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Thursday, August 6, 2009

I am NOT a fearless blogger...

like my friend Anne-Marie at The house that A-M Built who can write the words describing problems with the building of her gorgeous new house in Australia. Problems that would make a very strong, grown man cry.... She is so brave in the telling of the issues, problems, and solutions to the things that have been done to her beautiful, beautiful home.

I am not so brave.

I, instead, tend to crawl into the fetal position, and hide my head under the covers and the problems cause all my energy to drain from my body... for months. Talking about the problems in our renovation, and especially the writing of them makes them all too real... so usually I don't. Until now. And the only reason I am able to do so today, is because we had a very talented finish carpenter here yesterday and today to fix the problems.

The subject: Our Kitchen- my beautiful, dream of a kitchen. (excuse me while I go get a tissue...)

The background: Our fired ex-General Contractor fancied himself as a carpenter. He was not. If I had a dollar for every time I asked to "please hire us a finish carpenter" I could have paid for 1/8 of my kitchen. Instead the ex-GC took it upon himself to become our finish carpenter and installed our kitchen cabinets (and then had the nerve to charge us a carpenters fee plus his 20%---- I know, I know. If it hadn't been for the extreme time constraint of having to move out of our temporary rent house he would have been fired in February. From our point of view we just didn't have the luxury of time to fire him, and had to forge ahead to get into the house.) We are now paying the price, literally and figuratively, for that decision.

The problems: Ex-GC was a hack of a carpenter. My beautiful, beautiful kitchen had issues. Some days I had a hard time even walking into the room. It was the equivalent of a beautiful automobile that was a lemon. My very talented custom-cabinet-maker made lovely cabinets. He included shims for the installers to remove as necessary to make them fit the room. My ex-GC didn't know how to install them, left them on when they weren't needed, and my subzero housing was then installed unlevel which is apparently obvious in what was supposed to be a open shelf above it-was instead 1/2 " off of level. My gorgeous Venatino marble on my island developed a huge sag. Yes, I just said my marble developed a sag. Hard to believe, but true. Several interviewing carpenters were shocked it hadn't cracked. Doors in the island opened to a huge gaping hole to the floor- as ex-GC didn't put in the piece that was made by the cabinet-maker to finish it out. The baseboard on the island had be ripped out to correct the problem. Drawers and cabinets don't work with the self-close feature we had paid extra for; some barely close at all without scraping the paint off of the wood below. A gaping hole was left open under overhead cabinets. Just a big hole sitting there.... go figure. All these pieces were provided by the cabinet maker. Ex-GC left a stack of unused materials..... One of the cabinet doors under the sink is installed upside down. The kitchen company who happily took our money, now doesn't want to get involved....

The Solution: [It should be noted at this point: Via our lawyer (yes, sadly there is a lawyer involved. Ex-GC is writing letters acting as a lawyer;) ex-GC offered to come fix all the problems; he said it would be "easy" and only take half a day! Now, why would I want the person who screwed it all up in the first place, and obviously didn't know what he was doing to come "fix" the problems? So, we are paying to fix them ourselves.]
Back to the solution. A very talented, kind-hearted man and his son were here yesterday and today to fix my kitchen and bring her back to all her glory! Hooray!!! They are building new doors to camouflage the unlevel shelf above the SubZ. Turning sink cabinet door right side up, extending 6 of the under island supports/feet to make them meet the floor- as ex-GC didn't bother to do that which is what we learned today caused the marble to sag, and is kindly fixing all the many remaining problems.
They were miracle workers I tell you! For the first time in the three months I actually walked into my kitchen tonight and wasn't pissed off. I looked around and saw my beautiful, beautiful kitchen again!

My apologizes for writing about things that are not 'pretty.' I just felt I needed to talk about some of the difficulties of late. And while the kitchen problems were a huge issue, it is just one of a long list of little and big 'issues' that we are now resolving. I do think; however, that fixing the kitchen will bring the muses back, and inspire me to not only start cooking again (which I love to do), but to continue the decorating of the house. All of the issues and the problems have been a huge energy drain.

I salute A-M who is my hero in fighting the 'bad guys' in a remodel. Her courage gives me strength.

The good news is that I promise a kitchen reveal is not too far off now!

b.a.d. photos

upside down cabinet door

unlevel shelf

gaping hole to floor between island trim and cabinet

Please note the 'daylight' showing between the bottom of the level and the marble.

g.o.o.d. photo

Please note NO 'daylight' between the bottom of the level and the marble!!!!! Miracle workers I tell you!


