By REMODELING Magazine Staff. Don't go there

You hear a client's tale of woe about a bad contractor and think, "I'm a good guy, I won't treat them like this." You want to be their knight in shining armor. But these clients are well trained in all the wrong ways to go about conducting the client-contractor relationship.

This negative attitude and lack of trust is the reason we don't take on jobs another contractor started. Homeowners will be more likely to want to get even or make up for the beating they just took. Even a contract written by a good lawyer won't be good enough to protect the contractor. People are smart enough to know if they don't pay you'll eventually give up.

Hard-won wisdom

I learned a lesson from a bathroom job where the client had a bad experience with a contractor. We took the job and were just finishing when she and her husband said the ceramic tile didn't match and was not installed per their requirements. I had told them it wouldn't match and had installed the tile per their exact instructions. They said if they weren't happy, they considered the job incomplete. They created this situation so they would not have to pay me and could make up for what they had lost. Jobs like these take an emotional and financial toll on you and take time away from potentially productive jobs.

--Jack Philbin, Philbin Construction & Remodeling, Crestwood, Ill., Big 50 1990

Finish it up

In the past, I have taken over several jobs with mixed results. But I do not think you should reject the possibility out of hand. The success of the client-builder relationship is always based on the integrity of the client and builder and the nature of the chemistry between the parties. If a client suffered at the hands of an incompetent or dishonest builder, she may be truly appreciative of a good builder when she meets one.

In one positive case, when the client hired me after working with an incompetent builder, he was glad to find someone he could trust. It helped that before doing the project for him, I worked for him as a consultant for three months.

Set up for success

At my company, we work on several large jobs per year, so I have time to investigate and analyze the client. Also, all of our jobs are cost-plus, which is especially helpful on this type of job. We charge a weekly supervision fee plus our markup. I would typically want to negotiate a somewhat higher fee structure because of the inherent problems of taking over someone else's work. The client is usually more than happy to pay if they have truly learned that you get what you pay for. I have received positive reinforcement for my cost-plus work from jobs like this. The client on a $3 million job I took over from an incompetent builder is appreciative of my billing. He says the process is transparent and helps him fully understand what is involved.

--Gary Gallagher, Gallagher Home Builders, Concord, Mass., Big 50 2002