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Ask the Contractor: Advice: Let the contractor supply materials

Wow, I had no idea our column last week on owner-supplied materials would cause a rash of emails, phone calls and thumbs-up.

Several builders called and said “Good article, Sandy.” During each of these calls, the builders said they had come across situations where their clients wanted to supply fixtures and/or materials. As we discussed last week, the homeowners wanted to purchase items from “wherever” and then have the contractor install them.

I asked contractor “A” how he handles this type of request. He said he will allow a client to buy owner-supplied items only if he is given a copy of the paid invoice. The contractor then creates a change order and charges a management fee for the item. It then becomes a part of the contract and is covered under the builder’s warranty because he has now any of his expenses covered should something go wrong with the owner-supplied item. The builder management fee, I am sure, varies depending on the owner-supplied item.

Builder “B” has agreed to install owner-supplied items; however, as we discussed in our article last week, if anything goes wrong with the item, the owner needs to resolve that with the place of purchase and then pay for labor to uninstall and reinstall and/or any corrective work that is affected by the failed item, which we said can be costly.

Again, understand that the reason for a management fee on owner-supplied items is because the builder has accepted liability in his contract.

A local HVAC contractor called and he enjoyed our article and wanted to toss his two cents in. This company has experienced a rash of customer calls with issues pertaining to the installation of owner-purchased thermostats (local stores and via the internet).

Soon, the owners discovered (1) they did not know how to install/wire the thermostat, which they had left loosely connected to the wall with unsafe wiring or just dangling from a wire or (2) they assumed they installed it correctly, and now it was not working and they had no heat, so they called the HVAC company for help to check the heating unit. There are diagnostic and trip charges involved.

Once on site, in all cases the problem was the thermostat, owner-supplied and owner-installed incorrectly. Plus some of these thermostats are from other countries with no installation manuals on site. HVAC companies do not perform services for free to take corrective action on an owner-caused problem. It is much better to have the HVAC company install a thermostat that they use and are familiar with, that can be matched with the heating unit and work proficiently and then the product and installation would be under warranty for two years. Easy breezy, save money, save time and be much happier.

Most contractors strongly recommend against supplying materials yourself unless it’s a very unique item. We know it happens; I receive phone calls. A homeowner sees a flier or an advertisement announcing a special price and they want to buy the material for a remodeling project. Dear homeowner, this makes things tough, and I get it when you can go to the big-box guys and purchase something for the same price or less than a contractor can.

Contractors are not cookie-cutter guys and should not be made to puzzle piece things together when there is not enough material, or the wrong material is ordered and the list goes on.

Again, many contractors make it abundantly clear to the homeowners that if they want to supply materials, the contractor needs to make a profit, and his service ties all of the details together, no cookie-cutting and everything is under warranty.

Again, I get we all need to save money, but keep in mind, there will be an add-on charge for warranty, protection and making sure everything ties together.

I love internet shopping as much as the next person; however, when it comes to remodeling and home products, I am going with a local licensed contractor. I know where my ducks are, I know the puzzle pieces will fit together and I know I have a warranty and where to go if there is a problem.

Remember: Products that appear to be identical may not be. Some products sold through different supply channels and retail outlets may have the same or similar model numbers, but may be packaged in differing configurations or built to differing specifications for each seller.

Some parts or components of a product that appear identical may be manufactured to differing standards and may present inferior or lower quality than those sold through professional trade distribution channels.

A product may not include parts, accessories and materials that are required for the product to be properly installed, fully operable, functional, usable or complete.

Personnel may sell you ancillary components that are unnecessary, inappropriate or incompatible with material systems used by the professional tradesmen. Products may not be code compliant.

Locating and buying replacement parts of expendables (i.e. cartridges for a faucet that wear out over time) may prove problematic through a retail outlet that stocks only the retail product and does not stock parts.

The item may be damaged (chipped, scratched) or not visibly defective.

If a return, exchange or additional parts are necessary, the homeowner will be responsible for the additional cost of removing and reinstalling the product, and you will also be responsible returning or exchanging the product at the source.

Returns and exchanges may be subject to restocking charges, shipping and handling charges and time limits on returns.

If you buy a product on the internet and it is shipped to you, you will be responsible to ship the product back for replacement, if it can be returned. You also will be responsible for the additional cost of labor for removing and reinstalling the product.

In summary, and I know I am repeating myself, complications, interruptions and delays caused by scheduling conflicts and non-code compliant or sub-standard labor or materials can and do occur when supplied by the homeowner. Projects tend to run more smoothly and have better overall outcomes when selections are made through professional trade distribution channels and your contractor maintains control over the work force and scheduling.

I am off my soap box for now. Until next week, have a super stellar week.

Enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading YCCA’s Ask the Contractor. Remember to tune in to YCCA’s “Hammer Time” twice each Saturday and Sunday at 7 a.m. on KQNA 1130 AM/99.9 FM/or 95.5 FM or on kqna.com. Listen to Sandy and Mike talk about the construction industry and meet your local community partners and contractors and so much more.

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