How do i handle this? Is this typical? Please help

December 14, 2012

I'm doing a kitchen remodel and have a question if anyone can help. When talking with my GC about what style of cabinetry I want and what exactly I want to do, I told him I have a cabinet craftsman I want to use. I didn't have a quote from my guy, but know what others have gotten and have been charged.

My GC said I should give his guy a look. He was very firm that his guy can give me anything I want, at the best price, etc etc. He said he had no idea how much my cabinetry cost would be, let his guy give us some ballpark numbers first. He went on and on, saying his guy can give us a 3d rendering, can let us know what ballpark pricing we're looking at, just so we have an idea and then we can go from there. If I want to talk to my cabinet maker after, that's fine, but let his guy do it first. Keep in mind, his guy is a retailer, not the actual craftsman with a warehouse/machinery like mine.

I agreed, saying that was fine, but im going to talk to my craftsman after, as II really want to use my guy. But sure, we can talk to his guy to get a ballpark of where we stand.

Fast forward to my GC bringing the plans to my house. The plans were two different layouts to scale.
I wasn't happy with it, it wasn't the custom sizing I'm after and not what I'm looking for.

When my GC also told me the price, I said no. My cabinet craftsman had done my friend's kitchen, twice the size of mine, completely custom, the BM paint color of her choice, for less than either of those prices. I'm sure bc the middle man was cut out, buying direct from the craftsman vs the retailer. I told him I'm going with my craftsman.

Long story short, my GC was not happy about this. At all. Then said 'well, if you don't use my guy then you'll have to pay him for his time!! At least $200!! For these 3d drawings etc!! You don't think this was all free do you?? You have to pay him something!!'

What?? Excuse me?? Uhh, yeah, I guess I did think it was free?! I was never told it would cost anything. Never. As a matter of fact, I didn't even want to TALK to his guy bc I had done a little of my own research and my guy was pretty much who I wanted to go with. But my GC made it sound like no big deal, let's just get in the ballpark of pricing, just 'see where we are'.

I am so mad. If my GC had told me I'd be charged $200, I never would have agreed to it. I'm on a tight budget as it is. In my GC's defense, he did eventually say if I could get my custom design, at a better price, he wouldn't blame me. But He said I still owe his guy at least $200.

I'm so sorry for my long rant, but please help me with two questions.

First, what the heck does my contractor care who I get my cabinetry from? He's installing it and doing the rest of the work. Does he get a cut of the cabinets he's trying to get me to buy? The price seemed high to me.

Second, do I owe this other guy $200 or whatever this sudden 'charge' is? Nothing was ever signed, no mention of money made.

Please let me know what you think, I'm not sure what to make of this and I'm not happy about it. Is this typical?

My apologies for such a long post, and thank you for any replies.

Comments (35)

  • badgergal

    If you have nothing in writing and weren't told of any charges then I don't think you have to pay. I also think that if you don't pay, the GC will work that $200 dollars into his fees some how. I wouldn't be comfortable using a GC that isn't upfront about things like that fee and one who is trying to pressure you into using his non custom cabinet maker when he knows you want the other cabinet maker. I seriously think you should look into possibly using a different GC who understands that it is your reno, your money and your way.

  • poohpup

    I agree with everything badgergal said. It sounds like your GC is probably getting some type of kickback by using this cabinet guy. Maybe he isn't but . . . you're right, why the heck does he care so much who you use? I can understand a GC preferring you use someone that he has worked with before, is familiar with and has a good working relationship. But preferring isn't pressuring. I'd be concerned he doesn't have your best interests in mind when it comes to your project.

    I don't think you owe this guy a penny. He knew going into it that you had someone else that you wanted to work with. You didn't agree to any charges and didn't sign any kind of contract. His bad. And I bet badgergirl is right that you'll end up paying that $200 somewhere.

    In my experience, this time with your GC is the honeymoon phase. Right now it should be a great relationship with good communication and things should be easy. The real stress begins once demo is done and your house is torn apart. If you're having trouble with your GC now . . . . just wait. I'd seriously consider looking into a different GC. You may have dodged a bullet.

