Avoiding the “Con” in “Construction”

by Chris Bjorklund

If you subscribe to my e-mail newsletter, The Diamond Certified Consumer Report, you may have heard my interview with Kia Ricchi, the contractor who wrote Avoiding the Con in Construction. She describes many of the shady practices that plague the construction industry. Ms. Ricchi emphasizes that “The con artist will always be with us. Consumers need more tools to find better contractors.”

I agree. Diamond Certified ratings are definitely one of those tools. Contractors listed for your county have had to go through a rigorous review process, which includes credential verification and consumer surveys, to earn Diamond Certified.

Ms. Ricchi has a useful checklist in her book to help you find better contractors. Rather than getting a list of references, she suggests asking for the names of people for the contractor’s last three jobs, so he can’t “cherry-pick” the ones he gives you. Another good strategy is to carefully define the scope of you work before gathering estimates. That way you’ll be comparing “apples to apples” instead of “apples to oranges.” This takes more work on your part in the beginning of a project, but can pay off big-time in the long run. Estimates will vary, according to Ms. Ricchi, but in general, they should not vary by more than 10 to 15 percent.

One of her last suggestions is a good one. If you can possibly visit a contractor’s job site, do it. Is it clean and orderly? Do the employees have up-to-date tools and equipment? Are safety precautions being taken? It will give you a lot of information about how the company conducts its business.