Is it reasonable to ask for a discount after?

August 23, 2008

I hired a local contractor to replace my roof, replace my aluminum siding with vinyl (including all gutters, trim, soffits, etc.), build a 20x12 addition on my house, and renovate my kitchen to include half of the new space. We bought the cabinets from a separate kitchen designer who works out of the contractor's building. There are three contracts with contractor - roof, siding, addition.

The roof went up in four days with no problem. Paid in full.

The siding was started on May 5. Went very slowly, many mistakes, sloppy work, constant comments from us on the quality of work.

Sometime in June, work on addition started. Siding still moving slowly, sloppily. Addition going well.

Beginning of July, we learn that the main siding guy is really a roofer, and the real siding guy quit right before our job. Roofer never did siding before. We question contractor, and are told that this guy will put up siding and another will come around and fix everything we don't like. I don't like the crooked corners, which would involve removing much of the siding. I'm reassured that it will work out. Addition progressing nicely.

Late July, siding looks like hell. Finished basement starting to get wet from water on porch caused by big storms and a lack of rain gutters. Contractor subs work to gutter guys, who do it in a day. Contractor fires roofer and all his helpers, hires a complete crew of freelance workers who swoop in and practically redo entire house in one week, very good quality work.

August, little tweaks being made to siding, addition almost done.

So, next week the whole house should be finished. We have only paid $500 of the $10,000 total for the siding part. I want to ask builder if he really thinks it was reasonable to take over 3 1/2 months to do the siding, during which most of that time my house looked pretty darn ugly. Although we never specified a time frame, I would like a 10% discount for the delay, stress, disruption and general ridiculousness of it taking that long to put up the siding. Am I being unreasonable? I know it never hurts to ask, and he can say No, but do folks care about reputation anymore? I will tell everyone I know about this experience, but having an adjustment would temper the amount of details I include when telling the truth about it.

Comments (27)

  • patser

    I'd ask for more than 10% and then you can look like a nice guy when you settle for 10%. You are right, all he can do is waffle or say no. I'd sure ask for a discount.

  • mrpandy

    Thanks. The siding should be finished tomorrow, so I'm already dreading the meeting with the contractor. I'm not going to go in with an attitude (MrsPandy talked me down from there), but instead I'm just going to ask him if he agrees that the amount I agreed to in the contract was for a job performed in a reasonable time, and if he also thinks that it took a lot longer than I should have expected.

    If he doesn't budge, I'll politely let him know that I won't insult him or his company to anyone. However, I will honestly tell everyone who asks that it took almost four months, it was done so poorly that they had to essentially take it all down and start over, and that I'm happy with the final product.

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  • chrisk327

    I'm just a homeowner so I don't know standard practice.

    My thought is, if you're happy with the end product, he went back and fixed any subpar work, completed everything else well and as expected, and there is no residual damage, I say let it go.

    Is it inconvienant, yes, was it ugly for a while? yes, but construction is inconvienant, things don't always go as planned. The key is in the follow through, which it sounds like this guy did. He has paid for the mistake through paying the guy to put the siding up, paying someone to remove it, and paying someone to put it up right. If you were unhappy iwth the job, I can see the issue, but if everything is ok now, be happy.

    if the basement caused any real damage, you could go back to him on that.

  • Jon1270

    Much as I can see why you wouldn't recommend this guy, I don't think you have much of a leg to stand on here. If the contract didn't specify a time frame then the contractor has held up his end of the bargain. He obviously knows the job didn't go smoothly and no doubt regrets some of the decisions he made along the way, but he's leaving you with a quality product. Threatening to speak ill of him if he doesn't lower the price sounds like blackmail lite.

  • mrpandy

    At first I thought that it sounded like blackmail or extortion, but is it so wrong to threaten to tell the truth? I agree that he held up his end of the bargain as far as the written contract, and I do have to hold up my end of the deal and pay what we agreed to. However, doing the math, it would be like me ordering a meal in a restaurant and expecting it to arrive in about 1/2 hour, but actually receiving it once, sending it back to have them start cooking it again, and finally getting to eat 7 1/2 hours later (compared to a one-week siding job taking 15 weeks). There was no written delivery time, just the assumption of a reasonable wait. I would spread the word that my meal was acceptable but the wait was ridiculous. However, if they reduced the price for my inconvenience and the final meal was tasty, my comment would be, "there was a problem, they handled it, and I ended up with a nice meal".

