How do I avoid Contractor nickel and diming me?

I found a local contractor to build a deck for me out of a imported exotic hardwood (ipe). The project involved removing an existing deck and rebuilding it. He did seem to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He quoted me a price (labor only) approximately 70% more than two other contractors because he did his research and knew that this wood is difficult to work with. The suppliers of the wood estimate labor costs approximately 50% higher than using a traditional deck wood, so I did not think his estimate was totally unreasonable. The other two contractors have never heard of ipe wood, and I believe simply ignorant of the difficulty in working with this EXTREMELY hard dense wood (all screws and holes must be predrilled, and cannot hammer through this wood). I accepted his bid without haggling, and I told him that I expected that he was a master craftsman, and I expected that he is an expert, and that is why I would pay him top dollar. He quoted me a time estimate of 2 1/2 weeks to complete the deck.
Since beginning he has taken every opportunity to charge me extra labor costs. Firstly, on demolition of the existing deck, he said that the existing deck posts were deeper than anticipated, and so he charged me rental for a larger jack hammer than he had, and charged me $650 extra ($65 an hour for extra 10 hours). I told him that I was not pleased, but agreed for him to proceed. I do not know exactly how much EXTRA time (beyond what he expected and should have been covered by the original bid) but I seriously doubt it was 10 hours.
Then when I discovered that the wood supplier would not unload the delivery truck, he said he wanted to unload it, and that he needed a fork-lift (approximately 6000 lbs total weight of wood). The supplier told me that there were about 5 batches of wood. I told him to go ahead, and that I could not imagine that it would take more than an hour to unload the truck using a fork-lift. Well after this occured, he charged me 2 1/2 hrs labor (this time he charged $75 an hour) time. When I said that I could not understand how it could have taken 2 1/2 hours to unload with a fork-lift, he said he examined each piece of wood, and that is why it took that length of time. When I complained, he asked if I wanted him to just accept lousy wood, I told him I felt that examining the building materials should included in his original labor bid. But I went ahead and paid him.
He has worked on the project a total of 4 days, and the posts, and joists are all up and now he says he will be finished within a week.
I find it very f**ked-up, that he takes every opportunity to charge me additional labor costs when he says a particular step is taking longer than anticipated, but when and if he finishes the project in less than half the time he said it would, why should not I request a 50% return of the labor costs he bid. Obviously, the overall labor time is way less than he proposed to me, why am paying for extra labor costs. Do all contractors pay this game, and how can I prevent this in the future?
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I found a local contractor to build a deck for me out of a imported exotic hardwood (ipe). The project involved removing an existing deck and rebuilding it. He did seem to be very knowledgeable and enthusiastic. He quoted me a price (labor only) approximately 70% more than two other contractors because he did his research and knew that this wood is difficult to work with. The suppliers of the wood estimate labor costs approximately 50% higher than using a traditional deck wood, so I did not think his estimate was totally unreasonable. The other two contractors have never heard of ipe wood, and I believe simply ignorant of the difficulty in working with this EXTREMELY hard dense wood (all screws and holes must be predrilled, and cannot hammer through this wood). I accepted his bid without haggling, and I told him that I expected that he was a master craftsman, and I expected that he is an expert, and that is why I would pay him top dollar. He quoted me a time estimate of 2 1/2 weeks to complete the deck.
Since beginning he has taken every opportunity to charge me extra labor costs. Firstly, on demolition of the existing deck, he said that the existing deck posts were deeper than anticipated, and so he charged me rental for a larger jack hammer than he had, and charged me $650 extra ($65 an hour for extra 10 hours). I told him that I was not pleased, but agreed for him to proceed. I do not know exactly how much EXTRA time (beyond what he expected and should have been covered by the original bid) but I seriously doubt it was 10 hours.
Then when I discovered that the wood supplier would not unload the delivery truck, he said he wanted to unload it, and that he needed a fork-lift (approximately 6000 lbs total weight of wood). The supplier told me that there were about 5 batches of wood. I told him to go ahead, and that I could not imagine that it would take more than an hour to unload the truck using a fork-lift. Well after this occured, he charged me 2 1/2 hrs labor (this time he charged $75 an hour) time. When I said that I could not understand how it could have taken 2 1/2 hours to unload with a fork-lift, he said he examined each piece of wood, and that is why it took that length of time. When I complained, he asked if I wanted him to just accept lousy wood, I told him I felt that examining the building materials should included in his original labor bid. But I went ahead and paid him.
He has worked on the project a total of 4 days, and the posts, and joists are all up and now he says he will be finished within a week.
I find it very f**ked-up, that he takes every opportunity to charge me additional labor costs when he says a particular step is taking longer than anticipated, but when and if he finishes the project in less than half the time he said it would, why should not I request a 50% return of the labor costs he bid. Obviously, the overall labor time is way less than he proposed to me, why am paying for extra labor costs. Do all contractors pay this game, and how can I prevent this in the future?
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I had a similar problem when I first purchased my house. I hired the high bidder because he was more knowledgeable and seem to have thought of the details the others didn't. I was not satisfied with he job. He cut a lot of corners.
I have since learned that it is sometimes better to throw out the way high bid and the way low bid and seriously look at the middle. The high bidder might not want the job but will do it if you overpay. The low bidder will cut too many corners. It sounds like you need to get more quotes to see if the high bidder was in line.
snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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Just say no!!!!! If you think a contractor is milking you and charging extra just say no. Remind them of the contract you signed and his estimate. If he balks remind him that he is not going to be paid until deck is X% finshed and then final payment is made upon finishing,. You do have a signed contract right? You did check references? If you keep letting it go the deck will cost a lot more than the estimate.
snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

