Should I Let a Big Box Store Contractor Install My Purchase?
Our answer is no, but we still want you to decide for yourself. So we are going to weigh the pros and cons of having a big home store take care of installation for you. When you purchase materials or appliances at a big box store, you can also get them to have someone install it for you. Usually at a fair price. It’s a one stop shop. Super convenient, but what do you have to exchange for that convenience? And how do big box contractors measure up to local companies? Are you paying an unseen price for this service? We’ll give you a hint: The bigger the company, the tighter their margins are. This can be both good and bad for their customers. Tight margins on retail items means savings for customers. Tight margins on installation means that the installers are always in a rush. Keep reading to learn the details about letting a big box store install your purchase. But first, a story.
Several years ago, I helped a very skilled carpenter install cabinets that were purchased from big box stores. We didn’t make as much as we did from local cabinet companies, but it was still worth our time. Eventually, I got out of this business, but kept in touch with my former boss. A few years later he told me that the payment for installing cabinets sold by them was so low that no self-employed carpenter who had invested in tools, trucks, equipment, certifications, insurance, and licenses could work for them anymore.
How is this possible for a big box home store? How does it work?
Once again, the profit margins for huge companies are very tight. But how do they make money with small markups? Volume. If you’re only making a penny on every dollar’s worth of goods or services sold, you have to sell millions upon millions of dollars worth of goods and services sold. That’s the whole game for huge companies.
Why is my big box installer rushing around?
The workers that install the store’s items for them get paid a flat fee for every single job. The problem with this is that every job is different. They may make money on a job that doesn’t need any extra attention, then lose money on a job with a bunch of unforeseen problems. How do the installers make sure that they are making a profit for the day? They move as fast as possible to complete as many jobs as possible. Various types of installers show up to the big box store extremely early, 5-6am, because the earliest people get to cherry pick the easiest jobs. This is one way to make sure that they are profitable while working for a big home store. If you aren’t a morning person, you get stuck with undesirable jobs, and are more likely to lose money on them. These are usually old homes that need other repairs they aren’t going to be making, and will most likely have unforeseen problems. But it’s a flat fee for the job no matter what.
These contractors have zero incentive to do great work, or do anything extra, because they will never see the customer again. There is no relationship building for big box stores. Do it cheap and fast and hope it stays together.
What does that mean for the customer? At best, it means that you probably paid less for your items at the big box store than you would have at a small home materials, fixtures, or appliance supply company. However, it also means that you are going to have a very impersonal experience where the person who comes to your home to install the purchase moves as fast as possible so that they can do as many installations per day as possible, it’s the only way to remain profitable in that system. Worst case, you have a problem with the installation, and you have to navigate a massive corporate entity to get it solved. Calling customer service is never fun. But if you hire a small local company, you can call the owner directly. See where this is going?
A customer called us, and she was distraught. She said that her bathroom floor was falling in. We thought that something had gone terribly wrong until we looked at our records. She had called us for an estimate a year earlier, but decided to hire the big box installers. It was a tiny, 5 foot by 8 foot bathroom. It would have taken us a week to tear all of the materials and fixtures out. According to her, they took 3 months just to demo the tiny bathroom. And in that 3 months, they failed to remove the old, rotten subflooring. These “carpenters” screwed new plywood on top of it, into the rotten wood. Because the bathroom was not properly sealed, and the plumbing was not checked thoroughly, water was pooling in various areas and rotted the new plywood immediately. Luckily, we fixed it for her before anyone fell through the floor. But we wish that she didn’t have to go through the ordeal to begin with. You may have had good experiences with big box installers. We are not saying it’s all bad. However, when things go wrong, they go really wrong, and they are slow to get fixed. If the problem is ever made right. In addition, you have to spend a ton of time and energy just to get to the right person to fix the problem. This is inevitable when carpenters are underpaid, and are forced to always do their jobs in a rush.
What are the benefits of a small, local contractor?
Something else to consider is that a local contractor has to invest a lot of time and money into getting their business started. Getting a job as an installer for a big home store has a very low barrier to entry. Can you read a tape measure and run a chop saw? You’re in! No one ever compliments these installers, but it’s not necessarily because they are bad at what they do. It is because they are forced to rush through every job by the system in place. They provide no guarantees, and there is an extremely high turnover in these positions.
You can’t do any sort of remodeling, carpentry, or installation in a huge rush or it is going to cost the homeowner later on, and no carpenter that values their quality of work is going to be able to function in such a chaotic system.
We are trained, certified, and guarantee our work. We only work with homeowners, and we are a small company where you can call the owner, Ralph Severson, directly, at any time. You get quality work, transparent pricing, we don’t rush through anything, and we take great care of our employees.
So, is it guaranteed that a big box contractor will do shoddy work? No. Most of the time, they do a fine job. But when performing any task in a huge rush, more mistakes happen. There is a much much higher chance that something will be forgotten, overlooked, or flat out ignored that will cost the homeowner much much more in the long run. On top of that, they have no reason to build relationships, and even if they did, they don’t have time to.
Call a local contractor that you have a direct relationship with, you can get on the phone, and most of all, that you can build a relationship of trust with.
Do you need to remodel or renovate your home in Southern Indiana? Don’t hesitate to call us here at Flooring Masters & Professional Remodelers. We provide our customers with lifetime relationships, and take great care in our work. Along with the best options for perfect floors and other renovations. Schedule a free estimate today!
About The Author
John Raisor is a former carpenter and chef turned writer.