Monday, September 5, 2011

A cautionary tale for homeowners hiring contractors

Our kitchen in progress.
Well today is September 5, 2011 and this is what our kitchen currently looks like. As I said before we started this project well over a year a go, originally we just wanted to re-do the floors and fix the bowed in walls, and re-cap the radiator pipes so that they were under the floor instead of sticking up two inches ABOVE the floor.

Before we did anything, before we spoke to contractors, interior designers or architects, we asked our then building manager to come up and look at what we wanted to do to get his advice. The radiator piping sealed under the floor---no problem, removing the wall between the kitchen and dining room----no problem. Of course at the time he had been the manager for 16 years, and we thought we could trust what he had to say. But of course as soon as the wall came down, we found nine gas risers, and the guy who was our manager had been replaced. Here is also when everything hit the fan. Our original contractor Sam Woods of Construction Designs and Solutions was/is a crook, his workers not only exposed the gas lines and caused a gas leak from our line, he threatened to call Con Edison himself because he was angry that the building wasn't going to let him do this work that he was obviously marking up a great deal. The day I asked him to return the money that we had just paid him days earlier to move the gas lines was the last day I spoke to him. The next day Con Edison got an "anonymous" call that we had a gas leak. By this time the plumbers from the previous day had stopped the leak. But it didn't stop Con Edison from shutting our gas line and our upstairs neighbor's gas line off, until further testing. Which means we were held responsible for the plumbers to test all the gas lines and for any other expenses associated with this incident, i.e. the food bill from our upstairs neighbors while the gas was shut off. It didn't help matters at all that evidently our neighbors could only eat out at the most expensive restaurants in the area. (Thanks Neighbors!)

This whole thing has been an awful experience and I feel I could write a book on what not to do when looking to hire a contractor and or designer for your home. We or more frankly I did so many things wrong, or trusted the wrong people, that we were bound to have some good luck sooner or later. The job is only half complete, but the new contractors, Telia Contracting are doing a very good job. It's a stark contrast from Sam Woods and his guys, Telia Contracting seems to be the real deal, but the project has yet to be I'm a little cautious, but cautiously optimistic. This ordeal has been horrible from hiring an interior designer who mislead me and misrepresented herself, to firing her, to hiring a contractor who passed a "rigorous background check and approval process" from Service only to find that he was an absolute crook who stole our money and was only able to complete the demolition work and cause a gas leak along the way. It's been so stressful and miserable, but I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. Yes this is costing us an arm and leg, mainly because we were robbed by a horrible, manipulative contractor, but we also felt kicked from all sides when our building pretty much held us hostage so that we would agree to pay for all the damages from our contractor, or else they would not approve our refinancing package. Not to mention our not so neighborly neighbors. It's been so horrible that I couldn't write about it. I was ashamed and also angry and deeply troubled by all of this. I've  broken down into fits of tears more times then I can count.  So anyway, it's a long round about way of apologizing for not keeping up my blog but also for being able to move on. Here's a little bit of common sense advice, that needs to be read over and over when you are going through this process. Because it sounds simple, but once you are in the middle of the process and are desperate to get the work done you begin to rationalize this and that, and before you know it you are in the same boat as us.

DO NOT PAY a contractor, electrician, plumber, etc more than the initial deposit until work is actually completed. Don't trust that the work will get done. And make sure the initial deposit is something reasonable, and payment schedules are clear. Mr. Woods would trick us into giving him more money by saying that so and so is going to cost more, can he have a check. And because we were the ones that didn't' want to be dishonest we gave it to him. But I've learned the hard way that you just have to stay firm and only pay when you actually see the work being done.

I've found that most people have heard similar contractor horror stories, and it's about time these creeps get what's coming to them. Here is a link to the Home Improvement Consumer guild from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs.

Good luck if you are starting or in the process of getting home improvement work done. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment and ask me. At the very least I hope you can learn from my mistakes. It's also worth noting that I tried to do and buy everything that is as eco friendly as possible, I mean what's the point in recycling bottles, cans, and paper and reusing shopping bags etc, if when it comes to the big purchases we opt for the cheapest chemical laden environment destroying kitchen cabinets. I donated our old kitchen appliances, cabinets and counters to Habitat for Humanity, I purchased our new cabinets (that have been sitting in our building's basement since April!) from the Green Depot, I searched high and low for ceramic tile with recycled content in it for both the floor and the backsplash. Energy star approved appliances, etc etc. But I felt as soon as I mentioned this to most contractors or architects they either glossed over it or took this to mean I was a big fat sucker. And maybe I am....I guess maybe I am.

1 comment:

Mandy Black said...

Hello ajc -

I am sorry to hear that your experience with the professionals you hired were not ideal. I was not able to find your information or Sam Woods information in our system and would like to speak to you directly in regards to your concerns to see what we can do. You can reach me at or 303.963.8066. I look forward to hearing from you.

Thank you,

Mandy Black