So Cousin Ed is a licensed specialty contractor and you have a construction job you want done that may or may not be in his realm of expertise. Are you close enough to know he’d do a good job at a great price; or are you looking for an escape route?
Using a family member or friend to do your contracting work has a number of great advantages. In theory at least, they should give you a better price than the so-called market price that you’d get when put out to strangers. In addition, the old threats of “I know where you live” or “I’m going to tell Mom!” take on a whole new meaning if that friend or family member screws up and doesn’t take care of the problem in a timely manner.
Family dynamics (and/or a family therapist) might have a lot to do with the decision process, but if you are considering using someone close, first make sure they are qualified to do the work you want done. A dose of reality here – relationship factors pushing the use of a family member or friend who is not qualified to do the work will sometimes trump common sense. That happens to even us so-called ‘knowledgeable experts’. I used a family friend who happens to be a roofer to do some non-roofing work on my house because he was short of cash and said he could do it. I had to redo that work as it didn’t meet local code and frankly, I can be a bit picky when it comes to my definition of professional workmanship standards.
Would I do it again?
Yes, because the relationship with the family friend was more important and I had the ability to “fix” the problem once he was gone. In most cases, the decision to use a family member or close friend as your contractor will come down to your knowledge of the individual and the strength of the personal relationship. Assume something will go wrong and then run that scenario out to your ‘best guess’ result – if that individual’s definition of integrity is the same (or stronger) than yours, you shouldn’t have a problem.
What I’ve covered so far is more in the realm of interpersonal relationships than in the world of contracting. So let’s get rid of the ‘Dr. Phil’ analysis and touch the real situation of having someone close who is a contractor or who recommended a contractor and your need to diplomatically protect yourself from their best intentions. Before you let that certain someone know of your construction intentions, get a bid or proposal from another contractor. This will give you a baseline that you can use to ascertain how really helpful is good ol’ Cousin Ed.
Now if Ed’s really honest, he’ll probably tell you if he isn’t qualified or the right kind of contractor that you need. But he may know someone. Use his referral as one of your bidders if you’re comfortable or you don’t want to offend, but get additional bids. Having other bids not only gives you some negotiating room with whichever contractor is your first choice, but may also give you a diplomatic way out if your first choice isn’t the family member or friend.