A Ramblin’ Family Meet Jack and His Cousins
Jack-of-All-Trades,” “Fly-by-Nights,” “Storm Chasers,” “Tailgaters,” “On-the-Siders” and “Do-It-Yourselfers” all compete against more legitimate contractors and win a substantial amount of work. They will continue to do so as long as property owners believe the perceived savings outweigh the potential risk.
Here are some definitions of a variety of “unlicensed” contractor terms as well as a list of the pros as the perceived benefit to the property owner and the cons as the potential risk. Take a look at the Jack-of-All-Trades and some of his cousins.
Jack-of-All-Trades – Contractor who claims to be proficient at every task required for any project both large and small.
Pros: A great resource for projects requiring the performance of a wider variety of tasks than specialty contractors can typically offer. Willingness to work outside of the law—without the proper permits—can expedite the process.
Cons: Often a master of none and the quality of work shows it. Typically, Jacks are not certified or licensed for each of the individual tasks. Property owners who allow a contractor to work outside of the law assume the risk of being caught by codes enforcement and can be in fined.
Fly-by-Night – Here today and gone tomorrow.
Pros: He claims to have just moved back to the area, or to be new to the area. He often will offer a low price to property owners and tell them it is because he wants to show off his work in the neighborhood and needs references. This may allow property owners to believe they will get the contractor’s best work because of their situation.
Cons: The work is often shoddy and intended to look good and work properly just long enough for the check to clear and the contractor to move on. There is a high possibility the work will never be performed or completed satisfactorily. They are often trying to just get the deposit from the homeowner without doing any work, or the deposit and the first draw.
Storm Chasers – These fellows follow the weather channel to find their victims. Storm chasers convince property owners they have received damage to their homes from hail, wind or snow and that their insurance will cover new doors, windows and siding. Sometimes they may even cause damage to the home during their “inspection.”
Pros: Storm chasers convince property owners they have a legitimate insurance claim and they will receive new doors, windows, siding and roofing for “free”—covered by their homeowners’ insurance.
Cons: They con the property owner into allowing them to perform the repairs before the insurance claim is settled. The homeowner is also partially responsible for any insurance fraud.
Tailgaters – Contractors who wander through neighborhoods writing up contracts on their tailgate desk with prices too good to be true…
Pros: Property owners save huge amounts of money because this contractor is “working in the neighborhood.”
Cons: Tailgaters often work outside of the rules and regulations do not follow industry standards or guidelines and work without proper insurance, permits or licenses. Property owners expose themselves to liability associated with those risks.
Do-It–Yourselfers – DIY homeowners try to tackle projects themselves that oftentimes should be left to the professional.
Pros: Property owners convince themselves they can save substantial money because they have seen how “easy” it is on YouTube, the DIY Network or when a professional did the same project in their neighborhood.
Cons: DIYers don’t consider the cost of their time. The project may not be as easy as it looks when done by a pro, on their computer or television screen. A mis-measured door or window can be very costly and improper installation can cause lots of damage if it allows water penetration. Energy savings are also diminished if air infiltration still remains.
On-the-Siders – Full-time employees of professional contractors who agree to work for a property owner.
Pros: Homeowners can save money and get the same professional installation they would have received by hiring the On-the-Sider’s boss.
Cons: Uninsured, outside of the law and, perhaps, stealing materials or “borrowing” tools to perform the work is not only dishonest, it exposes the property owner to liability. —Mark Milanese