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  • gidgetgirly

    Thanks badgergal. It definitely crossed my mind that my GC would work that $200 into his pricing somehow and that too makes me angry. I have not signed anything with anyone.

    My GC did tell me when he came to my house that he would charge me $300 for spending a few hours at my house discussing what I want if I don't use him. Again, nothing was signed.

    Now I feel I'll be billed $500 if I don't go with my GC :(
    I really didn't like my GC's attitude when I told him no to his guy.

  • gidgetgirly

    Poohpup,, thanks for the response. If this is the honeymoon, I'm not liking it. I felt extremely pressured. I didn't like his guy's design, pricing, or non custom cabinets.

    But if I go with a different GC, my GC has already told me he'll charge me $300 if I go with someone else for his time. He was at my house twice for about 2-3 hours each.

    I feel I'll be billed $500 for the both of them. But again, nothing was signed.

  • camphappy

    It sounds like you are just getting started with little or nothing done so far. I would switch to a new GC as soon as possible. You may be stuck with the $300 for his time as your agreement but in no way should you pay the $200 for the cabinet estimate. I'm not sure where you live but there should be several wonderful GC's out there who would be happy to work for you - not against you.

  • poohpup

    He can charge you whatever he wants but that hardly means you're obligated to pay him. It isn't like you had an ulterior motive to take up his time and use him for his ideas but had always planned to go with someone else. You were planning on using this guy and he screwed up. You were dating him, so to speak. No ring, no date, and you broke up because he acted like a jerk.

    If he had an expectation that he'd be paid for his time if you decided not to use him, then that needed to be made clear up front. You would have had to agree to that. I interviewed three different contractors before I hired someone to do my kitchen. All three presented me with a rough design. I've no doubt they all spent some hours working out the bid. I chose one, signed a contract and moved on with that person. There wasn't any expectation that I'd have to pay the others for their time. They would have had to make that clear up front and we would have needed to come to some agreement for that to happen.

  • gidgetgirly

    I'm thinking you may be right Camphappy. Another red flag was the first day he came over he said he charged $2.50 sq ft to lay flooring. A week later his comment was that he charges $3 sq ft to lay it. Huh?

    How do I go about finding a reputable GC? This guy is a friend of a friend.

  • gidgetgirly

    That's what I was thinking Poohpup.
    I'm a hairstylist. I give free 20 minute consultations for new clients. If the client decides not to use my services, that's their decision and in no way do they owe me anything. It takes 20 minutes of my time, but I feel if I did my consultation well and connected with my client's needs, I'll get the 'job'. If not, it goes with the territory and it sometimes happens.

    I don't know how to go about finding a GC since this is a friend of a friend.

    Oh, and my GC didn't give me any ideas. I came up with my own layout, drawings, and photos. Actually one of the reasons I didn't like what had been proposed was bc my ideas were changed. It wasn't a structural reason, it was bc he liked his idea better. I didn't.

    ~sigh~ I was really wanting to use this GC. Now, not so much.

  • poohpup

    I can understand your frustration. I've had construction projects from hell and others that have been fabulous. The difference between hell and fabulous was the contractor. It's so worth it to take the time to find the right one.

    I don't know if it will help you, but I found mine through Angie's List. Angie's List wasn't expensive to join and I've found some really good people through them. Whoever you're considering, make sure you check them out through your state contractor's licensing board. Your state should have a website where you can check to make sure their license and insurance is up to date. Also check for complaints with the Better Business Bureau. Amazing how many times I'll check and find someone is working with an expired or revoked license. Crazy. Good luck!

  • desertsteph

    this guy is a scam. dump him. I wouldn't pay him anything if you haven't signed anything.

    I'd tell him that I charge 200.00 an hr for someone to come into my house, lie to me and insult me. minus his 300.00 I'd figure he still owed me a few hundred. I'd be calling the registrar of contractors and checking his licensing and record.

    I'd also tell him to never set foot on my property again.

  • gidgetgirly

    Thanks again Poohpup! I'll look into it Angie's list for sure!

