Home Improvement Update

If you’ve been following along, you may recall that my husband and I are embroiled in something of a home improvement nightmare. If you haven’t been following along – or you don’t remember the details, and really, who would? – let me fill you in:

  • Almost 11 months ago we signed a contract with a home improvement company to renovate our house.
  • A team of people came, measured, and made a list of the work to be done.
  • Fairly shortly afterward they came and installed a new bathroom fan. It was nice. I was feeling optimistic.
  • Another team of people came, measured, and made a list of the work to be done.
  • Two months later we went and picked out the fixtures for our new ensuite. It took longer than promised to get to that point, but the explanations for the delay all sounded reasonable and I didn’t over think it.
  • A little less than two months after that they finally started part one of our kitchen renovation. They finished it – mostly. It was nice. I was feeling optimistic again.
  • A couple of months later our ensuite renovation still hadn’t started. After a flurry of emails my husband got our contractor on the phone and he apologized profusely. He said that since it was November at that point, it would be best to wait until after Christmas to start the work. We had a start date of January 13, and I was again feeling okay.
  • A few details were finished on the kitchen portion of our renovation, although they still haven’t replaced our light as promised, built the walkway connecting our new door to our patio, or installed gutters.
  • In early January our contractor explained that his project manager was having a family emergency and our renovation would have to wait. I didn’t want to be a heel, so I accepted that.
  • Another team of people came, measured, and made a list of the work to be done.
  • Finally, we had a confirmed start date of February 17. On February 16 Jon and I cleared out our closed and moved our bed downstairs to the family room so that we would be out of the way. They did in fact show up the morning of February 17 and started the demolition of our old bathroom and closet.
  • By the morning of February 19 the demolition was done, and by noon the demo team left. They explained that the next step would be delayed until the following Monday (February 24) as the electrician was in Disneyland with his family.
  • I didn’t hear from any one on February 24. On February 25, when no one had showed up, I started making phone calls. I called the project manager and didn’t hear back. Then I called the company owner and didn’t hear back. Finally, I sent an email to the owner. He replied, and his message contained these sentences:
  • Unfortunately a new problem has arisen over the last few days. As part of our organizational restructure to reduce overhead costs and become more efficient, and better able to properly service our customers, Ecowest has recently voluntarily entered into a creditor protection process … Therefore our goal of a seamless project timeline has not come to fruition. Unfortunately at this time I can’t guarantee that we will be back on-site over the next couple of days…

  • I freaked out. My husband contacted my father-in-law, who is a lawyer who works extensively with construction companies and he gave us some good advice. One of the things our contractor had done was arrange 12 month interest free home improvement loans, and we started rounding up all the paperwork on our renovation and our loan.
  • On March 2 we moved our bed back up to our bedroom, realizing nothing was going to happen anytime soon. We still have no closet, though, and are living out of suitcases.
  • Living in a construction zone

    Living in a construction zone

  • On March 11 we got news that our contractor was no longer in creditor protection, but was now officially bankrupt. My husband appeared on the local news to talk about it. The paperwork confirmed that the contractor was $2 million in debt, and had only $160,000 in assets. We also discovered that we were far from alone. There’s even a Facebook group dedicated to the situation.
  • At the end of March we got confirmation that the bank would be forgiving all of the home improvement loans. This was a big relief, because it meant that we weren’t on the hook for work that hadn’t been done. My husband contacted a contractor recommended by a co-worker.
  • On April 14 my husband and I picked out bathroom fixtures yet again. The good news is that our new contractor hooked us up with some more affordable options. He’s scheduled to start work on Wednesday, and there are no sketchy home improvement loans involved.

Until the whole situation was resolved I didn’t want to share the whole sordid story here. I alternate between feeling angry at the first contractor and feeling angry with myself. It has helped immensely to know that my husband and I aren’t alone – there were dozens and dozens of families listed on the bankruptcy paperwork as having outstanding work. I researched the company online. I verified that they were active and busy around town. I did my homework as best I could.

At this point, I’m less angry at myself and more angry at the guy who was clearly facing financial difficulties and demolished my bathroom without any reasonable hope of finishing the project. It may be the case that he really thought he would be able to finish it. It wasn’t fair, though, to proceed without giving me a full explanation of the situation. I’ve now been living out of a suitcase, and been without an ensuite, for two months. If I’d had the full story, I wouldn’t have okayed the demolition. Is this a first world problem? Yes. Was I treated fairly? No.

I’m glad that there’s hope on the horizon. I am glad that this situation is being resolved as well as I could have hoped for. Next time I have to make the decision of whether I should renovate or relocate, however, I’m relocating. I no longer have the stomach for all of this stress.

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    Comments

    1. Gaaahhh!! I’m glad things are moving along again now. I’ve never encountered anything this lengthily annoying, but when we had a total bathroom renovation there were some delays and unexpected hassles…and another time, I learned why you should not hire a contractor on the basis of his being your Girl Scout’s mother’s boyfriend–he might not actually know how to do brickpointing, and he might wander away from the half-done job and change his phone number! (The good news on that one was that he left behind some tools, which we were able to trade to the new brickpointer for a discount!)
      ‘Becca’s last post … Why we didn’t have a Gender Reveal PartyMy Profile

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