What we are doing:

In what spare time we have, we decided to spend it (and our savings) on remodeling our rowhouse in South Philly. When we purchased our casa it was a 3 story, 5 bedroom, 1 bath that hadn't been touched in 50+ years. It's currently a 4 bed, 2 bath construction site with so much more to do it's hard to believe.

We use this blog to mark progress, say hi to friends and family, rant about the process of remodeling, and try to have some fun along the way.

- Bryan and Christina

Monday, August 18, 2008

Breaking up is NOT hard to do....

So it's been a couple of weeks since I've last vented on the interwebs. Where to start....hmmm...oh yeah, our contractor has officially QUIT. Left. Took his tools. Good riddance if you ask us.

It all started so well. The guy was nice, showed up on time, and really started off well. It was pretty exciting as you can see in our early June entries. But like a ball of yarn with rusty nails in it, things slowly unraveled and became a dangerous pain in the ass. First off, in his quote there was only one sub listed, and that was the plumber. Christina in fact met the plumber, but that was the owner...not the guys that did the work (again, this is in a previous rant I posted so I'll refrain from rehashing). So then the weirdest thing happened; more and more subs showed up! They multiplied, like little late to work, throwing trash everywhere, moody Tribbles. Where was Captain Kirk when we needed him!?!?!

The electric subs screwed up half of the lines and lights by not following the plans Christina made. Again, this is in a previous rant, so I'll move on.

Oh, a footnote to all of that. We got a bill from the contractor for a combined $4,250 for OVERAGES from the plumbers and electricians. I'll say that in the line items, about $600 from the electricians that were from increased scope, and that close to $1,000 from the plumbers was because what we wanted was more than the "standard" bathrooms that they do. What?

So in early July I got this bill and called our contractor to hear a great defense of the overages. In so many words, I was told that the subs probably billed us for overages because we (Christina and I) are a pain to work with. That we change scope (like I said, it was for one thing...an extra outlet for a window AC) and that the subs had to redo work the entire time. Note that last part, it's a running theme.

After talking with him and looking at the work I took up the position that we'll just pay the money and move on. Christina was pretty pissed about the entire thing and REALLY pissed that our contractor wasn't keeping overages under control from HIS subs. I blindly argued a slightly different position...I was wrong now. I see that.

Anyway, next up were the drywall subs. Ok...whatever. The guys took almost 6 days to hang the drywall, and then brought in ANOTHER guy to tape ans mud the entire space. Not only did that guy take 4 days to do his thing, but he only applied 1 coat of mud (and sanded) to the entire space. Crap work. But hey, no overages!!!!

The drywall ended in the middle of July. After that Christina and I were now seeing some issues with the place. First off, all of the framing that our contractor ACTUALLY did, was off. Our main closet was finished to a length of 5'11" (speced to be 6'), and two linen closets finished to 22" (speced to be 2' even). What this means is that we cannot get any standard out of the box closet system as they come in 24" spans. Our fault I guess, we should have put the dimensions on the plans. Oh wait...that's right they were on the drawings, all of them.

The windows that were ordered for us were in fact NOT the custom Andersen windows that we had specified and that were in the contract. They are stock Andersen 400 series and so we waited close to 6 weeks for standard windows that can be ordered and delivered in less than 2 weeks. They were also ordered without hardware. We were quoted for custom Andersen 400 windows with hardware. We were ripped off. But by the time we had waited 6 weeks, endured torrential in the bathroom downstairs, and the hallway, and dining room, any windows were an improvement

Anyway, as I write this I'm getting tired of the nonsense. I'll boil it down to the fact that we created an "Action Item" list for our contractor that included items still left to be done (per our quote), items that are in progress, and what I called "items of concern". The last set of things included the closet dimensions as well as the lack of adequate framing around the windows that were put in. This resulted in an additional $650 during the stucco work to put the brick back in the wall. Totally unacceptable items.

Also in that last list was our stack plumbing that has been incorrect and a point of drama since the plumbers did it wrong to start with. Refusal to do anything about it was raining down like...well...I don't know. I was going to say my fists to this guy's face, but this is a family friendly blog.

Anyway, with this "Action Item" list we wanted just to talk and do a walk through with our contractor about the items. But the funniest thing happened during this; he stopped answering our calls! He must have been thanking God for caller ID on cell phones, because it helped him avoid acting like a professional and talking to his clients. After about 2 weeks of trying to get ahold of him (and I did once where we scheduled a date and time to do the walk through, where I think he lied about a family emergency to not have to show up) I got an email.

It was THE email. The "I can't work on your house...I'm losing money when I go there...I can't keep redoing work" whine-fest. It was all crap. He just decided that he didn't want to deal with us and do the work that we expected and that he PROMISED us. Sounds like a contractor in Philly alright.

The best part to all of this is that the guy has the cajones to tell us that he has not paid the plumber or electrician and that we are responsible for amount due to them. The amount he owes them is like $5,500 while the last payment to him was to be $4,600. See a problem there? But if you're paying attention there are a few problems here.
  1. We have only the final payment to make to him (obviously that isn't happening) and the amount he owes those subs are more than we owe.
  2. That he is saying we in essence have to pay 110% for 80% of the work. Not happening
  3. That we have to pay the subs to finish the work and in effect we'd be paying them TWICE
  4. That he paid himself before his subs.
Homey don't play that. At all. Not happening. He has threatened that if we don't settle up with the subs that we'll get a mechanic's lein on the house. I'm going to skip the legal stuff, but if he isn't smart to pay them himself we're not going to pay a dime.

At this point we've done a little back and forth with Christina using her great friends in the architecture and commercial contracting world to really do a number on all of this. I'm playing the bad guy and I'm fine with it. In fact, with this stuff I'm loving it.

Don't even get me started on the upside down mismatched window sills that were installed. I think that was the breaking point, both for us with the contractor and for the contractor when we requested they all come out. But at least I was able to buy a new table saw over the weekend to do the sills! SILVER LINING INDEED!!!

The sky's did seem to part a bit today, and we have a stucco contractor that has been great and sent over a friend of his that might just be able to help us out of this pickle. Stay tuned, hopefully for more pictures of complete work and less rants, but then again it would not be called "working on your house" if it was all easy........


Gene said...

Oh my. I have to admit horror stories like yours are a part of why I decided to do all the work myself. There were other reasons, but I'd heard enough of those to just not want to go there.

Bryan and Christina said...

We have learned our lesson as well, we just had hoped for a different outcome. Now Bryan reads the Woodworkers Supply in the evenings instead of Golf Digest, and I think we are wholly on the DIY path!

RehabOrDie said...

Boy, that sucks.

As I've gotten into our project, it's clear just how easy these types of problems are to run into. Even good people with great intentions can screw up and once it starts, it compounds. There are few real professionals out there.

In any case, I feel for you. Don't give an inch. And I think you'll like the DIY aspect. It's shocking how much of this stuff that others screw up, is really pretty easy to figure out.

I don't know how you keep your chin up and your nose to the grindstone, but I hear it's recommended. :)