Monday, August 23, 2010

How Can One Bathroom Remodel Go So Wrong?

by Kate

Ah, let me count the ways. And the days. And the red haze -- of anger over my eyes. All because I’ve had a dream for years to have a travertine floor in my bathroom. Talk about a dream turned nightmare!

Our first mistake was going to a “big box” home improvement store. You know those lovely commercials on TV? Don’t fall for them. We had a local flooring guy do another room a few years back, so we had a basis for comparison, and trust me, there was none.

So Big Box contracts the job out to an installation company who contracts the job out to a floor company in another city. So that would be a sub-sub contractor, right? The Sub-sub sends their guy to measure and work up a quote.

Mistake number two was believing that this guy knew what he was talking about. First that it would take 3-4 days to complete. Then: “Don’t put in a heating element under the tile. They always go bad. We always have to rip them out.” Well, he seemed experienced and knowledgeable, so we scrapped that dream even though our bathroom floor gets icy cold in the winter.

Then he bad-mouthed the big box store, saying that their bid would be way higher than the local guy, almost as though he was trying to scotch the job. I still believe that was his motive because I heard him telling his helper later that he “hated these home remodels” and preferred “new construction.” Probably because there weren’t any owners to watch over him.

Mistake three: Letting him back in the door to do the job. Same guy, same cocky, know-it-all attitude. Here is a summary of the damage he did: Gouged walnut banister, damaged wool carpet runner, badly scratched wood trim on the staircase, berry stains from trees on painted doors, half inch gaps between the new tile floor and our bedroom carpet, white powder, followed by brown dust, on every surface of at least 4 rooms because he would open doors and not shut them, globs of grout on newly painted walls and in all corners, and hunks of setting material left to harden on the tiles which he sealed over. He put plastic runner on the upstairs floor, but not up the staircase, which he and his helper traversed at least one hundred times.

He started late and finished early. He cancelled several days’ work, forcing us to reschedule the painters and the carpet cleaners. We complained to big box, and directly to his employer, who said he was no longer working for them.

Then three days later, he showed up to finish the job. He put three brown tiles in the middle of all of the light colored tiles, as in the photo. He left knives open on the floor. And last but not least, the day he finished (day 14) he asked my husband if he could put “a few scraps” in our garbage can. When my husband went to roll it out to the curb, it wouldn’t move. Seems Mr. Know-It-All had filled it with a 60 pound tub of mud, all the pieces of the heavy tile left over, wood trim that had been ripped out, and every other item he’d decided to discard. It was all crammed into a plastic garbage bin instead of into the back of his pickup.

Needless to say, this has soured us on any further remodeling, and for sure we would not use a big box home improvement store for anything other than buying nails and paint. I’m wondering if this was simply an aberration, or if any of you have experienced anything like this.


Linda McDonald said...

Oh My....what a nightmare. I'm so sorry this happened to you, though I'm sure you aren't alone. We did a remodel of our front and backyard (new walkway, new landscaping, remodeled the pool, etc) and it too WAY longer than they told us it would. A real pain, but at least the work turned out really nice and they didn't damage anything. I will remember your story when we do any remodeling in the house. I'd like to have a few things done....will likely get quotes from places that aren't "big boxes" as you called them. Thanks for the warning.

WonderBunny said...

I've never personally done any remodeling but then don't own a house yet. My parents about ten years ago decided to remodel their house. They had been in it for almost 20 years and it needed some updating.

So they went to a local guy and a somewhat friend of my fathers. Things start going but it is very slow going. This was a pretty major remodel so of course it would be a little slow but it got ridiculous. The kitchen was being remodeled and the stove was moved into another room while the rest of it was gutted. The only shower/tub bathroom was also being redone. Plus they were having the whole first floor torn up and hardwood floors put in.
After about six months they stop hearing from the contractor and can't get through to him. They have been taking showers with a sheet covering the doorway and cooking in the newly framed in carport and had no tile or anything down on the main floors. Luckily they knew the companies that were suppose to be doing things for the contractor and things start moving again.

They never went to a big box store but after two years it still wasn't complete. They had huge problems along the way. The cabinets were wrong in one way or another. The hardwood floors weren't cleaned well before sealing so there were bits of dirt and hair in it, and it was done unevenly so you could see lines in the seal. When my parents complained, the company came back and redid it (badly) and then insisted my parents pay for it.