  1. May you win from him all you deserve and more. I'd like to say it is an incredible story of incompetence but given my experience of GCs I find it all too credible. It must be quite cathartic to advertise for this man - keep it going. I'm glad you're finally able to find competence, kindness and expertise.

  2. Congrats on the AC .. we are in Maine and the humidity has been awful.. so I am jealous!

    I would want to go hide under the covers(or find a valium) also with all of those issues.... it makes ya think you will never go thru another renovation... and then... you forget. Thank goodness you found a competent carpenter.

    We moved into our home here in the pouring rain last month... it took a week and 3 valiums for my furniture to dry out.

    Your kitchen will be gorgeous and a year form now... all of this will be a distant memory as will my damp furniture.

  3. Hey - I might take you up on the Ikea offer... if you let me know when you are going. :) I would like 2 of the Foto fixtures, just not sure what size yet. I will measure. And do you have a Paypal account or anything? I think that would be the easiet way to get you money. I could mail a check, too. :)

    I love my rescue pups and kitties. I have rescue rott, a rott/dane and a pit bull, and 3 rescue kitties. A petting zoo of sorts, but they NEEDED me. :)

  4. Ok. See. THAT is exactly why I have put of my master bath remodel for mmfghmgf years. I am TERRIFIED of hiring the wrong tile contractor. And I swear to you, every neighbor who's had such work done has said to me "yeah, it looks ok but I wouldn't hire them again". The guy who did such great work in my brother's house won't travel 45 minutes to work at my house. The one designer I know who hires this type of contractor and whose judgement I trust, says a different crew has come to her jobs every time but it "usually" works out "ok". I have this ONE bathroom that needs tile work (the rest of the room we'll handle ourselves) and I want it to be PERFECT. Now, my bathroom is actually broken so there's a new sense of urgency about getting the job done and that's just making me procrastinate even more!!
    Your kitchen will be fine and fantastic and beautiful. Soon. So will my bathroom. Eventually. But the in-between of getting the work done and done well and the mess and the inconvenience is just maddening. I hope venting about it made you feel better.

  5. Bless your heart! I know you have been through it all.

    Just yesterday, a contractor had the nerve to ask me, when he saw my resistance to his idea, "is your husband at home?" I hit the roof!

    You can do it, friend! Hang in there!

    (Oh, I'm putting the marble all over the kitchen! I posted a picture of the slab just a few days ago. Thanks for your tips.)

  6. Joan,
    I hope you feel better getting that out! I too have horror stories of remodeling but they are becoming distant memories now. Yours will too, I'm sure. Can't wait for the reveal. Your have impeccable taste. In agreement w/Tracy above re tile. I always think I should learn how to install tile. I could make a fortune just by showing up on time alone!

  7. Oh man. I hate all that...makes my stomach turn cartwheels when I think about it all. It seems anytime we have ever had someone do work for us (which has become very rare over the years)they mess something else up.

    One of the worst experiences I can remember involved a guy tracking roof tar all over brand new (like 3 days old) carpet we had just installed to put our house on the market. Black roof tar on white berber. After freaking out and many phone calls...GooGone saved the day. And then there was the big truck that broke our driveway delivering a roll-off container...I could go on and on. You are almost there...cannot wait for the big reveal!!

  8. Reading this and A-M's posts I realise how incredibly lucky we were when we built our house. Our builder was wonderful and in the 14 months it took to build the house, there was not one harsh word or argument and we got a house that we absolutely love. I'm so sorry you are having such awful problems and that the end of this angst is not too far off. Leigh

  9. Oh no Joan, what a load to bear and not share..... for so long! You poor poor darling. When you have a few links in the trade chain, there is always the risk of a rate limiting one! Such beautiful craftsmanship in your cabinets and such a dodgy installer.... oh, I so know your heartache but I am delighted that you have had a knight in shining armour come through and fix it all up for you! Mine just left last week (painter aka A-M's knight in shining armour). The positives in our heartache is that when fixed, our houses will be the best built shacks in town! By the time my fixes are fixed, my little joint will survive a cyclone, I'm sure yours will too! Ah life's lessons! So glad you are feeling better and happier and can enjoy your gorgeous kitchen! A-M xx

  10. I am so happy things are looking up !!!!!
    I can't wait for the final kitchen reveal. It already looks beautiful. The GC - love it - he is now a lawyer too. unreal.

