(This one’s a long one … so stop now, or hang in there.)
We’ve hired contractors before.
This has happened to us before.
It was puzzling when it happened before.
And it still baffles me.
Contractors do a job for you and then you pay them. Hopefully, you’ll find a good, well-established contractor with great references and s/he does a great job. That is the absolute best scenario. Other times, they steal your shit, leave your house a mess, and don’t even finish the work. This time, our contractors fell into the latter group.
In our first house, we lucked out. A friend coached kids sports teams with another guy who was a contractor. He worked only through referrals. He had his own crew and they went from job-site to job-site. The owner was regularly part of the crew that was actually working on our house. He and his crew did an amazing job. Really, highest praises. (Enough so that we texted to ask him if he quit his now full-time gig yet so he could come do our remodels on the new house too. 🙂 He won’t. 😦 )
We met with 4 general contractors. We met with 3 additional flooring companies. So, we had 4 full-house quotes for the doorways, master bathroom, stairwell work, etc. We had 7 flooring quotes. Kind of. We never did get quotes from 2 of the guys – at all. We got a quote a month later from 1 of the contractors (which he did actually send about a week after he met with us, but misspelled the email address, so we never got it). We got a text quote from 1 contractor for just 1 piece of the work, and never heard from him about the rest of the work (it was a grand text too, with spelling and grammatical errors and a salutation to my misspelled name). All 3 of the dedicated flooring companies did send us flooring quotes.
This did not surprise us. At our first house, we had 2 painters come to give us quotes – neither of which were ever received. We also had a cleaning company once that never sent a quote. Then, we had new countertops installed, and needed our cabinets shimmed. The countertop company worked with a general contractor that was very familiar with their work, so we used him. He shimmed our cabinets in preparation for the countertops … and then spent an hour with me going through all of the handyman/contractor work that we needed completed (which, he said was all work he wanted, so it wasn’t a job too small or we don’t do the handyman stuff kind-of thing). Never heard back from him. I called him. Twice, because I was so fed up with never hearing back from these guys. We never did hear back from him.
**Needed side note (it’ll make sense in Part 2): He never actually finished the original cabinet shimming job either. He finished shimming the cabinets, but then just left us with a gap between the floors/cabinets and visible shim pieces, so I had to go back through to add trim and paint to actually finish the job. When I asked him about it, he said, oh yeah, just put up some quarter round and you won’t even see the shims. (Thanks, buddy. I knew that. I wanted YOU to do that.)**
So Part 1 of our bewilderment:
- When you work mostly by referrals and meeting people, how is it that you don’t even actually quote the job?
- Why in the world would you spend 1+ hour with us, at our house, going through the whole job, taking notes, taking measurements … only to NOT quote the job? (i.e. just waste everyone’s time?)
- If you don’t want the job, just say so. We’ll move on. You’ll move on. We’ll all be fine.
- Also, stop asking questions about the job during the process. If you are just being polite and never intend on quoting the work … Then, STOP. ASKING. QUESTIONS. Don’t act interested.
So, on to what happened at our new house.
The drywall guy (a subcontractor of a contractor that we personally know) did a great job on the ceilings. I mean, they all look pretty/mostly fantastic. But, everything around the ceilings (read: whole damn house) is an absolute mess. I mean, A MESS. We know that we should have prepped. We didn’t know that he wasn’t going to prep AT ALL. By the time we understood the gravity of the mess, it was far too late to do anything about it. So, now we’re left with a MESS. A mess that we spend all last weekend cleaning. And made considerable progress, but since we haven’t had the ducts cleaned yet, a fine layer just keeps blowing all over the whole house. It’s futile. Que the call to actual cleaning professionals.
Recap: Fantastic finished product, complete mess by drywall guys.
Next up was the general contractor we hired, we’ll call him MAN (that’s not his name). We were pretty excited about this guy. We originally planned to have him possibly remodel the master bathroom and finish the basement, among other larger projects on our list. He itemized his quote, so we hired him up front to widen and install the doorways on the main level. Smallish job compared to the whole scope, but we wanted to work with him prior to giving him a really large job, right? We didn’t know this guy, although he did come highly recommended.
Well, it’s a damn good thing we did that.
Cliffnotes version: The doorways look good, although not finished, and he’s paid and gone.
Buh-bye. See ya later.
Here’s the list of things that went wrong with his project:
- He said, “When you get back from your weekend away, it will all be done.” It wasn’t. Not even close. It took him 2 more weeks.
- His drawings weren’t specific enough for the permit = architectural drawings = more $$$
- Didn’t know he was going to have to move a couple electrical wires in the wall = more $
- Said he hadn’t heard from the city about the permits/inspection. Patrick called the city. They had approved and called the contractor the day before. The city was waiting on him to schedule the inspection.
- He charged us for the extra days on the dumpster, even though we weren’t using it and his guys were.
- He subcontracted ALL of the work out. We’re not sure how often he was actually even on-site.
- He had to move an outlet. He positioned it 6” higher than all of the rest of the outlets in that room; then gave us a song and dance about how he couldn’t move it down because of the aluminum wiring in our house.
- He didn’t FINISH the work. He installed the pocket door, but then didn’t reinstall any of our baseboards or finish any trim around the pocket door, and the door still swings because of this. His answers on this one were (literally all of the following):
- Trim work was not included in the original quote.
- We installed drywall around the doorways, and that wasn’t included in the original quote, so I already went above and beyond.
- Well, you guys shouldn’t install any trim or baseboards until after you finish the floors anyway, so you don’t want us to do that now.
- [Once you finish the work] the trim piece will hold the door in and stop it from swinging, and because of excuse C, we can’t fix that, so you guys can just do that when you finish the doorway.
