Back in April, I undertook a job with a contractor I had never worked with before. This contractor was given my name and contact information from a good client of mine who is a personal friend of his. The job was a complete renovation of a dated Family Room, turning it into a Media Room. Here is the thread from my work on this job: Progress and Delays
As soon as I began my prep work for this job, I could see there would be problems. The contractor was clueless as to what constituted a sensible, logical work order. I informed him of what work I would be doing each day, always asking him if other workers would to be in the room while I was working, would there be sawdust, too many workers in the room, etc. The response I would get never matched what actually happened. To save money, this contractor attempted to do most of the work himself. He was totally inept at any carpentry work. A good, almost comical example of this was the day he spent the entire day, and I mean from 9-5, trying to cut and install 3 pieces of crown molding. He repeatedly cut the miter incorrectly and had to go out and get more molding stock, not once, but twice! When I left for the day, he was still not done. The following day, a real carpenter came and installed this molding in 1 hour. It’s clear where the contractor installed the molding. Here’s an example of his craftsmanship.
He proved to be inconsiderate, unprofessional, and unskilled when it came to wearing a General Contractors hat. I was kept waiting for several hours when he failed to show up anywhere near the designated time to let me in; he carelessly pulled and flung nails from the carpeting and tack strips around the room while I was working; and the final straw was the day he set up a saw in the middle of the room while I was doing my finishes, contaminating my supplies and embedding sawdust into my finish. His ridiculous order of work and lack of skills resulted in several hours of un-billable prep work for me in order to proceed. Whenever he was there working, the job site was a mess and I often spent time the following morning when I arrived picking up nails, sweeping and cleaning up his mess. Thank god for ipods, because that is how I survived working in this rather small room with this incompetent man. I would just plug in and go about my business, pretending he was not there.
I bring this up now because I was back at this house earlier this week, at the request of the homeowners, spending a full day, trying to repair all of the damage he caused to my walls, moldings and trim work, after my work was completed. The homeowners are a lovely couple and have been a joy for me to work with. The complication lies in the fact that this contractor is a friend of this couple for more than 20 years. They have fought with him openly and consistently over this job.
I must also add that the deposit check I received from the contractor bounced. At this point I told him I would be submitting my final bill to the client directly if he could not assure me I would be paid the day I finished with a good check. He assured me all was well. My relationship and all respect deteriorated with this contractor as I continued to work here. The homeowners grew more and more frustrated with him. This job should have been done in one month. Four months later, it is just wrapping up. I was open and honest with the homeowners about my disenchantment with their friend/contractor and expressed my fear that I would not be paid when finished. They offered to pay the balance due themselves and deduct it from the contractors final bill. I told them I would give the contractor the benefit of the doubt and see if he would come through and pay me with a good check in a timely way. Well, three weeks went by, the contractor gave me several lame excuses. In a final phone call with him, I told him I was going to the homeowners for my final payment that day. He told me that I could not do that and I just responded with "watch me". I did get paid in full by the homeowners the next day. This General Contractor sent me a nasty email over the weekend telling me I acted very unprofessionally. The homeowners have apologized to me for being caught in the middle of their fight and continue to express how pleased they are with my work and services. In fact, they are hiring me to do some work in a Powder Room.
While I wish I could have just walked away from this job, a) I needed the job and b) I felt a loyalty to the homeowners who seemed from the get go to fall victim to their friend’s incompetence and questionable business practices. In hindsight, I should have investigated this GC before I took on the job, but because he came to me through a good client, I did not.