  • teeda

    You don't owe a penny for the kitchen drawings. You also don't owe a penny to the contractor for consultation unless that was written into an agreement.

    I agree with the others, get rid of the GC. We are in the middle of a stalled remodel due to GC issues--primarily his use of unqualified sub contractors who he refuses to replace. I wish we hadn't ignored some of the earlier warning signs. We now have three rooms that need to have all the finish work torn out (horrendous quality). We're interviewing new finish carpenters. Even if our GC does the right thing and credits us the full amount for finish work, we're still going to lose quite a bit. As others have said, GCs know how to pass their losses on to the customer. And as bad as our GC is turning out to be, he sounds a lot better than the jerk you're dealing with!

    Does the guy you want to do the cabinets have any recommendations for GCs?
    He must work with a lot of them. Whatever you do, be sure to ask to see the work of anyone you consider, check their license, etc. etc. Get a detailed contract with costs broken down (ours wasn't, so it's may be hard for us to get the finish work credit in the amount it should be). Good luck. Stay strong!

  • angie_diy

    I feel I'll be billed $500 for the both of them. But again, nothing was signed.

    Okay, nothing was signed. More than likely, you owe him nothing. The only slim chance I would feel obligated to pay the GC anything was if you verbally agreed with him that you would give him $300 for the time he was investing prior to the signing of the written contract.

    I think you caught a break here. You found out for free what this guy is like.

  • dan1888

    If you decide to pay his 300 fee do it by check with "full and final payment" written on the back at the endorsement end. His deposit accepts the condition.

  • weedmeister

    Kick this guy to the curb.

  • roof35

    Consider yourself fortunate, you found out what this GC's true colors are. Just imagine the nightmare with him trying to nickel & dime you throughout the process.

    If you hadn't kicked him to the curb yet, now is the time.

  • poohpup

    Unless you had a verbal agreement to pay him something, I wouldn't pay him a thing. I'd be concerned that paying him anything would open the door to him saying he wanted/needed/agreed to more.

  • cawaps

    My reading of gidget's post is that she was informed of the $300 charge up front, and by following through she at least implicitly agreed to pay it. I would pay it under those circumstances. The $200 is a different story. Contractors and craftsmen routinely work up bids at no cost to the client. It's part of doing business. If it wasn't mentioned abd agreed ti up front, there's no obligation.

  • gidgetgirly

    @cawaps yes, you're right. Unfortunately I did verbally agree to pay the $300 if we didnt use him. At that time I thought I WOULD be using him. I thought it was the way it was done, you pay someone for their time to take a look at it, and if you don't use them you pay the $300. I now know that's not necessarily the case :/

    However I did not agree to any $200 for the other guy. I was totally blindsided on that.

    I've decided to do the right thing and pay the darn $300 ~begrudgingly~ to the GC, but will not pay the extra $200.

    Makes me mad because that $300 could have been put to better use. Lesson learned :(

  • Bunny

    I realize that $300 is a good chunk of change that could be put to better use. However, in the big scheme of things, it's getting off lightly. It's a small price to pay to be rid of someone who was already spelling trouble.

  • palimpsest

    Unfortunately the person getting screwed in this is the person who did the drawings for your contractor. He did work and is not going to be paid for it. I would only agree to pay the agreed upon $300, if out of that the person who did the drawings was paid by the contractor.

    You don't charge for a consultation, but what if, at the END of the haircut the person said "I don't like this haircut so I am not paying for it". That's a bit different.

  • gidgetgirly

    @palimpset yes, I think the right thing to do is pay the $300 of which I unfortunately agreed upon, and not $200 of which I did not.

    @linelle you're right. I just have to pay it and move on,

  • Questioner72

    I realize that I'm pretty much saying the same thing as the others, but, if you agreed to pay $300 if you didn't use the GC, pay it and be happy to see the last of him! It's easy for all of us to say that; I think my GC is feeling like I'm nickel and diming him. I've had a past contractor that was up front and said he only installs cabinet x, y, or z and buys from store a or b. However, I can understand being unsure if you should just "throw away" the $300, or head down a potentially ugly path. I'd lean towards he's showing his true colors, and that it will only get worse (I think the friend of a friend is a kiss of death). It's hard to find a GC to trust; everyone has an opinion, but it doesn't mean the GC is great. Once you find someone, make sure to check if he's licensed & bonded, has Workmans Comp, pulls permits, references (although I don't believe them 100% - sometimes you get tidbits that raise flags), in depth paperwork (we didn't for this job, and it might bite us). Good luck.

