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Nightmare on My Street

Surprise Demo of back wall

Surprise Demo of back wall

It is one year after the huge willow oak fell on my house and finally reconstruction begins.  We lost our first contractor to a bigger name on the line, our second died as soon as we paid him some upfront money (not collectible), but then we found Southend Painting and Roofing via Angie’s List.  They don’t just paint anymore. At least that is what they told us.

Chris Kite showed up to do an estimate.  He was so professional.  He listened to what we said and then he helped us figure out how to do what we wanted.  We selected this company based on Chris.

I explained to Chris that I was easy to work for as long as I know when you are coming and you call if you can’t get here.  I don’t even ask you why you can’t come.  I just need the courtesy of knowing so I can plan my own life.  I even told him that I would fire someone who could not do this simple, courteous thing.  He assured me this was no problem.  The job was to begin May 12.

We signed the contract.  We were told to expect Todd Cahill who would supervise the project on Monday, May 6, at 9 am to measure for new windows.

Todd showed up at 4pm.  In my best schoolteacher voice, I explained to Todd my one requirement—a call—and how that was simply courtesy and good business on his part.  He understood; but it wasn’t his fault—he was in the north end of the county and had no cell service.  Hm-m-m-m.  He took the measurements and said he would be back Tues or Weds.  I said he needed to call before he came to make certain I was home or could come home to let him in.  No problem.

On Friday, May 9th, four days later, he called.

Well, he didn’t come because (not his fault) he needed to re-measure the windows before he ordered them.

(Time passes)

After that is a bit of a wasteland of calls that I didn’t document, but the gist was that we couldn’t start because the vendor ordered the wrong windows, then the windows weren’t in, then they were but he was waiting on the new back door which wasn’t in yet.  The backdoor was in my garage where it had been for a week.  Oh, they delivered it?  He didn’t know.

The last bit was June 6.  We discussed how there seemed to be an excuse for everything, but nothing was his fault and that I could no longer trust anything he said and that was not a good thing in a working relationship.  He felt I was being unfair.  He was very busy, he didn’t remember telling me things, he was in the middle of a divorce.  He didn’t understand.  He hadn’t done anything wrong.

He and Chris would meet the crew at my house on Monday, June 9, between 10 and 12 to explain the job to them.  I asked him to call when he was on the way.  He said no problem.

Why was I still employing him?  Well, he was contractor # 3 and I figured I could get some help from the owner;  we had had plywood in the window for a year, Steve was so tired of that.  I am an idiot.

I remembered Sunday the 8th that I had a nail appointment at 11 Monday.  First thing Monday morning, I called the office and left a message that I had to be away from home from 11-12, but that I would leave the gates unlocked so that he could get in with the crew and to call if he needed anything during that time.  I believe this is the courteous thing to do.

Window exchange

Window exchange

No phone call from Todd, but he did show up at 9:30.  He had a crew and my windows.  I met his father who was driving a second truck and I made the assumption that Jack was the owner.  As they were unloading, I asked Jack not to leave until we had talked.

Todd began to explain the job.  Incorrectly.  He was reading from the contract Chris had written, but he did not understand what it meant.  It said repeatedly to see Chris for details, but he had not done that.

Fortunately Steve had drawn a blueprint for part of the work.  I had sketches to explain the other parts, but he refused to look at them.

Finally I said quietly to Todd that he should have reviewed the project before he came to explain it.  Polo, the head of the crew, speaks good English and seemed very competent, but the whole thing was getting confusing. Finally Todd told his dad to leave and I said I wanted to talk to him first.  Todd asked why and told me HE was the owner.

Whole new ballgame.  I was gobsmacked.

I drew new pictures and gave to him.  I stood people in the places where things needed to be done.  The workmen nodded.  Todd had a meeting, but we had another conversation about communication and trust.  This time I tried my Mother voice.  I couldn’t wait to talk to my husband, especially about the way Todd had treated me.   He was rude, would talk over me, and told me I was just wrong about the project.  He left, I went in the house, and much to my surprise, the demo began.

Polo and his crew worked hard.  I left at 10:45 for my appointment and they said they would be back at 1:00.  But they had no materials with which to work, so they returned about 3.  Polo explained to me that he could put the windows in, but he could not seal them because he didn’t have the wood he would need to brace them.  Todd had changed Chris’ original order from 41 in. Reliabilt Windows to 38 3/4 inch no name, no warranty windows.  (I found the invoices in my garage three days later.) Polo asked if he could use some wood we had on hand and began to do the best he could to put 1 1/2 inches of “shim” on each side of each of our windows.

I then realized Todd had brought none of the materials we would need to do the project, except the windows.  No gutter, no roofing, no screen door, no wood to rebuild the arbor roof.  Polo and the crew could not weatherproof the back wall of the house.

Then I realized that they had torn down sections of the arbor that were to stay.  They were the decorative touches as well as beams and I would later see parts of them replaced with rough 1 x 4’s.

Big Demo Mistake

Big Demo Mistake

At 7:30 the new back door went in and they asked for the door hardware.  There was none.  The crew said the old hardware could not be used.  I told them not to call Todd and I would have the hardware for them the next day.

