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The Surprising Cost of Cutting Corners

Cutting corners is all too common in the home improvement industry, but contractors who try to stretch their time and dollars too far are in danger of losing their bread and butter sooner or later. Cutting corners on a home improvement project leads to unhappy clients, and even potential liability in the event someone gets hurt due to a contractor’s negligence.

Whether you’re a flooring contractor, a general contractor, or specialize in electrical work or plumbing, knowing the cost of cutting corners and making sure all of your crew members are doing the job right will not only possibly save your business, but it’ll also lead to new and repeat customers.

cost of cutting corners

How Contractors Cut Corners

Contractors who cut corners to save money do so in a variety of ways. Depending on how a contractor was initially trained, some corner-cutting bad habits may be unintentional. Other times, a they may cut corners in order to make a particular job profitable that would otherwise be a loss due to an overly aggressive timeline, a client who self-contracts higher-dollar aspects of the job, or quoting a job too low.

Here are some of the most common ways contractors cut corners.

Compromising Safety

Safety is often the first casualty of cutting corners, since safety measures have no intrinsic dollar value. Safety decreases when a contractor rushes through a job, uses sub-par materials, or fails to set and enforce safety protocol.

Substituting Materials

Since homeowners pay more attention to the finished product rather than the nuts and bolts of a home improvement project, the chances are low that they’ll notice a contractor who cuts corners by using sub-par building materials that are ultimately hidden from view behind walls, under floors, or above ceilings. Some contractors may also “bait and switch,” in which they tell the homeowner she’s getting one thing, but they install another, cheaper version.

Poor Workmanship

Contractors with specialized skills and qualifications command higher pay, but sometimes a builder will hire less-qualified contractors to save money and increase the profit margin. In some cases, a lack of qualified talent may lead to less-experienced contractors taking on a job. Poor workmanship can also result when a contractor rushes through the work to maximize profit.

A Lack of Oversight

Builders and contractors who don’t provide adequate oversight and supervision during a project have a higher risk of poor workmanship, safety issues, and cut corners. Hiring a qualified foreman or project manager can help ensure the project is completed to high standards.

Ordering Materials Sight Unseen

Ordering materials without first seeing what the quality is and what the final product will look like is a classic mistake some contractors make when trying to cut costs. It’s important to take the extra time and go the extra mile to inspect your materials before you purchase them. Choose to work with a supplier like BuildDirect, which provides free samples to contractors to help them avoid this cost-cutting pitfall.

flooring samples
Order free samples from BuildDirect to test the quality before committing.

The High Cost of Cutting Corners

Cutting corners can cause serious consequences that have far-reaching effects, up to and including putting you out of business. Here are some of the surprising costs of cutting corners every contractor should consider before doing a less-than-stellar job.

Reduced Worker Safety

One important cost of cutting corners is reduced worker safety. If you cut corners by opting out of hiring a foreman or manager, your workers may engage in unsafe practices, whether out of ignorance or convenience. This puts your workers at risk for on-site injuries, which are a major headache and usually very expensive, since worker injuries often lead to costly civil cases and government fines.

Reduced Customer Safety

Poorly installed ceilings, floors, electrical, and plumbing can spell disaster down the road. Cutting corners can put your customers’ safety at risk, which opens you up to lawsuits that have the power to ruin your business.

Negative Online and Word-of-Mouth Reviews

Chances are, cutting corners is going to catch up to you eventually. If a customer isn’t happy with the workmanship, materials, or other aspect of the job, you can bet it will all come out in the wash. People who have a negative experience with a business are two to three times more likely to mention it than people who have a positive experience, and both word-of-mouth and online negative reviews can put a major dent in your business. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family more than they trust advertising, and 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews written by other consumers as much as they trust recommendations from friends and family.

Greater Losses Down the Road

Contractors who cut corners to save money often pay later on in lost business, a poor reputation, or worse. When the job begins to unravel down the road because of poor quality materials, shoddy workmanship, or improper installation, the homeowner will likely discover the poor job and try to recoup those costs from the contractor. This could lead to lawsuits, formal complaints to government officials, and lots of bad publicity.

The bottom line is that protecting your business means doing honest, high quality work that meets or exceeds the relevant building codes and the customer’s expectations. The potential cost of cutting corners is simply too high to risk everything for a few bucks in savings.

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