I recently did a remodel at our office here, without hiring a general contractor. Meaning, I dealt with all the individual specialty contractors myself in an effort to save money. With the whole recent debate this year about unions vs. whoever, I thought it might be interesting to examine which type of contractors did better. Here’s a rundown of how my experience went.
Unionized contractors in Spokane:
-HVAC / Heating and AC Company: Gave me a quote of 2-300 and sent me a bill for 1700. Guy quit on the job at 3:00 in the afternoon because he said that his labor union has contracted with his boss that if he works past 3 each day, he gets time and a half for that day. SUMMARY: I think the guy poked around on the job and insanely overbilled me!! I mean 1700 bucks to do an AC inspection?
-ELECTRICAL COMPANY 1: 1st bill was about 1,000 over what we expected, so on the next round of work, I had the owner give me a firm quote of 550 for outlets, 4 new outdoor lights at 100 each, and 600 to install the outdoor lights. His bill came to me for 2936. He said he just gave me a bill for time and materials. I said, “You gave me a firm quote!?” I complained more, and he lowered it to 1800 and made me feel guilty about it. The thought of honoring a quote never really occured to him.
-SECURITY SYSTEM: Job went 1.5 month past the expected finish date. I got the entire downtown fire department at our building, made KHQ news, job still isn’t done, and every time we talk, they want another 500-1000 bucks because their original bid “Didn’t include that…” This was a 15,000 security system, and that didn’t include everything? Really?
-CUSTOM CABINETS: Job went 2 weeks overdue. They charged by credit card so many different times, sent us bills and statements for a month, and it took us two days to figure out what they even charged us for. When I called to complain about the job taking longer than the estimated time, they said their order person was on vacation and told me to screw off and just wait for it to get done.
IN SUMMARY; every contractor I used in Spokane that had unionized employees did a bad job, took longer to complete the job, overbilled me, and was a headache to deal with.
NON-unionized contractors I used in Spokane:
-DEMO WORK: Good price… Screwed with me a little on the last day, wanted another 500 bucks, but they were 10,000 cheaper than any other bid, so I didn’t care.
-PAINTING: Great price, great job, did the job when he said he would, and cared about the work done. Billed me what he quoted.
-WINDOWS: Great price, had great expertise in figuring out our 120 year old windows, got the job done when he said he would. Stayed till 9 o’clock at night to get the job done. Billed me what he quoted.
-DUCT CLEANING: Great price, rescheduled once, did a really nice job. Charged me what he quoted.
-FLOOR INSTALLATION: Great price, great job, after a 3 week job, billed me what he quoted me.
-WELDER: Used a sketchy company… They didn’t do a good job. I hear the ironworkers of Spokane are the strongest union in Spokane… Maybe I should have used someone from there!
-GARAGE DOOR: Sketchy guy. He tried to screw me. Ended up with an awkward ending.
-PLUMBER 1: Super slow guy, big bill, had him scheduled to come back, and when I called him, he was on vacation.
-PLUMBER 2: Great job, great price, billed what he quoted… But charged me 11.00 for a fuel surcharge?
-CLEANER: Great price. Great job. Correct Bill.
-MASONRY: Great price, great job. This guy was an artist with that thing he used to slap the mortar on with.
-ELECTRICAL COMPANY 2: Great price, came when they said they would, fixed all the mistakes from the unionized electricians, billed me what they said they would.
-WINDOW SECURITY TINT: Decent price, knowledgeable staff, owner took all kinds of extra time to help me pick the right solution for our needs. Billed what they said they would.
-GRANITE: Did the job when they said they would, superfast, correct bill, good work.
-CABINET INSTALLER: Nice price, came when he said he would, didn’t realize this would be so messy, and he wanted another 30 bucks to put our trim on the cabinets.
-POOL TABLE: Good price, came when they said they would, got it done. Correct bill.
-DOOR GUY: Good price, came on time, finished on time, same bill as quoted.
So after all this, what are my conclusions?
1. Hire a general contractor.
2. Why did this take my entire year?
3. Companies that use union labor basically performed worse than non-union labor companies.
4. Companies that aren’t unionized will screw you as well, but not as often as union companies.
5. Did I mention hire a general contractor?
6. I feel bad for owners of companies that have to deal with union employees. They are all nice people, but wow… It would totally suck to have to deal with a union.
7. I should hire a general contractor next time.