Home improvement contractors are blasted every year in annual consumer complaint surveys, ranking at or near the top of the pile in terms of gripes about shoddy workmanship, poor performance and a whole host of other categories.
But a survey released last week by the Opinion Research Corp. says that for the most part, overall satisfaction with workmen employed to remodel kitchens, replace roofs or add a room is largely positive.
Indeed, nearly a quarter of the respondents said the final outcome exceeded their expectations, and close to half said that the job turned out pretty much the way they expected.
Only a small number said the work did not meet expectations or boasted that even as rank amateurs, they could have done better had they done the work themselves. Indeed, 10 percent were relieved they didn't have to do the work, largely because they had neither the time nor the skill to complete the tasks on their own.
In case you are wondering on what planet this survey was taken, the thousand or so respondents were not without their complaints. They had plenty, but chief among them were these recurring themes:
- Contractors did not show up when they said they would.
- Projects took longer to complete than the owners were told they would.
- Owners had to wait an inordinate amount of time for the work to start.
There also was a recurring pet peeve that workers failed to clean up after themselves. Mess and dust were everywhere, people complained, suggesting overwhelmingly that workers should wear gloves, shoe mitts and disposable overalls, and provide their own clean-up products.
Now most contractors use drop clothes, but the folks taking part in this survey said it would be good if workers also provided pre-moistened hand wipes and disposable towels that remove dirt, dust and paint.
Trying to turn a big, burly construction worker into a clean freak may be stretching it a bit. But then again, the survey was done on behalf of Kimberly-Clark's SCOTT Rags in a Box, so that's probably why respondents were even asked if they spend all their time cleaning up after the workers leave for the day. Otherwise, the answers revealed a sort of love-hate relationship between homeowners and the people they hire to repair and renovate their homes. For example, while a third said it didn't bother them to have someone invade their castles for long periods, 17 percent said they felt obliged to stay home to protect their possessions from theft and damage.
Thirteen percent said they felt "creepy" with strangers roaming all over their places, but nine percent said they wished they could just leave for vacation and comeback when the work was done. Six percent said they felt like they were living in the middle of a demolition derby.
Of course, no survey on remodeling would be complete without asking people what type of projects they were tackling and how they found the contractors they eventually hired.
The jobs most likely to be turned over to a professional were additions and renovations, followed by such specialty work as roofing, gutters, electrical work, window replacement, carpeting and flooring. The two projects most likely to be tackled by do-it-yourselfers were painting and wallpapering.
And finally, most people went by word of mouth when they hired a contractor. They relied more on recommendations from friends, neighbors and family members than on flyers, circulars, coupons and ads. And more than half said they checked references "all or most of the time."
Maybe that's why these survey participants seemed to be more satisfied than most.