A Binding ContractOne writer's tale of woe will convince you to be careful when hiring contractors
"You can't double park here," the officer informed the electrician about to start work on our new house. "You are blocking traffic." After ogling the policewoman he flippantly responded, "Chill out, baby. Give me a minute."
This did not go over well - and almost earned our electrician a night in the slammer to learn some manners. This was day one of construction, and a sign of things to come.
My husband and I were excited newlyweds who had just closed on an 1863 row house full of character but in need of some serious TLC. Our construction loan allowed our imagination to run amok. We really liked the general contractor we'd selected. He was friendly, open to ideas and his own home was beautiful. Choosing a contractor was like dating: our first few dates left us as giddy as schoolgirls. But much like dating, people put their best foot forward in the beginning, but once they get a bit more comfortable, bam! Out pops their true selves. This is why it's important to get several referrals when selecting contractors, not just one.
Both my husband and I worked and didn't have time to baby-sit the process, which resulted in all types of surprises. Our house is now like an aging star with a great makeup artist, tailor and lighting expert - sexy to look at on the surface but riddled with flaws upon close examination.
A not-so-great rehab job is like a bad gift that keeps on giving. The simplest things, like installing shelves in the living room, were complicated when we discovered the walls were not plumb.
While relaxing in my favorite comfy living room chair, I was assaulted with dripping water brought on from my husband's shower in the upstairs bathroom. Upon inspection, we discovered that the tub was moving and a piece of pipe that should have been 9 inches was only 3 inches and jury-rigged to the vent with wire.
While I was applying eyeliner in the downstairs bathroom one day, the sink just separated from wall - it turns out that being attached to the plumbing and some liquid nails are not enough for proper anchoring.
I could go on about the do-overs we've executed over the years, but the key lessons are this: first, details matter, and second, be an engaged partner in your home's remodeling. The flaws in our house were not discovered until the general contractor went out of business and moved to some fabulous destination with the money earned from unfortunates like us.
Have your contractors create a work plan with a timeline, have them show you the work daily and check off what was completed. Pop in during the day when you can, and don't be afraid to ask questions. If you are not confident in your contracting skills, find a friend that is more knowledgeable and ask them to come along for the walk-throughs.
So, how did the surly electrician perform? We discovered wiring from the 1930s in the ceiling of what was supposed to be our fully re-wired house while installing a ceiling fan.
On the bright side, the mileage we've racked up on our home repair credit card is enough to fly us to somewhere wonderful for a much-needed break from home renovation.
By J. JEWELL BATES
(c) CTW Features
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