I think after three years from when the job started between two of my sisters who had in-laws with the correct licensing work began again. The original contract had disappeared so I know when the electrician went to get the work permit from the city, he found out there had never been one issued. So my parents get fined (I think) and a "stop work" order. I think the house was finally all done about a year after that and much of the painting and other little things were done by my sisters husband in his spare time after he had already worked ten hour days.

tonya kappes said...

Kate I'm so sorry you had a bad experience. I am very lucky that my DH is super handy:)

Linda Leszczuk said...

And I thought my bathroom remodeling job was bad!

I love how the sub-contractors (or sub-sub-contractors) from the big box stores will tell you how much of a markup the big box is charging you then slip you his number so you can just call him direct next time and save money.

mary in MO said...

Sorry to hear thie. Hope you posted a comment on Angie's list or a similar area site about the service, so it won't be repeated.

Rebecca said...

How terrible! I'm sorry that you had to have such a horrible experience. I'm very lucky - my dad is a licensed builder and my husband is very handy. They remodeled our home (top to bottom - we weren't living there at the time)in three months, and it turned out just like I had imagined.

Leann Sweeney said...

My "subcontractor" has always been my husband. My perfectionist, engineer husband. He's done tile, wood floors, wallpaper, painting, roofing, installing disposals, microwaves, has built fences, you name it. He's even put new engines in cars. He does work slo-o-o-o-o-o-o-w. But he gets it right. I now have a new appreciation for that.

Denise Swanson said...

Yes! We had a horrible experience with Home Despot, as I like to call them. And another when we added a four seasons room with a well known company. In fact the latter experience inspired Murder of a Real Bad Boy--only because my husband wouldn't let me kill the guy in real life. ;)

Unknown said...

We recently had a bathroom face lift at our summer cottage. It ran three days over and cost 25% more than budgeted, but for all the problems that surfaced (structural, mostly; you never know how a summer cottage was put together), the contractor was a delight. Every night he left the place spic-and-span clean and even vacuumed the mat inside the front door. I was a little upset about the cost, but in retrospect, I'm now delighted. Next year we're going to hire him to replace the sink and ceiling in the kitchen.

After reading about your experience, Kate, I feel truly, truly lucky.

Kate Collins said...

Lorna, Leann, Tonya, Rebecca, and all of you who have handymen in the family -- treat them well! You're so lucky. WonderBunny, sounds like your parents went through an even worse nightmare. At least ours ended after 2 weeks (although the repairs haven't ended yet).
We had a great experience with a local flooring company 2 years ago, but the economy caused their small operation to go under.

I've heard I should post a review of Big Box and the sub-sub on Angie's List, but then I heard I had to pay to do so. Is that true?

Cricket said...

Wow, this is so horrible. I hope that you have taken lot's of pictures,and plan to make the company that hired this guy fix the job. They are responsible for his work and any damage he caused, even if he is no longer employed by them. He was when he messed this job up and damaged your home. I would check into having the company held responsible. Contact your State Attorney General's office and report what happened and also let them know the company that employed this idiot has not offered to rectify the situation. Also contact the Better Business Bureau if you have not already done so and file a complaint. I wouldn't let them get away with this. It's your dream and they turned it into a nightmare.
I do my own remodeling work, gutted and remodeled my bathroom a couples of years ago. My dad taught me how to do that kind of thing. I'm slowly teaching my hubby, although dry-walling is still not his strong suite. (^^)

Good luck I hope you are able to get your home and bathroom fixed. It's contractors (sub-sub included) like them that make people afraid to have things done in their homes.

Lover of Books said...

Sounds like you need Mike Holmes. lol Too bad the man only works in Canada. If we ever remodel, luckily my hubby's uncle can do a lot of it. Oh vey! (hugs) and I hope it all works out soon.

Debra said...

We needed our large Victorian home painted. Been there,hope to never do that again.
He advertised as a "painter/artist" We did all the right things,three quotes,checked references etc.
He did not show up on day one so I called and he said he did not feel good. I threatened to sue him and told him I am an attorney. He came right over and started painting. There was no sign of illness. Wanted constant praise for each room he painted. The capper was on the day he is going through the punch list,he comes to my bedroom and started to re-sand the ceiling. I have arthritis people and I WAS IN THE BED. As we say in NY- OY!

Jan said...

My husband is a home improvements contractor who works by himself (or occasionally I assist him), and does not advertise. He is referred only by word-of-mouth.

He quotes a labor price (for his estimated hours) and a materials price (after he checks the pricing).

He frequently takes a bit longer than he estimated, but you pay no more than you agreed, unless thee are some mitigating circumstances.

