After getting a couple of quotes back in April of this year, I went with Mike from Cedarstone because he said he could get the job done in June. The price was comparable to the other quotes, but having it done in June was really important to me. I had a few other jobs I wanted to get done this summer but the walkway needed to be done first. I didn't get a great feel from Mike right away but I was really focused on getting the job done before July and unfortunately I let that govern my decision.
You probably know where this is going. I hadn't heard anything by mid-June so I contacted Mike about a start date. I got a vague reply so I asked again and I was told July or August - still pretty vague. I asked what happened I was told the current job got extended and then he went on to say "We can't please everybody". That has to be near the top of the list of things you never say to a client. You CAN please everybody by doing what you claim you're going to do, and if you run into delays you let your clients know what's going on so they can make necessary adjustments with their schedules.
I started off on the wrong foot and never recovered. I asked again about a start date, this time in mid-July, and I was told the crew would be arriving the next day. I was glad that the project was finally going to be underway but not happy that I was leaving for the next five days and I would not be able to discuss the project in greater detail before starting or monitor its progress. This was important to me because I had no reason to trust this company and that 3D rendering/drawing of the project you're supposed to get? Never happened. Here are the main points of what went wrong:
When I spoke to Mike back in April he was very confident about the job “he” was going to do, but “he” had little to do with the installation. The odd time he would sit in his truck at the curb and…I don’t know…supervise I guess, but the job was basically left in the hands of a group of kids. Nice guys, but very inexperienced and it showed. The final product was awful. All the steps sloped drastically to one side, loose coping, uneven cuts, you name it. Fortunately I hadn’t paid for the entire job yet so two guys were sent over to fix it (they just showed up one morning, no communication at all). They went hard at it for 11 hours and there was definitely an improvement, but the landing is still drastically sloped one way. I understand sloping it toward the road and a little bit to the side opposite the house to keep the rain away, but it drops 2 inches from left to right over a span of 5 feet - it's very obvious, I notice it everyday. Not just me either, several neighbours have made comments. They also smeared glue all over a few coping stones. I've included a picture of one because it's so bad. I've also included a spot where they skipped coping altogether. I've asked for them to come back a third time to complete the job once and for all, but now that Mike's been paid in full there's no chance of that.
Communication and Professionalism (or lack thereof)
I mentioned the communication problems regarding the start date, and once the job was underway the only time I heard from Mike was about getting paid. I was away a lot during the project and I knew I was going to be away on the day Mike expected the crew to finish. That's the day Mike wanted to get paid and suddenly scheduling and timeliness were very important. Here's the part that bothered me most and still bothers me. The night before they finished I took a good look at the project and I noticed several flaws. Our agreement was the balance would be paid upon completion of the job but the job was not complete in my opinion. The next day, Mike didn't even come around to see the final product. When the crew was "done" he sent his brother, someone we had never met or even seen before, to collect. My wife told him that I would be back the next day and I wanted a final walk-through with Mike - something that is not unusual at all in any type of construction/renovation project. My wife got on the phone with Mike and he had instructed his brother to stay until he was paid as that, in his mind, was our agreement. You can imagine how comfortable my wife and two young kids were with a bunch of shirtless guys on our front step smoking cigarettes while their boss was telling them not to leave until they're paid. My wife then called me and told me what was happening. I couldn't get there anytime soon so I called Mike, paid him some of the money online, and everyone left. I didn't pay the entire amount because I knew if I did they would never be back to fix everything, but after that experience I wasn't sure if I wanted them back. I texted him a week ago to tell him how disappointed I was with the whole experience and if he cared at all he should call me to discuss the job, or better yet come by and actually look at it. He replied claiming that I would receive a call shortly. Do you think I ever got that call? Not a chance.
Here are some things I learned (or already knew, but was reminded of) from this process.
1. Make sure you see previous jobs done by whichever company you're thinking of choosing, and make sure that the references you're putting stock in are from people you know and trust.