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On 25 Sep 2006 16:15:46 -0700, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

No. You are being had.
However, in the real world, you have to ask whether you are better off finishing the job by patronizing him or proceeding with legal threats and even suing. How firm is your contract?
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" snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com" wrote

Sounds as if you hired a handyman, hoping to get a professional job.
You do not mention a contract, and though assumption is not a good thing for me to do, I assume you do not have a contract.
You mention "When I said that I could not understand how it could have taken 2 1/2 hours to unload with a fork-lift, he said he examined each piece of wood, and that is why it took that length of time. When I complained, he asked if I wanted him to just accept lousy wood, I told him I felt that examining the building materials should included in his original labor bid." A professional will inspect, and crown wood before installing, any reputable supplier will honor rejects. You don't inspect while the delivery driver is still there.
You can prevent being bent over, by having someone familiar with contracts, make sure all parties are protected, especially you.
Additional work above the work spelled out in a contract, is always extra. Cost factors should be agreed to, before signing the contract.
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Q: How do I avoid Contractor nickel and diming me?
A: Have a contract.
S
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And any and all change orders must be in writing and signed by both parties. Any disputes can be immediately cleared up by pulling out the original contract or change order.
PUT IT IN WRITING.
Steve
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This doesn't sound like nickel and diming to me. It's more like $10's and $20's. There are several ways to avoid it:
1 - Check out the guys references
2 - Have a written contract that is clear
3 - Just say no
In the case of the paying extra to jack hammer the existing posts out, why did you agree to pay for an extra 10hrs X $65? plus tool rental. Did you verify that the post footings even were anything out of the normal? Was removal not included in the contract? If it was, then I would have just told him, sorry, but this is included in the agreement. End of discussion. And at that point, it was the beginning of the job, where you should have either got him under control or gotten rid of him.
In the case of the wood, unless specified otherwise, it's not the contractor's responsibility to unload wood that you are supplying. I'd put part of the blame on the supplier for this one. Surely many of the sites they deliver to don't have a fork lift waiting. When someone is ordering 3 tons of wood, they should have discussed how it's going to be unloaded. At that point, if they couldn't provide an unloading option, you might have been able to find another supplier.
I think the contractor's story of 2.5 hours to unload the wood because he had to inspect it is BS. In any construction contract, unless it's stated otherwise, it's implied that would be part of the job. The only exception would be if you used salvaged wood, or similar that is in totally unknown condition. But, if the 2.5hrs x $75 includes the forklift, that really doesn't sound too bad. What other options were there and how much would they have cost?
As to trying to get your money back at the end of the job, forget it. You don't have a leg to stand on. At both these points, you agreed to what he was doing, either before or after the fact and you paid him. If you try to recover it later, no court is gonna find in your favor. Next time, just say no.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

