AJB Landscaping & Fence

Wood & Metal Fences • Decks & Patios • Pavers & Retaining Walls • Olympia & Tacoma

AJB Landscaping & Fence | 1015 85th Ave SE, Suite #1, Tumwater, WA 98501, (360) 789-3707

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You Get What You Pay For: Why The Lowest Contractor Bid Is Not Always The Best

"You get what you pay for" A truer phrase was never written in regards to hiring a contractor for landscaping services.  Although it may be difficult to turn down a low bid for a large project, it may end up saving you time, money, and a huge headache down the road.  It's important to take a step back and do your homework on potential contractors before hiring.

I am a Dupont, Washington resident who recently hired AJB Services after having a terrible experience with a different contractor not finishing my cedar fence project.  I want to share my experience here as a cautionary tale to other customers.

My husband and I recently decided to hire out for a cedar fence with a rolling driveway gate for our backyard.  We contacted two Olympia area fence and landscaping companies to come out and bid our project. AJB Services, and we'll call the other company 'Company B'.

From the get-go, AJB Services was professional, punctual, and easy to work with.  AJB came out, checked the project out and had a bid back to us that same evening. To contrast the initial experience with Company B: They showed up late for the bid, forgot their measuring tape, borrowed ours, and seemed to be frazzled/rushed.  Although the lack of professionalism should have been a warning sign, Company B had a military discount (they promised to beat any competitors bid).  Company B asked if they could see AJB's bid.  They looked it over and decided on the spot that he could beat the AJB Services bid by $400.  "$400!? WOW!" I said to myself!  Not being able to shrug off a $400 price difference, we ended up accepting Company B's bid on the spot.

Company B asked if they could collect the deposit and start immediately.  Of course that was fine with us, we wanted our new fence!  The only problem was that they never seemed to show up when they said they would.  When they did show up they only stayed for a few unproductive hours.

After finishing only part of the fence (everything except for the rolling gate, which was the one thing we really wanted), Company B requested that we pay them more money.  Not the entire project amount, just a little more, which they said "seemed fair" since they had completed most of the work.  Obviously we should have said no.  Unfortunately, we were naive, and forked over most of the cash.  Upon paying them they promptly stopped returning our phone calls and emails.  It wasn't until after we'd handed over the money that we started noticing how terrible their work actually was.  The most devastating thing we discovered was that Company B hadn't used the correct post size in order to support our much anticipated rolling gate.  This meant we'd have to tear down part of our new fence in order to put the rolling gate in.

After 4 weeks of silence from Company B, they finally e-mailed us saying they'd show up in a week to finish the job and profusely apologized (but gave no explanation as to why they'd been ignoring us for an entire month). Not surprisingly a week rolled by and we still had no gate. Over the course of a few months they made a few more promises of showing up (but obviously didn't).

After 2-3 months of unsuccessful dealings with Company B we gave up and asked AJB Services if they'd come out and complete the job.  AJB Services came out, re-bid the rolling driveway gate, and was out there the next week completing the project.  It took them 1 1/2 days to finish the gate and fence (AJB Services also fixed Company B's shoddy work on the fence).  They were punctual, professional, and knew what they were doing.

In the end, blindly going with the lowest bid to save $400 ended up costing us over $2000 and a ton of stress.  When we started having problems with Company B we actually did some research on them and found a few negative reviews. We also found out that the company was only a few months old and did not have much practical work experience with landscaping and constructing fences. Obviously if we'd done our research prior to hiring them we wouldn't have gone with Company B.

This has been a huge learning experience for us and when we hire future contractors we will most definitely be doing our homework on them. Also, our decision will not be solely based on who can do it the cheapest!"


Response from Aaron Border, Owner of AJB Construction:

Unfortunately this situation is all too common in the landscaping world and we see this kind of unethical, substandard work frequently.  When hiring contractors for a project, cost is obviously a huge factor -- just don't let it be your only factor. The success of any project relies heavily on finding an ethical, reliable, professional, competent, and experienced contractor. Do your homework!

So, as a consumer how can you protect yourself?  Here are some tips from us:

  1. Hire a Licensed and Bonded Contractor
  2. Research Contractors' Through Other Resources
  3. Check References
    • Ask for references for work done within the last year as well as work done within the last 3-4 years.  By asking for both current and old references you'll be able to get a better idea of the contractors standing with customers and how their work has fared over the years.

    • Questions to ask previous customers about a potential contractor:
      1. Overall, were they satisfied with the contractor and their work?
      2. What was the quality of work?
      3. How was their communication?
      4. Was work completed in the proposed time frame?
      5. Did the contractor willingly resolve any problems in a timely and professional manner?
      6. Did the contractor stay within the proposed budget?

  4. Verify Insurance
    • Make sure any contractor you're hiring has workmen's compensation, general liability and surety bond coverage.  If a worker is injured on your property and the contractor doesn't have insurance you may be held responsible for paying any medical bills.

  5. Get at least 3 bids
    • Make sure all bids are bidding the same plans- Be very specific on the scope of the project, materials, brands, color, size, etc.

  6. Don't Pay in full until the job is done

  7. Get a written contract and be sure you fully understand it before signing

  8. Take your gut feeling into account
    • How do you feel about the contractor? Do you feel comfortable with them? Will you be comfortable having them around for a few weeks, months, longer?  It's essential that you have a good feeling about who you're hiring.  It's important to feel confident that you'll be able to maintain a working relationship with a potential contractor.

Remember, you are your own best advocate!  Do the extra work and do your research on any contractor you're thinking of hiring!  Getting a quality contractor is well worth the extra leg work!