  11. So sorry about your kitchen problems! Thank goodness you found someone that can do the work and do it right! I had a small kitchen redo done 1 year ago, when I went to open the oven door it would not open because the drawer pull was in the way and the bottom of one cabinet was broken! I had to fight to get them to come and fix it, finally they did. A few months ago I was cleaning the range hood and it came crashing down on me! It had been installed with 4 tiny screws! I was lucky I was not seriously hurt, my hood was dented and my tea kettle! I had to make many calls and yell to have someone come out and fix it. I finally said I was going to have the township inspector come out and write up a complaint for me, that the work was not properly done. . .needless to say someone was here within two hours! I know once all is done you will be so happy. . .I would fall apart, then get angry and fight. I am so happy you found someone who can do the work and do it right!

    Happy you got central air too, having to deal with all of this and the weather being hot/humid would not help!

    Good Luck

  12. I am so happy your kitchen is looking like your kitchen should. What a nightmare of worry and upset that should not have happened in the first place - I hope that bad carpenter gets his just desserts...Enjoy your weekend, xv.

  13. I can't thank each and every one of you enough for your thoughtful and supportive comments. I almost didn't post anything about the problems, but a friend said something to me that made me realize that there was strength to be gained -both for me and for someone who was maybe reading this going through a similiar situaton and thinking it's just 'them.' I am sorry to be learning that so many of you have similar experiences and that it appears to be a universal problem.
    Thank you for all of your support, and your encouragement.
    Dan always says I have the nicest followers and I DO!!

  14. Dear Joan: I feel for you. I will never understand how people can sell themselves as something they are not. You would think that people would take pride in their work, but I guess that isn't so. I am happy that you and Dan have found a reliable team to correct the issues. It is sad that even the cabinet maker doesn't want to get involved. I guess people do not undestand the power of the spoken word. I love being able to recommend people to others, but I also have no problem not recommending someone. My hope is that all the home issues are resolved quickly. You and Dan should be able to relax, and unwind in your home.

  15. So happy that you've found someone to fix these issues! I'm familiar with that "disappointed with my kitchen" feeling; my tile guy did a terrible job. He apologized, said he'd pay for new tile, had me pick it up (trusting soul that I am) and then he redid it all - still terrible. And he never paid me. And disappeared. I'm so bummed with the tile work in my kitchen. Saving up to get it all redone in a few years. Thrilled that yours is all getting fixed! Hurray!

  16. I can't make any comment on my General Contractor as I also sleep with him, so need to be very careful what I say!!! Of course you can rant Joan, that's what friends are for.
    Millie ^_^

  17. It is unfortunate that we have people who are not competent and not honest. So sorry about your bad experiences. I have been fortunate mostly with any home improvement projects.

    Hopefull, there will be some pictures when it is done!

  18. I'm sorry to hear about your troubles with the renovation, but it's good to get it off your chest. I've had similar problems -- fired an incompetent electrician who was stealing the electrical supplies for my house from a local university and he had the audacity to try to sue me. Hang in there--it will be beautiful when done and you can have the satisfaction of posting the lovely results here! Can't wait to see more when it's done. Deborah

  19. Joan,
    You are brave and I completely understand the simmering anger. Your GC sounds greedy - not hiring the professionals needed for your job - and also overconfident - not thinking you'd hire a lawyer. (I've been in touch with a construction lawyer as well. I'm hoping we don't have to use him.)

    Take care. Chin up. I'm happy that you got your kitchen problems fixed. Am stunned, stunned that the marble sagged. Yikes.

  20. You poor thing! This probably won't make you feel any better, but I think we ALL have been through something similar! There are just people out there who just don't know what they are doing, but do it anyway to make a buck. I'm glad that you are happily on your way to a beautiful new kitchen that is done right! And BTW, kharma is a bitch and the ex-GC will find that out!

  21. Joan, Im loving your journey and your beautiful picures. The fall ones with the leaves are incredible. I think thats how I think of that part of the country in fall. We just had kitchen installed after moving in November, nothing to major only the wrong handles, the ones I wanted required only one hole , well the ones I got required two holes. They did offer to send for new doors with only one hole but me in my big hurry to lets get this done , settled for what I have now. It took a few months to get over but now I dont mind at all. I got a posh new garbage can out of the whole mix up. I hope your journey and projects well please you and your husband. Your house is just beautiful. I really had to laugh at Millie's post here... Good luck .. Julie in Holland....

