true: "You get what you pay for." This is especially true in the contracting business. If you want good contracting you should decide to deal with a contractor because of the overall value you receive, NOT because they are the lowest priced.

Here’s why…

Value = Quality + Service + Price

It is impossible for any company in any industry to offer the cheapest price, have the highest quality, and provide the best service all the same time.

You can get high quality and super service, but you can't get both and still get the lowest price. Just like in your business, you hire the best people and buy the highest quality product – consequently, you have to charge more for your services.

Total Value is all three: Quality, Service and Price!

The 3 most common problems YOU WILL have when you pick a contractor who only offers the lowest price:

1. The first problem is that dirt-cheap contractors usually don't stand behind their work if there is a mistake. Sure, other contractors might do your job for a little less money, but how will they treat you when there is a mistake with your job? To give the cheapest price, they usually have low-wage, inexperienced employees that have not been adequately trained. They also cut corners by using cheaper material and labor to give that low price. The end result is that you get what you pay for. And the little bit of money you saved ends up costing you more in the long run! Believe me, this is a little saying we tell our customer: "The good feeling of a cheap price is long gone before the stench of poor quality is ever used up." Also, "the bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is gone."

2. The second problem with a contractor who offers the lowest price is that they tend to also offer the lowest quality. Your heating and air conditioning system is the biggest appliance set in your home, and the most costly to operate. It is also one of the best investments you can make in your home if done properly.

Plainly said, "Shoddy or low quality contracting because of cheap price costs you money." No amount of savings is worth this. You've worked too hard and spent too much money on your home to throw it away for the few cents you save on a contractor instead of investing in the life of the system.

3. And the third reason why picking the cheapest contractor is a problem is that you might get charged extra for things other contractors normally include in their quote in the first place. You'll be charged extra for such things as a filter, thermostats, overtime due to bad estimates, or application of permits. Cheap contractors nickel and dime you to death. What seemed like a good price actually ends up costing you more in the end. This is just a tactic cheap contractors use to get in the door.

To avoid buying on price alone, we suggest you choose two or three contractors and rank them in the order that is important to you such as Quality first, Service second and Price last.

Mistake #2 – You Think All Contractors Are The Same

Every contractor is different. No two contractors are really the same. Every contractor has different equipment and different employees who know how to do certain kinds of jobs well. Every company has a different number of employees, each with different abilities.

Contracting is art and craftsmanship combined. Most people who hire contractors don't truly understand that despite all of the technological advances, contractors still use the same quality work habits as twenty years ago.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, heating and air conditioning is not just banging on the furnace or air conditioner, cleaning filters or charging refrigerant. It takes craftsmanship to turn out quality work. Contractors have to diagnose, measure and perform complicated calculations before they can start a job.

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Communication is the key to picking the best contractor for YOU.

- Ask what type of work they do.

- Ask how long they have been in business.

- Ask what is the timing required to finish the job.

- Ask if they or subcontractors do the work.

- Ask if they are using skilled technicians or cheap laborers.

- Ask any other questions that are unique to your needs. This will help you decide whether they are the best contractors for YOU!

After you ask your questions, it will become obvious which company you should choose. The company that wants your business will prove to you that they are the best contractor to do your work. Take your time to decide which contractor you would like to use – but when you decide, you must be loyal to them (See Mistake #3).

Mistake #3 – You always have three or more contractors competing with each other for your work.

You may think this is good way to do business; it is to some extent. But here is why it usually isn't a good way to deal with contractors.

A good contractor has enough loyal customers so that they don't have to deal with price shoppers. Once you find a good contractor, you must be loyal to them. If you flip-flop from contractor-to-contractor, a good shop won't be too motivated to keep YOU as a customer, and you'll be left "out in the cold" literally when you most need them.

Price is important. But price should not be more important than good quality and good service. This is what people typically like to do. They try to get everyone fighting for the same piece of pie. This might be an OK short-term strategy because you save a few bucks. But when you need a favor or super fast service, not one of these companies will instantly bend over backwards to help you. (And if you have been a price shopper in the past, they will probably charge you more!).

Every contractor expects to bend over backwards for their loyal customers now and then. He or she might have to work all night or on a weekend to do a super rush job or pull off a miracle. Provided the customer is loyal, the contractor will do all he can to help you meet your needs.

All good contractors will be loyal to you if YOU are loyal to them.

Keep loyalty in mind when you pick your contractor.

Mistake #4 – You think having the right equipment is all a contractor needs to do your job!

Many contractors own great equipment, but that doesn't mean they know how to use it. You can have the "latest, greatest technological wonder gizmo," but if you don’t know how to use it properly, you are better off not even picking the darn thing up.

Compare this to using all of the complicated controls on your VCR.

Studies show that half the people who own a VCR don’t even know how to set the clock, let alone use its advanced features.

The same thing happens in the contracting industry.

