Black Lab Remodeling

When Being the GC Backfires

Adventures in contracting 

While visiting my wifes side of the family this Christmas week, my mother in law received a text from her next door neighbor.  Hello, I am in the middle of a bathroom renovation and our contractor just backed out.  If your son-in-law, owner of Black Lab Remodeling, would like to come take a look to give us an estimate on finishing the project he can come over anytime.”

Curiosity got the better of me, and I aways hate to hear when a homeowner is left high and dry  by a contractor.  So I went over.  There were a couple of guys still working on the water proofing of the shower and tub.  I was introduced to the Lead” and he proceeded to volunteer information on where they were in the project.  When I asked, when is the water proofing inspection was scheduled for,” well that is when I was informed that there were no need for inspections, as no permit was pulled.  I also shouldnt worry about the toilet spacing, it wouldnt pass clearance.  Now the location of the toilet had been moved, as had the location of the vanity supply lines and the electrical had been moved.  The walls had been put in place so all the work that was done was covered up and had never been inspected.

When I asked the homeowner if they had planned on being the General Contractor on the project they replied, Not really, I hired the plumber, who said he would help hire others to get the project done.  But then once the drywall and the texture were up he said, I dont paint and dont tile, so you need to find those people,” and moved on to the next job.  The tile contractor is the one who backed out of the project, and that was who I was called on to replace.

Here is the reality of the situation, when a homeowner calls on a contractor to take over a project, especially one where no permits have been issued and no inspections have been completed, the homeowner is essentially asking that new contractor to take full responsibility for the project from start to finish.  They are asking the new contractor to trust the work of the contractors before them to have done the job correctly.  But when permits havent been applied for, it is usually the contractor or the homeowner or both trying to save money” on the project.  The problem is that when you start to go down that road, other things in the name of saving money” can be omitted.  Sure the plumbing may never fail, however the codes are in place for a reason.  Usually for the health and safety of the homeowners who will live in the home long after the contractor has left.  We get calls to correct issues that have been left behind by most likely well intended contractors trying to help a homeowner save money.  In the end the money saved is erased by the higher costs of having to redo the work.

In this case, if the toilet location wouldn’t pass inspection, what other code requirements where overlooked and then covered?  Not only that, but when inspecting the electrical, wires where left without wire nuts on them, a small thing but one that can help prevent injury, especially when considering the breaker to the bathroom had been left on.  Too many signs of things not being done safely and properly were present in this situation.

When the homeowner and I were talking further he mentioned, “for what I am paying for this project I would have hoped for more communication and for things to be done properly.”  So now we have to wonder were these shortcuts being taken to save the homeowner money or for some other reason?  Unfortunately this homeowner is now in a situation where they have to choose, if they want another contractor to come in and take over (me), they will need to be prepared to have everything behind the walls exposed, a permit issued, and the work completed inspected.  Knowing full well that at least the toilet will not pass.  Then the work will need to be redone to code so that we can finish out the project and guarantee the work we do.

There are times when we are first talking with clients, that they are shocked by the pricing we tell them for their projects.  The reality is we are pricing the projects based on everything that goes into a successful project, a better than expected experience for the client and that will allow us to be here long into the future for both the warranty of this project and for any future projects our clients might have.

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