2. Don't ignore your instincts If your gut tells you something about someone, go with your gut.
3. Do not base your decision on scheduling if possible. If you don't get the answer you want to hear regarding when the project can be completed, that person is probably just being honest and it'll be worth the wait.
4. Don't pay in full until you consider the job done. That should include a final walk-through.
I'm not sure why you would choose Cedarstone. There are so many good companies out there who charge about the same or even less. However, if for some reason you do go with them, here are some tips that might help you through the project:
1. Insist that the crew brings an ashtray or provide one, as well as garbage bag. Otherwise you’ll be spending a lot of time picking up butts and plastic bottles
2. Invest in a decent scraper if you don’t have one already. We had PL glue stuck to our fence, grass (won’t be able to scrape that obviously, just have to pull it out) and other places as well.
3. Make sure some polymeric sand is left behind because you’ll need it to properly cover ALL of the joints.
4. Set aside a morning to finish off the sand and to clean up where the bin, gravel and screenings had been. Most companies sweep up at the end and power wash, this one doesn’t.
5. Make sure your schedule is wide open if you want to stay on top of the project. We never knew what days the crew was coming. Try to avoid the day before a long weekend as the completion date of the job will be rushed.
6. Once again, make sure you're 100% satisfied with the job before paying the entire amount. Once you pay these guys they're gone. Don't get too hung up on the guarantee/warranty because it doesn't really have any substance.
Update: June 24, 2017
After almost a year, Mike from Cedarstone Contracting responded publicly to my review here on HomeStars. He claims that it was all false but does not provide examples. The objective of this website is to help people make informed decisions on who they do business with - it has been very helpful to me in that regard. I will detail some events that took place since this review was posted for the simple purpose of assisting you with the vetting process.
My review took a while to be published because at first Mike denied that he knew me and claimed that he had never done any work at my house. I had to provide a scanned copy of our contract and proof of payment in order to legitimize my review with HomeStars, which I totally understand as this helps mitigate the possibility of Mike's business being undermined by his competition.
Before submitting the review, I had made my problems with the work done at my house very clear to Mike. This was through text - I asked him to call, or better yet stop by to discuss. I prefer to handle correspondence this way, but my calls always went to voicemail and text seemed like the only possible way to communicate. He texted that he would call shortly, but never did, so I assumed we were done and I submitted the review.
As mentioned, Mike was not honest about having worked at my house but the review was eventually published. I have included screenshots of our entire text dialogue from that point onward; I haven't left out anything at all. As you can see, he took issue with a misunderstanding about sealing the walkway. I removed that part of the review because his explanation was valid and there was some level of confusion on my part. I understand Mike's reaction to the part about sending his brother to receive payment from my wife, but I don't agree with it. I think this issue is a matter of interpretation and therefore won't ever be resolved. My position is it is poor practice to send total strangers around to collect large sums of money. Further to that, if a woman is home alone with her children and asks to have the matter resolved when her husband returns, this should be respected. Instructing that person to stay until receiving payment is not a progressive resolution, but that's just my opinion.
Lastly, the text dated October 8th is a response to something a friend of mine posted on the Cedarstone Contracting Facebook page after seeing the work done at my house and hearing the story. As always, I responded with a phone call but only got voicemail. I'm not sure what "retaliate" means in this case., but I explained to Mike (on voicemail) that I have no control over what other people do.
Obviously, Mike never came back to "make things right" and still hasn't seen the finished product. I managed to get him on the phone only once, and at that time I expressed that I wouldn't remove the review entirely but I was willing to update it if steps were taken to sort out the situation. I guess that wasn't good enough. This is the last I have to say about this - I had moved on entirely a long time ago, but after seeing Mike's delayed response denying everything in one sentence, well...it just did not sit well with me. These reviews are important and I rely on them heavily, so I take that into consideration when I take the time to write one.