Many contractors have tools that have a lot of bells and whistles, but if he's a technician who doesn't know how to use the new features, you might as well go to a company that has old equipment. Make sure the technician is experienced and trained. This ensures your work will get done right the first time. And on time!

Mistake #5 – You don’t give your contractor enough time to complete your job properly! Mistakes happen when you rush!

When you're in a hurry, you may forget to tell your contractor certain instructions. Or you might make a mistake in judgment or purchase decision because you were concentrating on getting it done, instead of getting it done right.

Schedule. Schedule. Schedule.

Before you work on your contracting project, talk with your contractor. Get your contractor involved from the beginning because there might be more efficient way to finish your project on time that you don't know about.

You can save time, money and headaches from the very beginning by communicating with your contractor!

Why do most people do the opposite of this and wait until the last minute to talk to the contractor? Because everyone takes the contractor for granted. Everyone thinks the contractor can easily take care of his or her work. Most everyone thinks the contractor is sitting around waiting for his or her job to come through the door. This isn't the case.

You should think of your contractor as your "project partner." Consult with your contractor. Let them know in advance what you want installed or fixed. Ask them if there are any tips they can give you to make your job go more smoothly.

You are not the only customer your contractor has. When they walk in the door and you're saying you need it now, a contractor can't always help you. YOU need to work together.

Mistake #6 – You pick contractors who don’t guarantee their work.

All reputable contractors guarantee their work automatically. This means if they make mistakes on your job, they will re-do or fix your job at no charge.

Unfortunately, there are unethical contractors who won't do this. Instead, they won't make good on your work and may not take any responsibility for their mistakes.

An unethical contractor may hold your work hostage. Or they may say they will fix your job, but pin the problem on you and tack on an extra charge. There are about a hundred other things a not-so-good contractor may do to you.

The best thing you can do is pick a contractor who unconditionally guarantees their work. If it's not done right and it's their mistake, they will do it again or fix it.

Mistake #7 – You don’t ask for references.

This is probably the easiest way you can avoid any problems with a contractor. ALL good reputable contractors will eagerly give you references.

Ask your contractor to give at least three names of people with whom they have done business. Also, ask them how long they have worked with this customer.

Ask them what type of job they did for those references. Try and get the names of customers who had similar things done that you need done.

This is the easiest way you can pick the right contractor for YOU!

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Mistake #8 – You don’t understand the "lingo." Alright, this wasn’t one of the original seven mistakes. But it IS important. It's so important, I decided to define twelve of the most common air conditioning and heating terms so YOU understand what contractors are saying!

BTU: (British Thermal Unit) – The amount of energy that’s needed to change the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. This is how the heat removed from your home for cooling or added to your home for heating is measured.

Ton: The unit used to measure the capacity of an air conditioning system. One ton of air conditioning removes 12,000 BTU’s of heat energy per hour from your home.

CFM: Cubic Feet of Air per Minute. This is how the amount of air your central forced air heating and/or cooling system is measured. Less CFM is required for heating than cooling since warm air is lighter. Additionally, it takes 400 CFM to move one ton of air conditioning. Coil or Evaporator: Looks like the radiator on your car. Usually installed inside the box on top of your furnace. It takes the heat and moisture (humidity) out of the air as the refrigerant (also known as Freon or R410A) circulates through it.

Horsepower: One horsepower equal to 9,000 BTU/hr (check with your contractors exactly how many BTU/hr when they quote in horsepower)

Fan Coil: The air conditioner unit that is installed inside the house. It takes the heat and moisture out of the air as the refrigerant (what you might know as gas) evaporate.

Refrigerant: This is the real name for what many people call freon or R410A. It’s the fluid that evaporates at low temperatures and pulls heat and humidity out of the air to remove heat from your home in the summer, and put heat in your home in the winter if you own a heat pump.

Condenser: This is the unit outside the house that’s usually making all the noise (at least in the older models). This holds the compressor that is called the heart of your system. In addition, it also transforms your refrigerant (freon/R410A) from a gas to a liquid. Finally, there’s a fan discharging heat to the outdoors.

Compressor: The heart of your air conditioner. It moves the refrigerant from the condensing unit to the fan coil unit and back to the condensing to form a cycle.

Split System: The most common type of home comfort system in the country. Some components are inside the home and others outside. Inside is the furnace which has an evaporator coil. Outside is the condensing unit.

S.E.E.R.: Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating. Air conditioners and coils are rated by S.E.E.R. Higher S.E.E.R. ratings use electricity more efficiently, meaning you will use less kilowatts to cool your home and therefore reduce your monthly utility bill.

A.F.U.E.: Fossil fuel furnaces and boilers are rated by Annual Fuel Utilization of Efficiency. Higher A.F.U.E. ratings burn the fuel more efficiently, meaning you will use less gas, propane or oil to heat your home and therefore reduce your monthly energy bill.