Renovation Realities: Trust Your Gut

So let’s get this week started with a post about some of the renovation realities that I’ve experienced over the last few weeks (and the reason I’ve been away from blogging).

I don’t think I ever explained exactly what I decided to do on the contractor front.  Up until two days before work was scheduled to begin, I intended to go with a general contractor and company to do the bulk of the work in the house.  Due to budget constraints (which will be a completely separate post), I had made some concessions on things that wouldn’t get done during this initial renovation but decided that it would be nice to have someone else deal with the bulk of the behind the wall issues – the electrical, plumbing, insulation, HVAC, etc.  The price was much more than I expected but I decided to go along with it.

This was my decision until I received the final contract and scope of project from the company.  As you work with contractors, you meet several times (over the phone or in person) to discuss the scope of the project.  Obviously, the changes you discuss during these meetings usually results in several modifications to the project scope, the contract price, and timeline.  With my contractor, I would guess that I met with them over 20 hours in 4-5 days to finally decide the scope of the project, final price, etc.  So when the final contract and project scope was sent to me, I expected it to reflect the countless hours (not really countless since I just guessed at the number of hours 🙂 ) of discussion and the final number that we decided on the day before.  But instead, I received a completely new contract price with many estimates/costs now increased due to problems with calculating square footage or other miscellaneous issues on their end.  (I’m not going to even get into the lack of personal accountability among contractors – as if there mistake is your fault and they shouldn’t have to cover it.  This industry is bananas!)

The difference in contract price was not a huge amount – maybe another $2K in a $65K renovation – but it was the principle of the situation along with my gut feeling that caused it to be a much bigger deal.  This was the 3rd or 4th time that these “small” changes occurred without any explanation (in advance) for the changes.  This coupled with the unexplained delays and lack of communication left me with little confidence in working with this company.  (In full disclosure, this company was owned by a family friend and we wanted to support him and minority businesses in general.  If it had been any other company, I would have thanked them for their interest in the project but fired them after the first delay in getting us an estimate.)  Although we were on the eve of demolition and construction, I decided that we would need to delay and I would need to find another contractor to do the work.  That night as I talked with the hubby, we decided that I needed to trust my gut.  My gut was telling me that I would be unhappy with the process and stressed beyond belief if I used this contractor.

Unfortunately for me, this contractor was one of a handful of contractors authorized by the state to perform work under the California Energy Upgrade program which provides homeowners with up to $8000 in rebates for energy efficiency updates to the house.  So I needed to continue to use them for the energy upgrade projects.  Therefore, I split the project into different phases whereby this contractor is in the house finishing up the new HVAC system and other energy upgrade portions with the hope that the inspector will be there later this week to close out the program.  After they finish, the new contractor that I’m working with will take over and get the rest of the house (the pretty stuff) completed (with hopefully a lot less drama).

I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that I was correct to go with my gut as even this short 2-week energy upgrade project with the contractor has given me so much grief.  But I’m trying to be positive and look on the bright side that it will be done relatively soon and they will be out of my hair forever.

Wish me luck that I won’t curse anybody out in the next 4 days.  Every day when I head to the job site (my house), I try to tell myself to stay calm but I usually fail miserably.

P.S. These contractor tales are happening because I’m in a new city and have to find new contractors.  In SF, I had a list of contractors that I worked with and loved.  I hope that going through this process will help me identify a new crop of contractors that I love and can use on client projects in LA.  

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