Canadian Contractor

Steve Payne   

5 common mistakes contractors make

Canadian Contractor Marketing & Sales Profitability Professional Satisfaction Service

by Karen Hamilton

15 years ago, my husband and I bought a vacation home in Haliburton, ON. Built in the 1960s, our cottage stayed in its original form until last fall, when we could finally afford to renovate it.

Our contractor was okay to deal with and our reno turned out more or less as we’d envisioned and was completed on time. Yet despite all that, when we’re asked to give a reference, we don’t give glowing reviews; okay reviews, yes, but definitely not glowing.

The reason? Our contractor did things, little things, that when taken together, undermined our confidence in him. If his goal was to finish the job and get paid for his work, he did what he set out to do. But if his goal was a satisfied customer who would eagerly refer more work to him, he unfortunately missed the mark.


Here’s what went wrong.

1. Not following up on leads

One reason we hired the contractor we did was because he was the only one who responded to our request for a quotation. We phoned other companies, leaving our contact information with them (sometimes two or three times), but we never heard back.

2. No detailed quote

Call me high-maintenance but when I spend in the neighbourhood of $70,000, I think it’s nice to get an itemized list of deliverables rather than a vaguely worded, hand-written quote with a grand total scribbled at the bottom. I’ve received more detailed receipts when I’ve bought coffee and donuts at Tim Horton’s. Just sayin’.

3. No portfolio

Selecting the perfect vinyl siding for our cottage from the, oh, three trillion options available was challenging. I know our contractor was trying to be helpful when he’d point to a sample and tell me, “I did a cottage two lakes over in that one last summer” but a portfolio of pictures showcasing his work would have been even better.

4. No updates

Because we live a three hour drive from our cottage, trips to the job site were infrequent. Periodic emails with photos of work in progress would have been appreciated. Sometimes our crew was reassigned to another job, or bad weather kept them from working at all. Fair enough, but a quick heads-up would have kept us calm when we arrived on the weekend and wondered why nothing had been done. And even if a homeowner makes regular visits to the job site, it doesn’t mean they understand what’s going on. Regular communication goes a long way toward pre-empting misunderstandings.

5. Not addressing deficiencies

They say the last 3 percent of the job takes at least 15 percent of the effort. Tying up loose ends is a pain, but because deficiencies come to light towards the end of a job, they’re often what homeowners remember most. Consequently, how they’re handled plays an important role in overall customer satisfaction. In our case, a promised screen door that inexplicably took months to appear coloured our perception of service.


Karen Hamilton is part of the team at Hammerati is a professional network exclusively for the construction industry.


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