So we had no lock, and no knob, just two big holes in the door.  I reminded them I had a dentist appt. at 10 and a doctor’s appt at 12 the next day, but would leave the gates open.

We locked the fences and went to bed.

Tuesday arrived.  Polo stopped by to pick up the materials for another job that they had left in my garage and said he would be back at 1:00.  I didn’t get back until 2 and no one was here.  They never came.  No one called.

Path to enter my back yard

Path to enter my back yard

The skip had not arrived.  I had to trip over siding and nails and garbage to get to the faucet to water my flowers.

I took pictures.  Unlike Monday, I decided not to get angry.  I decided to document. Steve tried to call Todd to no avail.  He called Chris and Chris said he would talk to Todd.

Weds. 6-11

Polo showed and dropped off crew and some lumber.  Apologized for not being here yesterday, but said they had no materials to do any work.   He left to get a “tan” gutter.  My siding is not tan.  I had Jay call him and tell him not to buy gutter without having a piece of the siding with him to match the color.  I printed pictures of the roofing material for him which he asked me (via the crew left here) to text to Todd.  Steve has been trying to get to Todd and Chris all morning.  Finally he left Chris a message saying he could not reach Todd and he thought we needed to cancel the project.  Chris immediately called Todd and told him.  The next time Steve tried Todd, Todd answered and said he was on the way to the house, he had the skip to clean up the demo debris and that he had ALL the materials for the rest of our job.

The guys have removed the rest of the arbor that was to stay, so I am sitting in the den watching to make sure they don’t attempt to build the wrong thing.  They do not have the drawing.

Todd arrived with the skip and a few pieces of lumber.  ALL the materials?  I called Steve at work and he came over and met Todd for the first time.  Todd was a showman and Steve bought some of it.  He decided that we were now on the right track. That we could make it work.

Meghan called during this.  Her father-in-law ran he own construction business for 40+ years.  She told me his advice to them was:

  1.  Don’t let the project start until all materials are on site.
  2. Have copies of all vendor invoices in hand to be certain materials are paid for in full before the project starts.  If contractor doesn’t pay vendor and material is attached to your house, the vendor can sue you.

Write that down.  Wish I had known earlier.  I will be asking for this as soon as we are weatherproof.

More tomorrow.



5 Responses

  1. So sorry to have to add more cautions with respect to employment of contractors:

    1. When contractors buy supplies and bring you a receipt for reimbursement, take a look at what you have paid for, i.e., if it’s lumber see the actual wood and make sure the amount is in line with what’s on the receipt. And you only pay for supplies that they have taken off their truck and delivered to your property.

    When they pack up for the day, every day, make sure they are not packing up some of your material supplies. If they say they just want to throw it out, you say you just might be able to use some of those scraps. So don’t let them pack up the ‘garbage.’

    2. For cash deals, pay only one day at a time, and tell them you will have more money tomorrow. Otherwise they won’t show up for work.

    For larger contracts, read it before you sign it, make sure all necessary licenses are in force and make sure there are consequences for failing to complete the job by a certain date.

    3. No matter who calls themselves what, whether they say they are contractors, general contractors, or sub-contractors, your job will not get done properly unless there is one more contractor on site: you.
    If you don’t supervise the work, you won’t get what you pay for. You are the supervising contractor and if you don’t do your job, don’t be surprised if nobody else does theirs.

    4. This is especially important for single women employing male contractors: Make sure that your contractor knows that you intend to be the boss. Tell him that if he has a problem taking orders from a woman that he doesn’t have to do business with you, you can simply hire a female contractor – and they do exist. Don’t let a male contractor intimidate you during the course of a job. Sometimes they tell you that you are asking for something extra that’s not in the contract, sometimes they yell at women, sometimes they maintain that women are unable to understand the principles involved in whatever they are saying: Don’t fall for that.

    5. Remember that you always, always have the right to say: “Get off my property now.”


  2. Thank you so much for this comment. I stand instructed and I hope others reading this will learn from it. I don’t want this guy to do this to anyone else. It turns out after some research that this is a standard way of acting for him. That is why I am very willing to write this even though I look like an idiot.
    Reports will also go to organizations he belongs to, etc.

  3. Yikes! I am so sorry you’ve has such an ordeal!

  4. jane, so sorry to hear about your nightmare! You should have asked me about windows as my husband knows a very reliable construction co. called D & W construction company. They did our roof and they did our windows. They were on time and put the windows in on a one day job. The roof was done in one day even with the replacement of six pieces of plywood under the shingles. They do constuction are are very upfront with you. The crew shows up and there is a supervisor and they work hard. I can’t say enough about this company. They may not be on Angie’s List, but my husband and the owner go back quite a number of years through Lowe’s.
    Also, is it possible to get the BBB involved with their tardiness and no materials to work with? Or try Get McGinty on WCNC. Bill makes things happen and exposes poor excuses of a construction company.

  5. Oh Jane! I have been near, very near your shoes and know how awful it feels. I hope it will work out in a timely fashion.

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