  • hendricus

    This is a local contractor who sounds like he cares about the end job because he fixed everything you mentioned. If someday you think you might need a contractor again be nice to him, if not, stick it to him and see what happens. Don't be asking him for anything in the future because dissatisfaction can be a two way street. He also will be talking about the homeowner to other contractors.

  • mrpandy

    I'm honestly surprised that most of the repliers think it is reasonable to take almost four months to install vinyl siding. What would be an unreasonable amount of time? I can't "stick it to him" since we have a signed contract, but does "Oops, sorry" cover being this late to finish what I thought was going to be a simple job? If you owned a business, would you care if a customer took four months to pay a bill, or would you charge them interest?

  • Jon1270

    ...most of the repliers think it is reasonable to take almost four months to install vinyl siding.

    I don't see where anyone has said anything remotely like that. Your question wasn't about what was reasonable for the contractor to do, it was about what it was reasonable for you to do.

    ...would you care if a customer took four months to pay a bill, or would you charge them interest?

    Of course I would care, but few businesses are in a position to charge customers interest on late payments no matter how wronged they feel.

  • Michael

    Litagation, inconvenience fees, pain and suffering. Hogwash.

    Try the home improvement business on for a few days. You'll have more empathy.


  • mrpandy


    I don't understand your comment. Could you please elaborate?

  • hendricus

    A normal profit for the contractor would be 10-20%. A discount negotiated before the job would allow the contractor to figure it in. Asking for it afterward, after his extra expenses which are not your fault or his, everybody gets rinky dink employees at times, takes his whole paycheck.
    So, no gas money, no groceries, no vacation (he pays out of his own pocket). Comparing this to a free meal at a restuarant is comparing oranges to apples. You're not looking for a free meal, you want the whole days receipts.

  • mrpandy

    I guess I'm just very disappointed to discover how one-sided the contractor/customer relationship truly is, especially through the eyes of the contractor. In my eyes, he totally screwed up, and if that means no profit on this job, so be it.

    By time he finishes, it will have taken four months to put siding on a simple house. It is his company, the mistakes were caused by his employees, it is definitely his fault. I am not asking for a free siding job. However, I did not agree to a four month long siding job.

    I never specified that he should use nails, or that the siding should run horizontally, either. It is ridiculous to have to spell out things such as this in a contract, and completing the job in less than four months should be in the same category.

    Knowing this, absent an adjustment in the price, I think the level of scrutiny I will put the job under will increase, and I will demand nothing short of perfection, as per the terms of the contract. Is that the attitude expected of me in this contractor/customer relationship? If so, I am disappointed. So far, I have been accomodating and reasonable, but that may just result in contractors taking advantage of me. Thanks for opening my eyes.

  • Jon1270

    MrPandy, I don't think it's as grim as all that. The contractor clearly didn't handle the loss of a critical employee very gracefully, and you got the short end of the stick as the result of his poor management. He owes you a big apology, some bowing and scraping, maybe a case of good beer. He just doesn't owe you $1000.

  • sierraeast

    I think you should be buying your contractor a good case o' beer. These days you can consider yourself lucky the contractor didn't walk away. Instead he/she counted the losses and went ahead completing the project to your satisfaction. I think that deserves a little of your respect despite the time frame happens!

  • hendricus

    "However, I did not agree to a four month long siding job."

    You have that in writing?

  • mrpandy

    As I said, no, I don't have it in writing that it should take less than four months, but I also didn't specify that he should use nails, or that the siding should run horizontally, either. Silly me assumed that contracting professionals were ethical folks like the majority I deal with in my profession, but I may just be encountering the exception lately. Anyone that thinks taking four months to do a one week job is reasonable seems to me to be lacking in either business ethics or common sense.

