How to Choose a Bathroom Flooring Contractor

by Raymond Alexander Kukkee

How can you find a reliable, expert contractor to install a bathroom floor without being taken to the cleaners? Making a bad choice can be disastrous and costly if dishonesty, cost-cutting and shoddy workmanship is encountered. The fact is, an honest and competent contractor should handle a project as if it was in his own home. The good guys are out there, and here is how to find one:

Call your Favorite Tile Contractor

• Word of mouth. Good reputations travel like good news. If someone you know has a floor they are proud to show you and is happy with a contractor, it’s a good sign. If they experienced no difficulty in the process, check out that contractor. Odds are, he’ll do the same for you. A happy customer showing off excellent workmanship with pride is by far the best recommendation any contractor can have.

• Watch local advertising. Most contractors advertise what they specialize in, but remember the very best of the lot may not necessarily have to advertise. Their solid reputation, history of reliability, satisfied customer base, and excellent workmanship is well known –and highly respected by others in related building trades, so ask other contractors you may know and trust. A reputable, high-quality home builder will be proud to recommend the reputable bathroom flooring subcontractor that does all of his high-quality installations.

• Use the telephone. Call them. Do they have an office, working shop, or just a voice mail number? Is anyone there, or do you have to leave a message more than once? Did they return your call quickly? If not, move on.

• Check Web sites, ads and offerings. A typical search might include “bathroom flooring contractors,” “ceramic tile installers,” and “flooring installers” Sometimes special deals or discounts are offered as a bonus for visiting these sites. You may be able to get non-binding online quotes for comparison purposes even before asking anyone to knock on your door. Such quotes can give you a rough idea what your project may cost and what to expect. They can also prompt you to ask the right questions.

• Ask local vendors and building centers selling ceramic tile and other floor coverings who they recommend. Why? They are often delighted to see the best, most professional and least problematic installation of the products they sell and warrant. Building centers sell supplies to contractors. Not surprisingly, they also know which two-bit contractor always buys the cheapest, end-of-line product and low-end materials to cut corners on jobs quoted. .

In larger urban centers, there are probably dozens, if not hundreds of contractors available — big, small, and also independent tradesmen. How do you actually decide which one to go to? There are some basic tips that can be observed, and a few questions you can ask over the telephone which may help focus your short list of potential contractors:

• Remember big flooring contractors are not necessarily the best. Often they are too busy installing major commercial contracts to take time to deal with a small residential customer in a timely manner. Look for high-quality mid-sized contractors that specialize in residential installations instead.

• Beware of false advertising. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. That “super deal” ceramic tile product he advertises may have been a loss-leader, “end-of-line” or “seconds”, which are products with minor defects to draw in potential customers. Nothing is free. Using such sales techniques is less than honest and should raise a cautionary flag.

• How long have they been in business?

• Are they licensed appropriately in your jurisdiction?

• Will they provide 2 or 3 references and the location of completed projects that you could visit and inspect? Does they avoid giving references and referring to previous jobs?

• Do they offer a portfolio of pictures of jobs completed on a website, or is the web page “not available”?

• Does the contractor return your calls promptly, or a week or two later, making excuses?

• Did the contractor show up for his appointment right on time, dressed appropriately?

• Did the contractor come equipped with a tape measure, clipboard and quote sheets in hand at the door? Any busy contractor that insists he will remember every detail of your quote and specific job is suspect. If he objects to getting it in writing, move on.

• Do they insist on your paying out all of the money up front? Which Mediterranean island is that fly-by-night operator headed to when he gets your money?  A 15% to 25% deposit on acceptance of a quote should get any reliable contractor started on your job.

• Is the estimator evasive, or does he competently answer all specific questions you ask?

• Because there are often so many tradesmen looking for business in tough economic times they may be tempted to quote anything to get a contract signed. Are his cost statements realistic when compared to other quotes? What is the maximum estimate cost-overrun you will be responsible for?

• Did the contractor conduct himself professionally talking to you?

A  tough decision must  now be made. Using these considerations as  basic guidelines might have eliminated  a number of contractors that may  even have made a good impression upon you.  How do you decide which one to go  with ?     It’s simple.   For the best,   choose the contractors  that have   earned your confidence and respect. Be sure to ask them  some more questions when they come  to finalize your quotation.

Bottom line,  it is your project, and you deserve the best.