Background: I had a condo to be renovated before it could be sold. We've been living there (with a kid) for over 7 years so naturally it got quite used. So we wanted to renovate it so that we could sell. The contractor who has done quite a good job for us before, was too busy , so I had to start going through yellow pages looking for a contractor that could start very soon. These guys could and offered a reasonable estimate.
The scope of the job was to install new kitchen cabinets, countertop sink and appliances. Install vanities and new tiles in the bathrooms (with removing of the old tiles), kitchen and closets and painting (and patching up) walls, ceiling, doors, trim, window ceils. And remove carpet, old blinds, old bathroom cabinets. We have already removed kitchen cabinets and baseboard ourselves. Not a rocket science project.
In the end, these the job was done poorly and took forever and wasted a lot of our nerves.
I have to admit I have made couple of mess-ups when buying the materials that contractor had to put up with. So here are my faults:
- I didn't buy enough grout (underestimated that mosaid was very small and needed more)
- I didn't buy enough grout for regrouting old shower stall and grouting the new one (in 2 separate bathrooms)
- I've made a mistake for one of the tiles and bought 15 instead of 50 tiles.
- I've bought just over of how much marble was needed, so there was a shortage of 2 or three tiles that I had to bring additionally.
- I've bought one wrong cabinet for the kitchen (wrong size) so the layout of the kitchen cabinets had to be rearranged.
- contractor picked-up the sound proof uderlay for tiles (but they have offered originally to pick up materials for me and bills me)
- contractor picked-up one of the tiles missing above
- contractor picked-up laminate underlay (they didn't have to, but becuase the renovation was taking longer than planned, I wanted the underlay that I've paid for already to be picked up from the warehouse).
Now to the contractor faults:
- This pretty simple job took over 2 months! Originally, contractor said they would be done in about 3 weeks. Now, the original estimate was realistic provided that one works hard (the 2 guys that remodeled our house got tons done a day!). During this time I’ve ended up paying over 1000 in condo fees and taxes.
- Could not get vanity light centered (it is about 3” off center line, which given that vanity itself is ~30” wide is quite noticeable.
- Did not bother measuring the size of the mirror before installing the light fixture. When I have seen the light installed above the vanity to me it looked like mirror will not fit in between, so I’ve asked. I was told it was measured and it fits. Well, at the end I was informed that mirror doesn’t fit (to be exact, the mirror had a little shelf at the bottom, sticking out about 2-3”, so technically, you could fit the mirror anyway, provided you remove the shelf, which obviously damages the mirror frame. Anyway, the contractor said they couldn’t measure if the mirror would or not fit. Along the lines that they couldn't possibly measure everything, right? Like for real? Could not measure height of mirror, of vanity and that of the room and subtract?
- Scratched the washing machine, covered the scratch with grout and when we found it said “it’s just grout, it will wash off”. Well, when we washed off, there was a scratch behind.
- Did not even bother checking if pipes leak after connecting the plumbing fixtures, so when I turned the water for the test – bingo, the water started leaking fast in one vanity and slowly dripping in the other. Contractor fixed this – but my point is – as a professional you wait for customer to check for leaking?? You don’t even bother checking your job?
- The shower faucet was not configured properly – the switch to shower would not switch. Contractor fixed it, but again, it took checking on our part to find the problem.
- one of the toilets was not properly installed back after tiles were laid (they didn't bother removing old wax ring, so after about 2 weeks of use it started leaking, when water was flashed.
- the old shower stall floor was regrouted very poorly - the grout would come off when scrubbed. I'm actually, not 100% sure it was grout, it was kind of stingy and solf, and came off in thin pieces. Looked more like silicone spread.
- In total – three cans of paint disappeared (over 100 dollars worth). I have bought them, I have the bills, and it would be quite hard to loose 3 gallons of paint in our house.
- The switch from whirlpool was gone after renovation.