You need to report this person, the company he was subbed from, and the big box company, all to the Better Business Bureau and to your local government.

Contractors pay an inordinate amount for their licensing fee, for insurance (for you) against bad contractors. If you don't report the bad contractor, no one will pull their license!

I hope you can get those 3 tiles replaced!!!

Andrea C. said...

Oh Kate - how awful! So because this guy no longer works for his employer you have no options? It seems like his employer (or someone) is should be responsible for fixing the damage - at no cost to you!
Thankfully, I have no such horror stories - I hope you get yours fixed!

Nanc said...

Bless your heart and cold tootsies!!! I hope that you are able to have the job repaired and finished to your satisfaction. Especially with so many fine workers looking to do a good job...
blessings to you!

Kate Collins said...

A few notes to update you. I got a call from the Installation company, the "sub" that hired the "sub-sub" today asking if the flooring job was done to my satisfaction. "So glad you asked," I said, and gave her the list. She was, shall we say, floored? (Sorry, I couldn't resist.) She promised to rectify. I told her I was planning to turn the bills for repairs we're having done to Home Depot. She promised to have the others fixed, so possibly this will get done and I'll have my dream bathroom.
Debra, OY is right. While you were in bed??
Lover of Books -- Oh, man if only Holmes were in the US. I love that guy.
Jan, Cricket, if we don't get satisfaction, you bet we'll contact the BBB and Angie's List and whatever it takes.
As my character, Abby Knight, says, "I have to fight injustice!"

Helen Kiker said...

You certainly had a nightmare. I have never had a major remodel so have avioided that problem.

Helen Kiker

Vickie said...

We have done some remodeling ourselves and we have had remodeling done by others over the last 6 years of living here, only one was a 'bad' experience. It was the remodel of the basement to turn it into the 'mancave' and it was the project that wouldn't end. DH thankfully doesn't take a lot of McCrappe and called the guy on some of his schtuff, things the contractor had to do over because it wasn't done the way we wanted. He started fast and furious, then slowed down when the weather warmed and he got better paying projects, he'd put us on the back burner. DH told him he wouldn't pay his last half if he didn't finish by a certain date. That scurried his butte right up. He was waster of products, left the front door open in all weather, all told we were very glad to have him gone and the project complete.
Our favorite peeps are the mom and daughters trio who have done all o our indoor painting. Fast, tidy and funny. A great combo. We love them and tell everyone we know about them.

Maggie Sefton said...

OMG, Kate! That's horrible! I hope you push for repairs! I've never used the Big Box for a project, just materials. The last project was re-doing kitchen & bathroom flooring and new bath fixures, etc. And I used the contractor I'd used for my new roof. He's been in business locally for 30 years and came highly recommended. Not cheaper, but boy was he worth it. And all of his men were pros, too. I am SO sorry this happened. And I hope you keep squeezing them till they make it right.

Linda C said...

this is interesting and informative, planning a bathroom remodel in the near future...we have had mixed experience with the home improvement stores here in Valpo. Home Depot prefers to be a contractor store, I think that is the company goal, Menards seem to be more homeowner friendly, but they used to have terrible customer service, seem to have improved. Several times when my husband was shopping at Menards he heard other customers looking for something, the employees did not know anything. My husband helped out the other customers. I am very glad that my husband is handy with home improvements.

Kate Collins said...

Maggie, when you find a contractor like that, he's worth his weight in gold. Also painters. We have a husband/wife/son-in-law trio who never stop talking to each other while they're working. It's hilarious to listen in on their conversation (what I find myself doing when I should be writing!) They talk about anything and everything. I've even chimed in on movie discussions.
Linda C, if you're going to do any tile work, go to the flooring store across from TJ.
Vickie, I feel your pain. Those of us who've had bad contractors should have a support group! It is a very disruptive experience.

Linda C said...

Kate, thanks for the tip on tile work.

Barbara said...

We have remodeled homes ourselves; in fact one of our friends called us Bozo Construction Co. But we knew what we were doing. Now because of age and chronic disease we have to hire others and my husband is a perfectionist/machinist. Fortunately, friends had their entire house remodeled last year and their contractor was great. We are going to hire him to do our kitchen.

Unknown said...

Depends on the state you're in- most states wants permits, inspections if the renovation can increase sq. Footage, or has a correct foundation if it's a large add on deck. Raise your state if the closet desires new electrical wiring.

rony@gutter cover said...

Ohh,, cat that is really sad..!! I can understand because I have faced such kind of pronlems many times.