<snip>
I don't know, why are you (paying more than you contracted for)?
--

dadiOH
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Next time ... references, references, references ... and a work breakdown. If you ever contract any work, ask for references ... and talk to the people the person has done work for. That's the best way I know of to avoid most problems. For this job though, the extra (unforseen) may be reasonable.
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You are being taken advantage of.
do you have a contract? if so, simply point to it (assuming that its detailed enough).
I've done a ton of small jobs, including "special work" (things like odd woods or custom made parts).
I always have contract - it protects both me and the customer. If there are parts of the project that are impossible to set a solid price on (like digging holes where there may be ledge, unknown shipping costs for large custom parts that may come from far away, etc), I simply include a line that states something like "if ledge is present, customer will either pay actual additional costs incurred, or may, at his option, terminate the contract by paying all outstanding charges at that time" for things like the shipping problems, I include language like "parts needed for XXXX are being supplied by CompanyZZZZ. Cost of shipping parts to teh job site are not included in this quote, and are customers responsibility"...
On occasion, a customer complains about the "loopholes", but when I explain that if I have to put a number in, it will have to be the maximum possible cost, which the customer will then be obligated to pay, regardless of the actual cost. Usually they are OK with it, but now and then they insist on including an actual price. Their choice.
Thing like loading trucks, inspecting stock, etc are part of the basic bid - its simply a part of the job. Charging extra for it is like charging extra to go buy nails.
Any time I'm digging (no matter how little), the ledge clause goes into the contract. once again, if a customer complains, I explain that a chunk of ledge in the wrong spot can cost tousands of dollars to deal with. The clause simply gives the customer the choice of continuing the job and paying the actual costs, or stopping. I insist on having them pay the costs up to that point for two reasons; first, simply because i have to make a living, and second, because usually it would be discovered fairly early in the job. Either right after demo is done or right at the begining (when new foundations footings or whatever are being dug).
My basic premise is that if the customer is never surprised b an additional cost, and is given the option of stopping if a large unexpected cost comes up, they'll be happy. so far, its worked. The worst thing I've had happen was a customer that had started a job (major deck/sunporch enlargement), and we did hit a large area of ledge. We spent a few hours trying to work around it (looking for other ways to place the footings), and when it just wasn't possible, the customer decided to stop the job because they could not afford the extra work. We chatted for a bit, and came up with a fairly low-cost way to close things down for a year (so that there wouldn't be weather damage to the exposed parts), and scheduled the job to continue the following year. Not ideal, but it gave the client time to save up for the ledge removal, caused a minor additional expense (we both gave a bit in the closing up and re-opening part of the work), and meant that the client had a year without a porch or deck. The following spring, they were the first job I did, and they are still one of the best references I have. They weren't happy that they had to go so long without their porch, and they weren't happy about paying to have the ledge removed, but they weren't surprised (we had discussed the possibility of ledge during the contract phase), and they were happy that I was willing to work with them to close the house back up as economically as possible, and in a way that would make it easy to continue the job later. When it became clear that we were going to have to find a work around to the situation, we both sat down and talked about our options, and came up with a solution that worked - not perfect or ideal, but it did work.....
--JD

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what's a ledge? Do you mean a ledge or outcrop of granite or bedrock near the surface of the ground that makes digging a foundation a little extra work? Power tools?
I'm afraid I would never agree to such a clause in a contract. I would expect the bidder to assume that there is always a 'ledge' and bid accordingly.

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I'm a little confused. If you have solid ledge, what do you need footings for? Why can't you just drill holes and epoxy post-bases right to the planet?
--goedjn
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You can have a regular deck and work that is not perfect - wood which is not so perfect, and get this done for a lower cost.
However if you want top quality materials - top quality work, and you hire a perfectionist, then it can cost a pretty penny.
I would say that at the higher end, it is not uncommon to have additional costs. Also it is not uncommon to have the customer suddenly decide to make changes and of course pay for this. Some very rich customers will have all work torn out and start again with a new idea and different design. Again they pay up the wazoo for this.
I would say you get what you pay for. When you hire a perfectionist, they will not do substandard work. But it costs big $$.
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snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com wrote:

Simple.
"I expect the project to be finished on time, in an acceptable manner, with no more charges for anything else. Should you fail to meet my expectations, I will cut off your lips."
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On 25 Sep 2006 16:15:46 -0700, " snipped-for-privacy@yahoo.com"

He is taking every chance to charge you because you let him the first time, plain and simple, he found a sucker.
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