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The Nightmare Remodel: What if you did everything right and things still went wrong?

Reader
Doug did due diligence, hired a respected and licensed contractor, and still had
problems. In fact, he found himself giving the contractor direction on how to do the job right. Here's what Doug wrote:

What I would like
to know is, as a new homeowner who knew next to nothing about remodeling, and
who hired a well-regarded licensed contractor who has been in the business for
many years and has excellent referrals, and was not cheap by any means, have
been able to catch numerous mistakes they have made including: 

1. Improper
flashing of windows.

2. Failure to use
proper insulation for cathedral ceiling 

3. Failure to
properly level patio surrounding new add-on so water flows away from structure.

4 And more.
Before the advent
of the Internet there is no way I would have been able to catch these mistakes.
Now I'm not only able to catch them, I can give the contractor technical docs,
videos, instructions from the manufacturer on how to do it properly. 

Why do I, the
homeowner have to find the mistakes because the contractor has been doing it
the same way throughout the years and is unable or unwilling to keep up with
the latest building best practices?

Do you have feedback for Doug on why this happened? 

3 Comments on The Nightmare Remodel: What if you did everything right and things still went wrong?

  1. We are finishing an extensive remodel of our home that required tearing off the main floor and reframing/reroofing, etc. We subbed the job ourselves and, due in part to the building bust, have been lucky to hire some excellent subs.
    Here are some hypotheses on Doug’s situation.
    1. No one cares about your home like you do. Especially if you, like us, are planning to live there for a very long time. This is the main reason that we subbed our remodel ourselves.
    2. We live near Atlanta, a building-boom area that has recently busted somewhat. Many contractors/subs have become accustomed to slamming in subdivisions and spec homes in an assembly-line manner. As long as they complete their contracted work on time for the contracted price, no one questions their work. Dealing with a homeowner who wants a job done a certain (correct) way costs them time/money.
    3. Because of #2 there is little return in learning new methods/best practices. As long as it passes code, it’s OK by them. Education and craftsmanship costs time/money.
    4. Most people living in these poorly built homes won’t live there very long. They won’t actually witness the thing falling down around them 10 years from now. That’s someone else’s problem and by then the contractor/subs are long gone.
    5. Unlike Doug, most homeowners don’t know any better, don’t know what to look for, or don’t care. They assume the contractor will hire good subs and will do good work.
    6. The Internet is helping people like Doug become more knowledgeable, and many contractors aren’t used to knowledgeable homeowners.
    Find a good contractor is very, very difficult. In fact, I’ve only heard a couple of successful contractor stories. In one of those cases, the owner had also been a contractor who’d built several of his own houses and knew what to look for.

  2. As a professional remodeler with many years experience, this is a most frustrating situation to hear about. For a homeowner to have to point out these most basic of proper construction techniques to a supposed experienced remodeler is pretty sad. One thing that a homeowner can do during their due diligence process is to see if the contractor is a member of, and do they have any certifications through any professional associations like the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) or the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI). Part of holding certifications is the requirement for Continuing Education requirements and shows a commitment on the part of the contractor to be continually learning and staying up to date on changing technologies. Just as in any other industry, we cannot have the mentality of “do it like we’ve alway done it”. Also a homeowner should feel completely free to simply ask the contractor if they have completed any recent seminars are educational classes to make sure they are up to date on new technologies specific to products they are considering using. I know it can be a bit intimidating for a homeowner to ask these kinds of questions but I for one embrace this opportunity to share my knowledge with clients and separate myself from the contractors who “do it like they always have”.

  3. To Doug: that’s a great question and I’m sorry you had this experience. My only input is how you qualified the contractor- “well-regarded licensed contractor who has been in the business for many years and has excellent referrals, and was not cheap by any means” There are a lot of assumptions that are attached to “well-regarded” and “excellent referrals”. Kathy mentions “respected” in her summary of your complaint. All of these speak to me more of his personality than his professionalism. Ideally a contractor has both. What other designations or credentials does he have? Is he a member of NARI or NAHB? Were there any clues that he was an “old dog” not willing to learn “new tricks”? (i.e. does he use new technology) In all of this I just realized that I’m assuming your contractor is a man but that could be wrong. :)

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