Two More Days to the Finish Line

Everything with our home renovation project was moving along swimmingly. The walls had been successfully demolished. The framing went up without a problem. The electrical was re-wired without incident, followed by straightforward plumbing, drywalling and painting. We had cleared the final inspection without incident – yay! As we neared the finish line of completing our project, I asked the general contractor: “How much longer, before we can move into the space?” He briefly looked around and confidently stated “two more days”.

Make that Three More Weeks

Two more days turned into three more weeks! The finishes, any honest contractor will tell you, can be the most frustrating and longest part of any remodeling or renovation project. It does not help when cheap or inexperienced labor is hired to tackle this seemingly easy “downhill” phase of the project. And in our case, it especially does not help when hiring day laborers that are grossly deprived of commonsense. For example, we ended up referring to the painter’s assistants as the “two stooges”. Before thinking we may have been a bit too harsh in our nomenclature, permit us to elucidate.

Heavy Barn Door Meets Beautiful New Hardwood Flooring

After beautiful hardwood flooring had been painstakingly laid by a highly skilled tradesman in our master suite, the “two” proceeded to drag a heavy barn door across the floor, in a mind-blowingly lazy attempt to install it. They ended up scratching almost sixty percent of the floor. Why they chose not to protect the floor and lift the door is beyond us. But based on other shenanigans that we had witnessed, we sadly weren’t surprised. In case you were wondering, they also installed the barn door hangers backward.

Unfortunately, the hardwood flooring contractor had to return on a Sunday, Father’s Day no less, as that was his only immediate availability. He spent almost a full day replacing the damaged, hardwood flooring that he had so diligently completed five days earlier. We could tell that he was disappointed by this totally preventable setback. He confided in us that this type of “mishap” was not uncommon and that it represented a type of “callous disregard” towards the work completed by other tradesmen.

Forcing the Issue

This was just the beginning. The luxury toilet, which had been a splurge item, had one of its panels cut to force it into the space against the wall. Instead of measuring the distance from the wall to the panel, the plumber installed the toilet without consideration for the wall panels that enclosed the electronics that control the self-cleaning feature. A new panel had to be ordered, but the toilet is still too close to the wall to allow the new panel to be installed correctly. In trying to force the panels into an ill-fitting space, the workers scratched the toilet cover, which also had to be replaced.

Covering the Issue

Getting back to the painter – presumably in his haste to get to his next job, he closed up the ceiling with new drywall, inadvertently covering up the housing of existing recessed lighting! When we walked into the room, turned on the light switch, we immediately felt that something was not quite right. The drywall had to be cut, the fixture replaced and the ceiling retextured and repainted. We chalked this up under the adage “sometimes you have to go backward to go forward”.

Don’t Let Them Start Their Next Gig Until Yours is Done!

The bottom line is: be prepared and be vigilant! Do not be surprised if the finishing phase of your project turns out to be the least enjoyable aspect. The fact that key tradesmen likely will be onto their next gig can make completing the punchlist in a timely manner exasperating. Workers may also rush the completion of their work in order to make their next project’s start date.

This dynamic then puts pressure on general contractors to be tempted to hire inexperienced, but readily available workers to complete these lingering, but highly critical tasks. The results of falling for this temptation will be evident. GC’s may be cutting costs and time in the near-term, but they simultaneously increase the chances of incurring costly and time-consuming re-do’s in the long-term. In our case, we had the “two” removed from our project after the barn door incident. We had seen enough.

Don’t Settle for Sloppy Completion Work

Many of these issues are the result of poor planning, execution and follow-through, and should be proactively addressed with your general contractor. At the first instance of a warning sign, talk to your contractor to make sure that he is leaving enough time between your project’s end and the next project’s start date. Do not settle for inferior or sloppy work performed by non-professionals who have been called in at the last minute to complete the finishes. Start your punch list now and stick to it until every item is “punched”.

Even before the project begins, ask to see licenses of subcontractors to ensure that everyone on the project is a licensed professional and not a “fill-in” worker. For your family’s safety, ask for proof of background checks, in writing, as well.

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