  • sierraeast

    My wife supports engineers in "professional" world. We are ob'ing our home and she has enjoyed dealing with the subs on our project and appreciates their attitude. She cant say that about her co-workers in "professional" world as they are arrogant, whining, egomaniacs that think the world owes them especially when negatives happen. Maybe you might want to re-think your attitude and have a little more respect for the fact that your contractor ate his/her lunch on this project and im sure doesn't feel real good about the mishaps especially when you figure that it is money out of his/her pocket, but nevertheless, plugged on and completed thre project to your satisfaction. Sometimes you have to consider the variables and put yourself in another persons shoes before passing judgement.

  • mrpandy

    sierraeast - I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that you're not on these forums solely as a homeowner and DIYer, are you?

    I always thought that respect was a two-way street. I honestly don't care if the contractor doesn't feel real good about the mishaps. Did he put himself in my shoes as far as having my house look like hell for four months instead of one week? Does he really care that this entire project is money out of my pocket that could have been spent with a contractor who did a better job of hiring and reacting to substandard performance?

    I prefer to keep the touchy-feely aspect of this out of the equation and look at the business aspects. If I take my car to get the brakes replaced, I can reasonably assume that it will be done in a day, maybe two if there is a problem getting parts. If, despite the fact that they know I am bringing it in so they order the parts in advance, it takes the garage 16 days, including having to redo them once during that time, should I thank them and apologize for the money they lost in paying their employees for their labor? When they tell me that their brake expert quit right before my car came in so they had the guy from the paint shop work on it, should I thank my lucky stars for being so fortunate?

    Yes, I considered the variables and put on every pair of shoes worn during this project. I can pass judgment.

    They. Screwed. Up.

    Just as there's a penalty if I pay a bill late, there should be a penalty for this. If they can specify a time period for payment, I have learned to never sign a contract without a specified time period stated for the job. My mistake, won't happen again.

  • sierraeast

    Yes im in the trades but am not biased one way or the other. Every project is different, some go smooth, while others are rough. There are too many variabes in even the simplest projects to guarantee a time frame or the smoothness of a project. You have brought up some good points, i just dont think monetary compensation in your favor should be expected. Your contractor has been "penalized" enough by making bad judgement calls that elongated your project at his expense. Im sure he would like to put this one off as a rough project and move on to the next. I feel you ought to carry that same attitude and move forward as well, because in the grand scheme of things, you will look back on this as a lesson learned but the inconvienece of your place looking like a construction site longer than expected will soon be forgotten. You aren't going to get the 4 months back so deal with it and enjoy the fact that the contractor did make it right by sticking to it and completeing to your satisfaction as you stated. That's good business on the contractrors part, imho.

  • Jon1270

    People wrapped up in this thread might find these statistics fun:

    "The Denver International Airport opened 16 months late, at a cost overrun of $2 billion (I've also seen $3.1 billion asserted). The Eurofighter Typhoon, a joint defense project of several European countries, was delivered 54 months late at a cost of £19 billion instead of £7 billion. The Sydney Opera House may be the most legendary construction overrun of all time, originally estimated to be completed in 1963 for $7 million, and finally completed in 1973 for $102 million."


    Here is a link that might be useful: The Planning Fallacy

  • mrpandy

    From your link: "So there is a fairly reliable way to fix the planning fallacy, if you're doing something broadly similar to a reference class of previous projects. Just ask how long similar projects have taken in the past, without considering any of the special properties of this project. Better yet, ask an experienced outsider how long similar projects have taken."

    Thanks. Several of my neighbors have had their siding replaced, and each of those jobs took less than two weeks. Some of them one week, but all less than two weeks.

    Every one of them.

    Not four months.

    Less than two weeks.

  • Jon1270

    I don't think I understand what you want to get out of this, MrPandy. You've now told us 10 times that it's taken nearly four months to side your house. We get it. I suspect we got it the first time. You asked a question, and I'd say five out of six replies going against your idea is a pretty clear answer. I understand that you don't like the answer you got because you haven't gotten the validation you expected, but hey, you're arguing with a bunch of internet strangers. If you don't like what we've said, you're free to ignore it. Why beat your head against this wall?

  • annzgw

    From reading the post it appears the contractor wasn't just doing siding for 4 months but was also finishing an addition. Was the guy (roofer) he had installing the siding also working on the addition? Really doesn't matter but I'm trying to figure out why it took 4 months. Of course, I also don't know how large your house is.