  • PRO
    Pallet & Palette

    I am a General Contractor and I routinely visit with people who have been referred to me by clients. Since people are often unaware of their friend's ability to pay for work, I don't assume that a new referral will be in a position to pay for what they are considering. I go out, spend an hour or two, and get a feel for what they want. I work up an estimate and send it to them. I'll meet again to answer any questions they may have. If they decide to move forward with the job, I start charging them.

    It isn't right to charge people to go talk to them about possible work. How in the world can they know if they can afford it unless a qualified person helps them understand how much it costs?

    General Contractors need to consider these meetings as advertising. I have had several potential clients who have decided not to move forward with a project that would cost more than they could comfortably afford who have later referred me to new clients who did hire me to work with them on their home.

    I agree with all the prior posts here that advise you to consider stepping back from both of these two gentlemen. It belies a lack of true talent - folks who are really talented in this industry don't need to try to grab a couple of hundred dollars like this, they can let their ideas and their integrity speak for themselves.

    Good luck!! Let go of the feeling that you should have been savvier about this, and get back to visualizing how fabulous you are going to feel cooking in your new kitchen!

  • gidgetgirly

    Thank you so much for taking the time to reply, Trentsteff. Your words make me feel so much better coming from a GC.

    I was so excited that I can finally remodel my space, and so let down and upset after the GC left. I felt yelled at and like an idiot. It was no longer fun or exciting after that meeting, and I thought 'well, there went a wasted $500 that was going to my upgraded cabinet hardware out the door' :(

    I just felt so uneducated and like a moron that I somehow didn't realize that he expected me to pay for those stock cabinet plans. Not a fun feeling.

    He just seems to be irritated by everything I say, such as not wanting to wait 6-8 weeks for my craftsman to make my cabinets. They're my cabinets and my money and my time. Frankly I thought that was great timing considering they'd be completely custom, dovetailed, slow close, painted any color I choose, etc.

    Your words made me feel better and that this should be fun for me and visualize my fabulous new kitchen! Thank you for that :) you definitely helped put a smile back on my face.

    Where are you located? You have such a positive attitude, so refreshing :)

  • PRO
    Pallet & Palette

    Hi gidgetgirly,

    Glad to be of help. I'm in Seattle, Washington.

    I'm an Interior Designer and General Contractor both, and I have a company called Pallet & Palette.

  • colorfast

    Gidget, don't tell me you paid him all $500 already? I really would only pay him the $300 if it were me.

    I do like Poohpup's suggestions of how to find a GC. If you like the cabinet maker, then ask him for GC's he likes. I have found some great referrals that way. Last week I was interviewing a tile setter, and he asked who my plumber would be for this job. I told him, and he knew our plumber well. Well, I love our local plumbing company and was pleased that he had worked with them on multiple jobs. I will doublecheck with the plumber in this case.

    I have had good luck on Angie's List, but I saw a granite contractor in our hometown who is known for being one to cut all the granite in the home, etc etc. So you do need to read the reviews carefully and ask your own questions.

    The final way I would suggest you find a contractor, and this is generally good--but not always--is to google your local "Street of Dreams." Often the participating contractors are listed. At least in our home town, they tend to have been in the industry a long time and are well respected. Not that you can't run into a jerk that way, but hopefully he's good at what he does.

  • p.ball2

    Outrageous and Sketchy are the two words I have to describe his tactics. I would ditch your GC so fast. I had multiple Architects and GC discuss and bid on our renovation and NEVER did they charge me for their time to discuss and give an estimate.
    As for the charge to the "Kitchen guy". That is also crazy. I agree he must be getting some sort of kickback to recommend this Kitchen guy. My builder recommended a Kitchen place but when I decided to go elsewhere he was fine with it.
    I would start asking around to everyone you know to find a new GC. I would pay him his $300 but not the $200 that you never agreed to pay. He can use his $300 to pay his kitchen guy $200.

