The Latest

Will You Choose the Cheap Contractor? Or the Artist?

A few months ago, my friend (who I’ll call Clare for the sake of this true story) was in the position to choose a contractor for the small, charming century-old house she gutted and is bringing back to life.

Clare got full bids from two contractors. Contractor Artisan’s bid was more expensive by 10s of thousands of dollars, but he has a reputation for being an artist and a perfectionist.

Contractor Cheapo’s bid, on the other hand, was 10s of thousands of dollars cheaper, and he has a reputation for being less than exacting in his work, and does work of lesser quality.

So, Clare had to decide: Do I pay extra for the craftsman, or save money and get less quality?

You may one day be in this situation and you may wonder how to make the decision.

I’m pretty sure you don’t want to do what Clare did, which is to hire the cheaper guy and then spend months complaining about the schlocky work he does. “Sins” so far include framing that looks like a 10-year-old did it (safe and legal but ugly), crooked trim work, and mistreatment of expensive fixtures.

So how do  you decide what to do? Ask yourself a few questions:

1. Is saving money the most important thing in life without exception?

If yes, choose Contractor Cheapo
If no, keep asking questions

2. Is having a high-quality project the most important thing in life without exception?

If yes, choose Contractor Artisan
If no, keep asking questions

3.  Is complaining about the faults of contractors a favorite pastime?

If yes, choose Contractor Cheapo
If no, keep asking questions

4. Is having a warm feeling from having the most considerate, thoughtful contractor important?

If yes, choose Contractor Artisan
If no, keep asking question

Bottom line: There is of course a great desire to have the best quality job for the cheapest price. Good luck with that. I guess it’s theoretically possible. But in reality, from my observations over several decades, you get what  you pay for. That’s just the facts, folks.

As this house project goes on and Clare has more indignities to deal with each day from Contractor Cheapo, it’s all I can do to keep my mouth shut. What I really want to say, though it would not be helpful in the least, is this: “You consciously and knowingly chose Contractor Cheapo in order to save a few bucks. This is the result of that decision. Stop complaining.”

Of course, I won’t say that to Clare. I care about her and don’t want to add to her misery. But I’ll say it to you. If you choose to save money by hiring the guy with no experience, or the guy with no license, or the guy who’s moving around so fast from job to overbooked job, you deserve what you get. If you don’t want to put yourself in that position, make a different choice.

However, if saving money is the most important thing in your life without exception — and is more important than a high quality job, or peace of mind, or anything else — then by all means, hire the cheapest guy you can dig up.

But please don’t complain about the pain you are bringing into your life. At least not to me.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.