  22. I'm sorry about your kitchen problems...amazing how these guys keep getting jobs and doing a lousy job. Let others in your community that this guy is bad news....we have to let others know so it doesn't happen again. I'm glad you've found someone who knows what they are doing to fix your beautiful kitchen. Thanks for sharing the ups and downs of remodeling and building.


  23. Oh my...your frustration was warranted. We've had so many issues with reliable/skilled contractors. It's so difficult to find a decent and honest one (around here at least). I'm so happy that your fix is on the way. Best of luck!


  24. Hi Joan,

    Hope I'm not too late in leaving a comment. I feel for you and your kitchen and am glad it is now fixed. Also glad that you decided to tell us here in blog land - not good for the physic to keep things inside. A problem shared is a problem halved. The original kitchen in our house was 1960's and my husband and I promised ourselves when we got it done we would have everything as we wanted it, including a skylight as the kitchen faces south and only gets the afternoon sun. I would have to turn the lights on in the kitchen on a bright sunny day. Anyway to cut a long story short our skylight installer was a took him six months to turn up to our place, meanwhile the kitchen guys had built our kitchen and I had bits and pieces all over the house. I was thankful that our rooms were big enough. The island bench in our bedroom and half of a cupboard also. Cooked only with a microwave and frying pan for six months (and with a husband and three kids I never want to do that again!). He had a mate with him who I thought was helping him by handing him tools and such but he stood around all day drinking coke and eating meat pies and at the end of the day I was left with a box of smashed roof tiles that he had thrown off the roof (and they are rare and old tiles) and he should have known this. The first rain we had the skylight leaked and gradually got worse so any rain after that, it was ice-cream containers on the floor, cracked and lumpy paint. (Enough to make me cry). Happily we have it fixed now but the plaster and painters still need to come in and do their magic but I hate the thought of ladders and such in my kitchen and in all honesty it makes me feel sick. I'm still angry with this guy and even though I wouldn't have him back on the place - I have tried to contact him just to let him know what a horrible job he had done but he has fallen off the face of the earth. The other day I tried to find him on facebook, but nothing so I will console myself that I can report him and they will black-list him. Sorry to be long-winded but don't feel bad 'cause the rest of us are hearin' ya!! (Oh and by the way, can you believe this he was so proud of his work that he came inside with a big ladder - didn't bother to lock the ladder in place got as far up as the second step and the ladder went whoosh out from under him, one of the ladder legs hit a section of new kitchen on the bottom was a little foot and the ladder hit that and wrecked the profile. I was so mad I never said a word and he started to shake 'cause he knew how very mad I was. I stood there and glared at him - hence to say that came off his bill). If nothing else it's the inconvenience of it all. And whether or not you realise it, you start to question your judgement at hiring tradespeople - it's refreshing to know that we are not alone. But onto better things, your home does look amazing and I always enjoy calling in. Keep up the good work. I promise I won't be so long-winded next time!!!
    Take Care and have a great day.

    Love Janine
    Tasmania, Australia

  25. I'm still so overwhelmed by all of the b.a.d. renovation stories. So sorry so many of you can personally relate. I think it would all be different if "women" were contractors and trades people...

    Janine- thank you for sharing your tale. Dan & I loved your quote of "a problem shared is a problem halved".... And you are right, the inconvenience of it all is just overwhelming. To do it the first time is hard enough, but to have to "re-do" it because someone screwed up is so painful. Thank you for understanding!

  26. Lucky...I lived and went to college in New Hampshire, years ago!
    So what is New Hampshire Traditional Style? For Tiles?
    The classic Greek Key motif comes to mind...And encaustic tile.
    Nothing too ornate for New Hampshire. Good Luck!

  27. I only recently found your blog ~ LOVE it! ~ and really enjoy reading about your renovations because we hope to buy an older house in the near future and realize that we will have some renovations in our future. This kind of post is sooo helpful for those of us who have not done this yet. Sorry you have had these difficulties, but thankful you have the miracle workers to come in and fix it all!! Your kitchen is beautiful! And I look forward to visiting here many more times!!!!


Welcome! Thank you for leaving a comment; you have no idea how much your comments inspire me to keep writing- I appreciate each and every one. Comments are moderated by me prior to publishing on the blog, so if you don't see your comment post immediately it will be posted as soon as I receive it and read it. joan