So going back to the beginning, now that you have seen pics of the outcomes, what went wrong during the process to cause such stress? It wasn’t just one thing of course, it was a variety of factors.
- Initial design delays — we started asking for design meetings in January, pressured them throughout Jan / Feb / March and didn’t get any official designs until June 15th. Of the nine versions, eight of them were unworkable, a waste of paper not to mention the time and effort they put into doing them. It took another 45 days, mostly waiting on them to get back to us with answers to some questions that should have been dealt with back in April or May, but delayed us into the summer. This meant August 1st before we had an actual design.
- Overall start delays — we wanted the project to start in mid-July and, based on the two week estimate, to be mostly over by August 1st. They didn’t even plan to start until August 17th, changed it to the 24th, and were going to run into September at least.
- Extreme build delays — While they promised us September 11th at the absolute latest, they didn’t even have all the cabinets in until then. They had told me they were “down a man” but that didn’t explain going from 2 weeks + 1 weeks grace to finish things to seven weeks and me having to threaten them to finish that week or we would hire alternate contractors. Each week I thought, “Okay, they’ll be done this week.” And then the weekend would come, and they weren’t much closer than the previous week. In a related issue, it wasn’t any “one thing” that was running them over for time. If drywall wouldn’t set, or the floor wouldn’t dry, or they were missing ceiling tiles, or the plumber ran off with the electrician’s wife, I could see a “trigger” that was causing delays. Instead, and tied to their slowness in doing the basement, this is just them — they vastly underestimate the time to complete the job, and then run late. I imagine most people forgive them delays because (a) they still show up to do the work and (b) it’s quality work. Or at least quality-ish. See more below.
- The disruption — I mentioned earlier that this was partly our inexperience in doing this type of reno, but I thought naively that we would mostly be just disrupted in the kitchen. Nope. Kitchen, family room, living room, all of first floor, door to the patio, my garage was a long-term disaster. I even had to cancel a party planned for Andrea’s birthday and an astronomy outing because the work wasn’t done for the first one and the garage was so crowded, I couldn’t get to my astronomy equipment for the second. Each week, I wanted to rip them a new one, and they kept going longer, and longer, and longer still.
- The errors — I didn’t talk about this much in the previous posts, but they made some fairly basic errors that had to be corrected, some minor, some major. I already talked about the pantry problem — they knew we wanted to put cupboards and an upright freezer in there, they measured everything, told us there was room, and then when it was built and the freezer put in there, it didn’t work at all. Like not even close to functional. Pure and simple, outright error. We had to choose between major refit to keep it there, or just move it back downstairs; we opted for expediency over design perfection. That was after I had to talk to them twice about the width of the door into the pantry and the need to make it big enough to accommodate the freezer. Again, they had the specs, they just failed to plan properly for the transfer. I caught it in time, but still. Equally, they completely screwed up on the fridge placement. They swore to me it could go against the right wall, which it couldn’t — the door has to swing 9 full inches past 90 degrees in order for the base drawers to pull out. They put it against the wall, and even the handle was hitting before 90 degrees. They wondered if we were willing to “live with it”; we said “No, rip out 9 inches of cupboard to the left, and by the way, this is your error and your expense to fix.” It wasn’t simple, it wasn’t pretty, it ended up with 9 inches of dead space on the right side (could have been a broom closet, but we already have that), might fix it later but for now it’s dead. But we insisted they do it. Of course that messed up the bulkheads, framing cupboards, counters that were already measured, etc. At the opposite end of the wall, they put a bottom cupboard (that was supposed to be double-doors with pull-out drawers) against the wall to the left. Great, except when you put a handle on the door, it banged against the wall, keeping it from going 90 degrees, and like with the refrigerator, the drawers wouldn’t pull all the way out. The cupboard had to be converted to being just exterior drawers. There were a number of other errors, but the only other big one was the china cabinet…because of a wrinkle in the design, they thought the cupboard was only 4″ deep. Again, I thought, “Who would build a china cabinet and not think 4″ was worthy of a WTF moment and a need to ask questions?” As with the fridge, we told them it had to be fixed. Note these are all separate from the 15 design errors they made when they repeatedly didn’t give us the larger sink we asked for from Day 1.
If we were design experts, maybe we would have caught some of those before they happened. On the other hand, as experienced contractors, they should have caught them before we ever did. I found it incredibly stressful, and this is likely considered by many to being a “good news example” of using contractors. However, as I said, at the end I had to threaten them with other contractors to finish it. They were supposed to be done, almost there, and then I got home expecting them to be done and found out nobody had come at all that day. They were at 99% done, so I finally lost it. Seven weeks for a two-week project, five weeks overdue, and they didn’t even show up to finish. Not once did they suggest coming earlier or staying later, or doing some of the work on the weekend. In the end, they finished it on the Friday (the day after my threat).
Honestly, I was worried about the final bill. I discussed it with Andrea, and I said I was basically willing to pay a little extra because we had tweaked a few things, but I wasn’t willing to go much beyond the original quote. When the bill arrived and it was $8K over what I was expecting, I just about lost it. I was ready to go to war at that point. Then, when I reviewed the bill, I realized that most of it was for the countertops that we had planned to pay for ourselves directly and instead they paid for them. The rest were substitutions and changes for things that hadn’t been included in the original charge (such as some lighting fixtures, etc.). All legitimate adjustments. So they charged exactly the quote plus the needed adjustments. We signed the cheque and showed them the door. And here is the awesome final product.
As they say in the funny pages, all’s well that ends well, or in this case, all’s well that, well, ends.