Don’t let greed ruin your next remodeling project

August 14, 2022

By Jeb Breithaupt, B.Arch, MBA

It happens to the best of us when we’re trying to get a good deal on home remodeling services.

I’m always telling people not to give into their inner greed; that the cheapest guy usually is in no way, shape or form the best guy for the job.

So why, oh why, did I succumb to greed when I was looking for someone to remove a dead tree from my yard?

I’ll tell you what happened if you promise not to judge. I already have this image in my head of my insurance agent shaking his finger at me and asking, “Why did you do that? You know better. You warn your clients not to do it. You write articles about it.”

Here’s what I did: I hired a freelance landscaper/handyman to do some yard work and make a few repairs around my property, and I fell into the all-too-common trap of saying, “Hey, as long as you’re here, can you do one more thing?”

A tree in my yard—half a tree really, after it was blown around during the early summer storms a while back—needed to be removed. A couple of other trees had gotten ruined during the storms, too, and shortly afterward, I hired the tree service that I always recommend to my own clients to take them down. I know Miller Tree Service has all the required contractor’s licenses and has insurance on all of its crew members in case something goes wrong. Of course I’d hire a company like that, right? I’m a professional contractor myself, after all.

But I thought this beat-up half-tree would grow back, so I kept it. But it didn’t grow back, and I’d been meaning to call Miller to get rid of it, but I never got around to it.

Anyway, I hadn’t intended to have any trees removed the day I brought this landscaper/handyman over, but hey, as long as he was at my house, I figured I could save a few bucks by getting him to remove the tree, or at least take the top of it off. I’m pretty sure that guy didn’t have any insurance, and my homeowner’s insurance would wind up paying the claim—and raising my rates—if the tree fell on him, or me, or my house. And still, “Hey, as long as you’re here.”

Like I said, greed happens.

The guy said he couldn’t do it, but he has a buddy who could, and he’d do it for $100 less than a licensed, insured tree service like Miller.


That’s when the image of my finger-wagging insurance agent popped into my head. Then something else came to mind, and that’s what saved me.

I remembered a friend of mine who wound up calling the fire department to come and fish a not-so-credible contractor out of a tree in his yard after the guy climbed up and promptly passed out.
I swear, he was straddling the trunk and draped over a branch, out cold, 20 feet up.

Fully 17% of contractors in the building and remodeling trades do drugs, according to the federal government. I guess that guy sleeping in my buddy’s tree is one of them.

Between the image of the unconscious contractor and the one of my insurance agent, my good sense overcame my moment of greed. I told the landscaper/handyman, “No thanks.”

Lesson learned. I hope my moment of weakness will teach you a couple of things, too:

  1. When you cut corners to save a few bucks, you’ll pay double in lost time, accident-related insurance premium increases, and having to hire a second contractor to do the job over right.
  2. Hiring someone without a state contractor’s license and insurance for the job you need done puts you, your property and the contractor himself at risk if he’s stepping out of his area of expertise because you’re waving dollar bills in his face. Greed works both ways.

Don’t let greed override your sound judgment. It’s almost always worth paying a few extra bucks for a job well done.

Jeb Breithaupt, B. Arch., MBA, is the president of Re-Bath in Shreveport. You can contact him at 318-216-4525 or by visiting