- [The subcontractors broke the backside of some drywall that is remaining] – but MAN said it was just okay and didn’t replace it … even though you can feel a slight bulge on the front side of the wall on the other side of the break. (This wasn’t a huge deal, but on top of all the rest of these lame justifications, it was unfortunate … and unfortunately expected at this point.)
- [Then he said, for real, get this] – “If we install the trim, where does it end … do we do the caulking, sanding, and painting, etc?” (ummm, no. Painting is typically extra, but putting up the trim and replacing the baseboards that YOU ripped off when you install a door should not be extra.)
- He also left our house a mess too … nails, drywall pieces, baseboards, tools just all strewn about the rooms. When asked to clean it up, he called a guy at 5pm and told him to come over and clean it all up. Guy came over and was not happy. He asked Patrick why MAN didn’t call him earlier to do this. Obviously, Patrick had no answer for the guy because we told MAN to clean it all up 2 days prior to this. (AND, this all happened AFTER MAN complained to us that the drywall guys were just making a mess, and that if he were in charge that wouldn’t have happened … ummm, it did happen when you were in charge.)
I’m sure you’ve guessed already … but we are NOT hiring MAN again. If you hired him because you needed that work done, either because you can’t or don’t know how to do it yourself, he would have left you in a bit of a pickle. I can do trim. I can install the brackets. I can do caulking. I can do baseboards. I certainly can do the painting. But, you can see how someone might have hired him to do the work because they can’t do that stuff. Crick with no paddle situation right there.
He also was not a good listener. Every time I told him I wanted something that wasn’t the norm or trendy, he came back with: Oh no, no, no you don’t want that (with his accent, being all happy about telling me what I do and don’t want in my house). For example, I don’t want granite – but according to MAN, I do want granite. I don’t want a white/gray marble bathroom – according to MAN, I do want that because it’ll never go out of style. I don’t want pre-finished hardwood floors – according to MAN , no one will ever know the difference and it’s too much of a hassle to own a home with real hardwood. I don’t want to paint the stair risers – according to MAN, I should paint them because it looks so classy.
He’s a sales guy. A wheeler and dealer. Smooth talker. Subs all of his work out. A question that we now know is super important to ask up front. (It’s a learning process, right?)
I wanted to punch him in the face, so Patrick told me to just go home after work and he dealt with MAN himself. (I have the best husband; plus, we’re already spending too much money, can’t waste more on bail.)
We just paid him. We just wanted him gone. We wanted him to leave and never ever ever come back.
Our theory – he’s usually running the whole project, having reign over the whole house, and didn’t like that he didn’t get all of the work. Basically, he was bitter, salty, and crying over not being in charge and getting all of the work, so he slacked on this work. Good approach, buddy.
Recap: The doorways will look good, eventually. We won’t be hiring him again, or recommending him to anyone we know.
And, to top it all off, these things also happened over the last 3 weeks:
- Our new drill was stolen. (Literally the only thing in the whole house worth any money.)
- Our extension cord was stolen.
- Someone threw MD 20/20 and Wild Irish Rose empties in our dumpster, along with a few Miller High Life and Budweiser cans.
- Someone also disposed of a twin mattress and 2 old-school, tube TVs in our dumpster.
- MAN supposedly had some wire stolen from the house too (mentioned to us the day after we asked him about our drill) … but none of our pictures ever show the wire was even there; he said it was worth about $250 but also wasn’t very upset about it; and never mentioned it again.
But, since both groups had keys during this time, we’ll never *know* who did it.
Now, Part 2 of our bewilderment:
- Who quotes a project, whatever it is, and doesn’t include finishing the work?
- If the trim and finish work are extra, then either flipping add that in or itemize it on another line … or at the VERY least, write it on the quote so that all parties are aware that the work is only going to be taken to a pre-finished point. Because, who WANTS a half-finished project – that’s what we’re hiring the CONTRACTOR for, duh.
- And here’s the big one … IF, big IF, contractors want the whole job, and someone hires them to do a small part up front … WHY, big WHY, would they totally mess up the first small job and jeopardize making the real money over the next few months?
We even explained to all of the contractors up front that the plan is for the master bathroom, basement, and outdoor space to be completed throughout this year. So we’re doing a lot of work. We have been super up front about what work we’re doing ourselves and how we want things completed. We have also been super transparent about getting bids from multiple contractors and needing to piece everything together and within our budget. We even told MAN that he was most likely getting the work down the line … and he still half-assed his way through this job.
So, 7 contractors later and we still don’t have a dependable, good, usable general contractor.
We do have a contractor for our flooring. We hired a guy we really like. Both him and his crew seemed to know what they are doing, are trained and certified, and are all direct employees of the company. Floors are all they do. We’re super hopefully this one turns out much better than the January debacle. The floors are the biggest investment since it’s so hard and expensive to fix any screw-ups. Demo starts soon; install to immediately follow.
This weekend, we’re meeting with a new contractor. He came recommended through our flooring guy. Hopefully he is better than the rest we’ve met so far. (Our flooring contractor is on the remodeling board of Cincinnati, so that’s encouraging and we’re trying to be optimistic … but after this last round, it’s not easy.)
Anyway, here’s the eye-candy.
(Don’t mind the unfinished-ness of the work … we’re still adding that all into our timeline now that we understand that we have to finish it.)
The kitchen/living room door widening:
The pocket door between family room & hallway/kitchen:
(And the wreath I finally remembered to toss! Every time I drove up to the house, I wanted to get rid of it, but once in the driveway/garage, you forget about the front porch and so it just stayed there … for a month and a half too long. 🙂 )