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Sanity check on contractor behavior

11 years ago

Hello all,

Over the course of getting my kitchen, connected front hallway, and bathroom renovated, I have been increasingly frustrated with my contractors. But as a first time renovator, I have no idea how out of the ordinary their behavior and the service quality rendered has been. I'm posting here in the hopes that some of you will be willing to read my tale and tell me what you think.

I opted to go with a full design and build firm because of how little I know, and because I didn't want the hassle of dealing with permits, inspections, shopping, etc.

I chose my contractors over the other likely options for two primary reasons: 1) I prefer contact online to over the phone, and they had a cool new online interface that they would update with pictures of their work, an interactive schedule, an updating budget, etc. which would allow me to know when they'd be in the unit, where the process stood, etc. 2) They led me to believe that they had access to significant discounts on finish materials that they would be passing on to me, as well as a warehouse of leftover materials from other projects that they could sell to me at a discount.

I made it clear to them that as I was planning on renting out one of the rooms and I'm located near a university campus, I needed the renovations done by mid-September so that the unit was ready for the new roommate to move in.

They said they could fit the contract into my stated budget of 23K, and we signed off on it.

Then, things started going wrong.
0. The designers, managers and salespeople bought into the fancy website, but the builders didn't. The result is that I never knew if they'd be in my condo or not. I never knew what the updated schedule was. The process wasn't being documented and put online. And to communicate with the actual workers I still had to use the phone.
1. The so-called discounted prices they had access to didn't seem to exist. I could get better prices on the Internet and sometimes even at my local hardware store. I ended up having to source all of the faucets, drawer pulls, and knobs. Their tile prices were barely better in price than we could get elsewhere. We were able to source a sink and some tile from their warehouse and the warehouse tile was a pretty good deal but the sink was comparable to in-store prices.
2. The budget turned out to be too small for their lowest-end cabinets. The owner stepped in and offered to make us custom cabinets, since my kitchen is a tiny galley. Since I know that custom cabinets are WAY more expensive, I was initially mollified by this offer. But custom-made implies customization, and that's not what really happened...
3. My 'custom-made' painted wood cabinets have a particle-board frame. Although we ripped out the soffit in order to give me more cabinet space, they do not go to the ceiling, so they had to put a panel where the soffit used to be. The bottoms of the cabinets are not thick enough for the under-cabinet lights, so those lights and the wires connecting them are only hidden by a ledge. All of these could have been addressed if the cabinets were really custom-made for the project
4. They mis-measured my (3-month old) water heater (apparently professionals don't realize that metal cabinets are thinner than wood cabinets, and so measuring the outside of the old metal cabinets does not give you the size the wood cabinets have to be), so that my 'custom' cabinets are too small for the heater. The result? I have to spend $500 on another brand new water heater.
5. When the water heater issue was discovered, they dragged their feet on everything and work on the renos stopped. The result? I was without hot water for over 2.5 months, 21 days of which was spent waiting for them to answer my questions about water heaters.
6. 11 days after I approved the water heater, I finally contact them, including the owner, to complain and ask what was going on. They suddenly discover that the manufacturer sent the wrong model. Three days later, they have the right model and come and install it. No explanation of why the wrong heater took 11 days and a complaint email to arrive, but the right heater only took three days. Maybe it's because they never placed the damned order.
7. When they ripped up the carpet, I told them I wanted to keep it. They threw it out.
8. Apparently they didn't notice that my walls are made of concrete, because now they're saying, oops, we can't make the cabinetry flush to the wall because of the concrete, and oops, we can't install wood baseboards because these are concrete walls, so you'll have to have rubber baseboards instead to cover the crooked edges of the tile, because we didn't invest the effort to make them nice and straight because we assumed we'd have baseboards covering our mistakes.
9. The dishwasher doesn't work. This might be faulty installation on their part, or it might be the dishwasher; we'll have to see.

There are a number of other small issues which may or may not end up being resolved before this is all over. But it is now December 31. While we are down to the finishing details, those details still aren't finished, and we're already 3.5 months beyond the deadline we originally set for the project.

So, how badly do you think I'm being screwed?

Thanks in advance!

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