- The painting job was horrendous – I’ve seen bad painting job before but this is by far the worst. The workers have painted bathroom doors and trim with latex semi-gloss paint without priming the doors first. The doors were previously painted with oil based paint, so nothing really sticks to them. Painting it directly with semi-gloss (or anything else really but prime) is stupid – now you can wipe the paint off with you bare hands. I’ve pained over old doors before, and now I know how to deal with this – you use a power tool to sand the old oil based paint to get enough texture, then you prime it and then you pain it. Or, if you have enough skill and persistence you remove the old oil paint with chemicals or heat gun. I found the removing fully is never possible, so sanding with dremolo tool worked quite well.
- The contractors didn't use the 5 gallon (the big one) container of prime at all, or very little. I don't understand why they requested me to buy it. What's more, when I was coming to check on the job close to completion date, one of the workers was walking out of the condo with this big bucket of prime. When asked where he's taking it to, he said to drive it back to my house. Well, of course, it's hard to prove, but I find it hard to believe, at least, they would need to arrange with me prior to loading it in the car when are they coming to my house to drop it off.
- The rest of the rooms were simply badly painted with white spots showing all over the place. They've painted over some of the spots, but not over all.
- Contractor told me that they’ve done tons of Ikea kitchen installation before and then they phoned me and complained that there were no screws to put into the door hinges. You know what? Ikea doors are installed without additional screws, and IF they had done Ikea kitchens before, they would have known that.
- On the same topic – they’ve asked me to buy screws and such to MOUNT the cabinets. How can I, as non-professional be able to judge which screws to buy? Again, there was this whole rant that ikea is supposed to provide these. It doesn’t, because all walls are different, installer is the best one to choose this kind of stuff.
- Overall, originally, we have agreed that that I am providing all the materials and anything additional contractor gets and I pay the bills later. My understanding was that I provide what I can reasonably know about as a consumer (tiles, grout, cemement, prime, paint, cabinets, faucets, lights, appliances), but as the time went on I was requested to provide special electrical cable, special receptacle, special power cables, etc. That I would never know about because I am not in the profession. AND originally, contractor asked for 50% deposit because “he has to buy material”, and then later he kept telling me that contract says that I am providing materials down to every nail (it didn't say that it just sayd "all materials"). Now I know that one is supposed to pay 10% of deposit at most, unless there is like some custom manufacturing done
- They would often show up at the place around 10-11, when formal working hours starts at 9 (judging by the calls made to me when it was mentioned they're on the road to the place).
- They said that they would pick up all the materials from our house. Well, in the end, I kept hearing how their truck was in repair (for over a month) and thus they could not pick up the carpet, the dishwasher and some of the cabinets. In the end my husband managed to drive these items himself. Contractor did pick up paint, tiles, prime and some of the kitchen cabinets. Maybe it would be better for me to do it – at least then 3 cans of paint wouldn’t have disappeared.
- Btw, when my husband brought that big roll of carpet to the loading dock these “professionals” didn’t even have enough brain to unroll the carpet and fold it in a square fashion so that it could fit into elevator.
- Didn’t finish sealing between backsplash and countertop
- Didn’t seal around the toilet.
Thank goodness at least the laminate was installed by the person that has done our house.
- use sample contract that is available on the Internet
- make contractor sign for every material they pick up (if you’re buying them and handing over)
- no more than 10% of the price is to be paid as deposit
- have a clause in the contract that if the job is not done on due date then there are some penalties (check with the lawyer though on how easy it would be to enforce it).
- Withhold 10% of the contract price for 45 days once the project is complete. This is a law (Construction lien law).
- Don’t let contractors threathen you that they will place a lien on your property. If this is your residence – you’re protected by consumer’s protection law and can complain to consumer protection agency, and if you have good grounds for not paying, you can wait it to go to court. If this is not your primary residence and a lien could prevent you from selling it – well, two solutions – set a closing date 2 months after contract is complete and certificate of completition or substantial performance (described in construction lien act) has been signed. That way, even if contractor files a lien against you on the 44th day (by law they have 45 days to file a lien) you’ll still have 2 weeks to pay the disputed sum to court, let your lawyer clean up the paper work and still sell. Now the truth is that anyone at any time can place a lien against your property. A bum from the street with $8 dollars can go to land registry office and do it. So, don’t be threatned. Do talk to your lawyer – if you plan to sell, your lawyer (that would be closing the deal from your side) has a vested interest to consult you for free prior to sale on such matters ? (well, at least give you some of his/her time)