I got a phone call last week from a guy we'd done some work for recently, who had a friend who's contractor walked off the job - a kitchen remodel - before completing the project. Long story short, we were recommended to the friend, and after visiting the job site and meeting with the guy, I decided that we'd take the work and finish the job.
This gem pictured to the left, that's the condition I found the kitchen in. Looks like it's close to being finished, right?
Looks can be deceiving.
This thing was a mess. There are two certainties when it comes to a situation where a contractor has bailed on a job before it's completed: 1, the work that was done is going to look like it was done by a blindfolded animal (a guy whose level of integrity allows him to accept payment for work and then disappear before completing it is the same type of guy who performs work without using things like levels, tape measures, a plan, common sense, skill, etc.) and 2, the work that's left to be done, it's not going to be the easy chunk of work; it's going to be all the challenging stuff.
The pictures below are just SOME of the examples of BS work the previous contractor did, work that we either had to completely redo, or creatively work around:
The worst part about taking on a job like this is that there's always a new - and not cool - surprise around every corner. Without knowing the guy's original plan of attack, or his logic behind why he did things the way that he did, it's very challenging to try to pick up where he left off. Likewise, there were a number of jobs left to be finished, including drywall work, tile setting, tile grouting, painting, window trim, etc., each one taking just about as much time to perform the work as it did to get out and set up the appropriate tools, which unfortunately makes for a very inefficient and frustrating way of going about the work.
Ultimately, we got things (mostly) wrapped up, and with some strategic tile placement and meticulous grouting, we were able to minimize the obviousness of the previous contractor's mistakes. There are still a few details left to take care of, like adding the switch/receptacle cover plates and installing a couple cable supported shelves on the wall with the stove, but for the most part, the kitchen is at least functional and the homeowner can sleep at night knowing the job has finally been, and will be, in good hands.
The moral of the story is this: when you're hiring somebody to work on your house, do everything possible to make sure they're legit, 1, and 2, know what they're doing. Make the contractor work up a contract, and make sure the payment terms are such that the contractor won't see a ton of money until the job is completed to your satisfaction. Ask for references, and/or verified examples of work. Make sure they get the appropriate permits, if applicable. Ask if they have insurance, or any licenses (most municipalities "require" a contractor's license, which admittedly isn't much more than a money grab by said municipalities). Even if you do all this, there's still no guarantee that a crappy contractor won't disappear halfway through project, but you can definitely do some things to swing the odds in your favor, and not have to live through the nightmare this client recently had to.