In another thread this issue was brought up.
Is it OK for a customer to buy their own material
(in my case tile), and expect a professional contractor
to install it?
It's a good question, and one I've faced probably a
few hundred times over many years. My opinion is
that customers who purchace materials first, without
consulting a professional do so blindly and many
suffer for years for a bad decision.
The first thought people have about this is that the
customer is "cutting out the contractor" from making
a markup on materials. Generally this is where the
discussion centers on. I think it's the wrong discussion.
As I've mentioned, there are two kinds of customers who
buy their own materials...
(1) the person who does so innocently, just thinking it
is the right thing to do, and:
(2) the person who deliberately is trying to save money
and cut out the markup from the contractor.
Person (2) is often trying to be cheap and probably wants
a cheap price on installation too. I quickly try to get out
of dealing with person (2), and as far as I'm concerned
if they want to go cheap, go ahead. I'm not interested.
Save some money on the tile, save money on the
installation- and get what you pay for.
What about the innocent person though? Is it wise
to buy materials first, then hire a contractor install it?
Adjusting the price is possible with the decent customer who
wants a good installation and is willing to pay for it.
They will agree to pay a little more to the contractor, knowing
now that they innocently cut into his profit. That, though,
the least of the potention problems caused by people buying
their own material.
Some people buy such crappy material that I don't want to be
associated with it. Others will buy the wrong amount but swear
it's more than enough. Some will buy "close out" tile and not
be aware it's 4 different shades, dye lots, bad sizing etc.
Some will bring the material home and stack it wrong (horizontally),
cracking dozens of them. The problem with cracking is that it's
often not noticed until the grouting process when the cracks get
wet and are visible for the first time. I've spent tons of time
weeding through the "junk" to pick out the good tiles.
People buy thinset and grout 4 months before the job so it's
lumpy by tiling time, yet want to "break it up" and still use it.
People buy the wrong type of thinset and insist I use it because
"the guy" at the store said it was the right stuff, and of course
"the guy at the store" is a real expert.
People will buy the tile and expect me to pick it up for them
since I have a truck, and after all.....they're hiring me to do
the work!......so the store makes the profit and I'm supposed
to do the work hauling it?
These are just a sampling of problems that have come up
in my 25 years of tile contracting. By far the easiest and
wisest thing for my customers to do is contact me _first_
and let me help them with what is now state-of-the-art,
what is not already outdated... what is the right tile for them-
what goes with their home and furniture. What tile works
best with children? Old people who may slip? Animals
who track in dirt? Who can help them with this more than
an expert consulting with them in their home?
Issues of color, style, size, type, quality, glaze hardness,
break strength and the issues in this paragraph can't be
"figured out" by the average homeowner.
Most people choosing new tile haven't done it in many years,
sometimes 10, 15 or 20 years. They are surprised at what
is now available for them in 2007. The selections are
greatly multiplied from my early years doing this, but that
just makes it far more important for customers to let me
help them and point them in the right direction.
I know what showrooms and distributorships are honest
and good quality, and where they will be safe shopping
for fair pricing. I know where they should avoid.
When I send them to certain distributor showrooms,
I specifically name the showroom people there who I know
are expert and honest. The customer can benefit from
People also greatly appreciate help, encouragement
and persuasion to do the 'right thing' and find that perfect
tile that they'll live with for many years. I'm frank and
honest when they're heading in a wrong direction.
Elderly people need to be persuaded against smooth
slick tile. Outdoor tile needs to be clearly non-slip.
12x12 tile will be immediately outdated. Etc Etc Etc.
Customers need to be straight forwardly told when
they are heading in a wrong direction, and appreciate
the help and guidance. The goal is always at the end
of the job to hear "thank you so-much for your help,
we are so thrilled with the job". Even better is to go
back years later for other work there and hear again
how happy they have been with the tile.
A professional tile contractor's head is full of knowledge
and ideas. It is a shame when people don't access this
opportunity to get some fresh ideas and perspective.
It isn't about "sales". It isn't about "making money". Any
contractor who has this as their goal does a disservice to
their customers. What it's "about" is the customer. They
are paying a lot of money for the work and tile. They have
to live with the result for years as the installer moves on
to other things. The goal is to lead the customer to that
perfect selection that will fit their needs, then perform
an installation that will make their project a success.
Customers have friends and family. They want these people
to come over and say "hey that looks great". They want to
remain satisfied for many years. Contractors and installers
who have this customer-first attitude will have no problem
getting work, or making money, and will be a blessing to
Should the customer purchace materials before consulting
with the contractor/installer? I don't think so.