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Question DetailsAsked on 1/18/2017

how is Home Depot for remodeling kitchens vs independent contractors

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Here is a previous similar question about Depot/Lowes and such type home improvement box stores -

Basically, my impression of them is very poor, based on word of mouth in the industry and a few friends/neighbors who have used them. You are basically paying a box store a markup percentage (sometimes as much as 100% over independent contractor "market price") to get their subcontractors to come do the work. Of course, it is likely there are very good and very bad store employees working such jobs, and good and bad contractors - but google a vendor name plus the word complaints and what you find about pretty much all chain stores offerring contracting is not very encouraging.

They do not have their staff for the work, sometimes use contracted project administrators, sometimes their own employees to "supervise" the subcontractors. And commonly they are not licensed for the work they contract for - for instance, in my state, neither Lowes or Home Depot (according to state licensing board license web search site) are licensed as residential construction contractors, so they are operating illegally - which also means possibly that any insurance or bonding they have may be invalid too, because those commonly do not cover illegal operations.

Several of the biggest complaints about box stores as contractors, though not necessarily unique to them, include:

1) they push or demand that you use only their products on the job, regardless of what you want, so your choices are commonly severly limited

2) the products they have or push are generally lower "contra tor grade" or "off the shelf" quality (which can be pretty poor), so if you want a higher-end work product their materials commonly cannot meet that standard

3) the contractors working for them are generally not paid full market rate, so in many cases (as with home warranty companies) you are dealing with new inexperienced contractors just getting started (so less experienced and more chances of errors and delays) or ones who cannot get enough work on their own so they accept the less desireable box store work - meaning your performance expectations are less likely to be met, and because of the lower pay rate they are more likely to cut corners or do less professional work or finish the job out to the level of detail and completion expected

4) contractors commonly try to upsell you on additional work or upgrades not in the contract, or claim certain scope is not part of the contract, asking you to pay them more money directly - even though that is likely in violation with their contract with the box store

5) the "designers" generally are not professioanlly trained in design or in building code requirements so you can get projects that are not to code or have goofy design elements, or do not fulfill your desires as well as an architect would be expected to do. And the "designers" are commonly reported as being unavailable after the job gets under way, so getting corrections or mid-job change order incorporated can be a problem

6) the box store "project manager" or "coordinator" - who may have little or no project constreuction or management experience (sometimes straight out of high school) tend not to stay on top of the work, are hard to get in contact with, do not push the contractors to do timely or quality work

7) generally, your day to day contact and any questions to be answered are with the contractors directly, even though the contract si with the store - so there is a LOT of opportunity for confusion, claims of approval for change order you did noto think were ca change order, claims by the contractors of homeowner-caused delays, etc. Pretty much an invitation to trouble.

8) workmanship is commonly only fair to mediocre at best, and the box store project managers commonly consider that standard to be what you paid for, so your recourse is very limited if you are not happy with the job as done.

9) Unlike dealing with a normal contractor where you have a lot of leverage (as long as you do not pay beyond the amount of work correctly done), box stores commonly want full up-front payment before the job starts (or carte blanche with your credit card), and if no full up front payment are pretty ready to take legal action if you refuse to pay for substandard work when THEY say you are done, not when YOU think so

10) change order procedure is confusing or non-existent, as are completion inspections and punchlists (the list of final minor (hopefully) items that need to be done before the job is considered "complete" - the contractors just tend to walk off the job when THEY think they are done, not when you do - commonly without even saying they think their part of the job is done

11) failure to complete work anywhere near on time in a significant percentage of cases

12) in many cases, people go to the box stores (or to nationwide franchises like ReBath or RotoRooter or Midas or such chain franchises) figuring they should be cheaper - only to find out that the prices may be surprisingly higher than the normal market rate for that project - sometimes dramatically higher by several fold. I have seen and heard of several cases where the box store or franchise chain bid was as much as 10 times that of local independent contractors

13) cost control - the store intends the job to be finished for not more than the contract amount, and generally has no contingency built-in, so there is a major reluctance to redo defective or shoddy work or to do anything not specifically in the scope of work

14) which scope of work, BTW, is generally prepared totally by them during the pre-contract inspection and measurement visit, so if they fail to include needed work to get the job done right it may be their fault, but they consider it a change order unlesss something absolutely and specifically spelled out by code to be their responsibility - which is rarely the case.

One example I heard of - changing from forced air heat to hot water baseboard heat for allergy reasons, but the bid did not spell out removing the old piping and boiler and radiators OR installing ducting - but the box store tried to claim they bid on installing a new forced air furnace, NOT a forced air heating system and removing the existing hot water system. Never did hear how the court case came out, but it was pretty clear why they won the contract on low price, which the homeowner was bragging about so he probably should have realized it was too good to be true.

As you can probably guess - my recommendation is if you want a professional job, get a well-rated and reviewed and well recommended long-time local general contractor (or specialty contractor for a specific single type of work needing done) to do your project - and for larger jobs, an experienced remodeling architect as well to help develop the concept and to provide the plans and specs, help develop a reasonable payment schedule and contract, assist with permits and contractor selection, and provide during-construction inspection and advice.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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