    You said "Contractor subs work to gutter guys, who do it in a day. Contractor fires roofer and all his helpers, hires a complete crew of freelance workers who swoop in and practically redo entire house in one week, very good quality work."
    If the contractor handled the problem and practically redid the house without any complaint about money he lost, then I wouldn't ask for a discount.

    Next time you'll know, but whenever one sees shoddy work they shouldn't let the work matter how convincing the response.

  • mrpandy

    Jon, I was responding to points made in various posts and giving a homeowner's rebuttal to the mainly contractor comments. Not shocking that we see things differently.

    Annz, they were totally different crews doing the siding and addition. For nearly three months, at various times there was the roofer and one or two helpers, the roofer by himself, the fix-it guy by himself, and the fix-it guy with the roofer. Between these combinations, there were frequent periods of inactivity of one to four days.

    In the middle of this period, the door specialists I hired to install new garage doors told me that they really hated to speak badly of another contractor, but they thought I should know that my siding guys were really doing a bad job. I thanked them and relayed their concern to the contractor, who assured me that everything was OK and Fix-It Guy would make it all right. A few weeks later, the guy installing my entry door mentioned that I should have someone take a look at the siding since it was really installed poorly.

    Then, the owner fired the roofer and helpers and hired the crew who redid almost everything. What they redid was very good, but it wasn't the entire house. Since then, another new guy has been doing "final little tweaks" for around three weeks, stopping by at random and infrequent times, and still isn't done.

    Our house is two stories, about 2000 square feet, with an attached garage - nothing big or complicated.

  • ci_lantro

    I hired a local contractor to replace my roof, replace my aluminum siding with vinyl (including all gutters, trim, soffits, etc.), build a 20x12 addition on my house, and renovate my kitchen to include half of the new space.

    Given the scope of the project, your house was going to be a construction zone for a lot longer than the two weeks you guesstimate the siding job should last. And given that the same contractor was doing all of it--roof, siding, addition, kitchen renovation, and that the siding has to get tied into the addition, I can understand why the contractor didn't feel the urgency to complete the siding job so long as the rest of the job was in progress. And, I'm guessing that since you were replacing siding, that the old siding didn't look so hot anyway. So, I don't get the part of your complaining that the house looked like 'hell'. And I doubt that your contractor will get it either because he's used to looking at works in progress because that's what he sees every day that he's on the job.

    What I can understand is getting hot back in June when it was apparent that you were getting a crappy siding install. But those issues seem to have been resolved and that's Good News. Even if it took forever and a day, it's better for your health to just be happy & put it behind you. And the upside is that your investment cash (payment of siding contract) got to work for you for a few more months instead of forking it over to the contractor back in June.

  • mrpandy

    ci_lantro, I see your point. The siding was started one month before the kitchen addition, which is in the center of the back wall of the home and not visible at all from the street. Our existing siding was aluminum and actually still looked fine. We decided to have it replaced since we knew that they wouldn't be able to match the addition. They told us that they could do the front and sides, and then come back to side the addition. The first thing they did was take down all of the shutters and decorative trim. For about half of the time, there were large areas where the bright pink fanfold foam was visible where siding was taken down and left off for several days, both the original and the first round of vinyl. Last week was the first time since they started that you could look at the front and sides and not immediately get the message that it was being re-sided.

    Did I mention that the roofer/siding guy had completed hanging the front and two sides, and was starting the old part of the back, and commented to MrsPandy, "I think I'm getting the hang of this now!" That's when the owner finally confessed that this was a roofer and we really pushed the issue of substandard work being done.

    I suppose that I should just suck it up and take it since I'm ending up with a nicely sided house. This is one of the best known local companies since they have multiple divisions (plumbing/heating, remodeling, roofing, electrical service), so you can't go a day without seeing one of their trucks. I will politely ask the owner at settlement time if he thinks an adjustment is in order. If he says no, I still think I will tell anyone who asks us who did the work how long it took and that they assigned someone who had absolutely no experience to do the siding.

  • d_gw

    You got everything you wanted, it just took longer than you expected. I'd just chalk it up to experience and let it go. Your blood pressure will thank you.

    If you were really that upset about it taking so long, you could have fired the company long ago and started new with someone else. You can certainly tell him you were unhappy with the delays but I think asking for a discount after the fact is a bit much.

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