  • Cloud Swift

    I agree with others you are ethically obligated to pay the $300 to the GC because you implicitly agreed to it by not stopping the appointment when he said he would charge you it, but you have no obligation to pay $200 to the cabinet layout person because you weren't told about it up front.

    I don't recall any GCs charging us for an initial interview appointment at our house to discuss the project. Some cabinet sales KDs wanted to charge for doing a detailed layout but would discount that from cabinet cost if we ended up buying from them.

    GCs and other suppliers often like to work with firms that they have worked with before because they know that they work well together and what the expectations are. For example, our GC works a lot with our granite fabricator so he knew what cabinet prep the granite fabricator would need.

    If you have confidence in the cabinet craftsman you want to use, ask him which GCs he would recommend.

  • gidgetgirly

    @trentsteff thanks for the reply, I am on the other side of the US. Checked out your website, you do beautiful work! I love seeing the before and afters :)

    @colorfast no, I haven't paid him anything yet. I wanted to get a quote from my cabinet guy and that's where we left it at this point.

    I've also decided to pay a designer for my layout. I found one I absolutely love on Houzz. They're a bit pricey but I honestly feel it's worth it. I used an out of state designer for a spare bath remodel and with my ideas plus hers, I love what we came up with. I don't really have the money to throw around for a designer, but I have an open floor plan and the kitchen is extremely visible. I really want to get the look and layout right, so that's the road I'm taking.

    I'm going to ask my cabinet guy for GC referrals but he's 2 hours away so Idk if he'll know of anyone. Can't hurt to ask :)

    Also considering being my own GC. The reason is bc I don't know if anyone would take the job? When I spoke to the one GC, I told him my dad and I were going to lay the floor (my dad has laid many floors, click, tongue &groove, etc).

    GC didn't like that as labor was a chunk of change that he'd be missing out on. My husband felt the cabinet guy should be the one to install the cabinets as he made them, and knows how he likes his cabinets installed. When the GC heard this, he said either HE installs the cabinets or he's not taking the job. He said 'I am a GC. That's what I do. I don't come out and do piecemeal work here and there! If I don't install the cabinets, I'm not taking the job.'

    So I don't know? Does this mean no GC would do it? The things I need are: installing all appliances, installing new baseboards (about 1200 sq ft), fixing my walls (either skim coat or new drywall), casing doors & crown molding, gas venting for range to outside (I currently have electric), plumbing and electric in new areas, tiling backsplash. There's probably more but that's all I can think of right now :)

  • gidgetgirly

    Here's the update :) dumping this GC and finding a new one. Thanks to the wonderful people here on the forum, I've found out there are many GCs who would take the job even without doing the floor or installing the cabinets :)

    Thank you everyone for all your support and advice! I'll keep you updated on the progress. You guys rock!! :) :)

  • Mags438

    The $300 you'll pay out to contractor to turn him lose, is a drop in the bucket compared to what u would have ultimately paid in aggravation, lost time and perhaps even a poor job, if project went to completion. Just keep reminding urself of this when u write the could be a *lot* worse

  • bob_cville

    Great job on kicking the bad GC to the curb. But maybe wait on this:
    "I've also decided to pay a designer for my layout. I found one I absolutely love on Houzz. They're a bit pricey but I honestly feel it's worth it."

    If you post detailed measurements here in the Kitchen Forum and some guidance on the look you'd like the Kitchen Forum members often are able to collaboratively create a design that would look and work better than a design from a professional designer.

    We're a helpful knowledgeable bunch and some of us (specifically excluding me) have a great innate sense of design for a functional beautiful kitchen.

  • debrak_2008

    Ditto what bob said.

    I worked with an architect, 2 KDs, got estimates from 8 different cabinets places.
    The best advise/information/design came from GW.

  • gidgetgirly

    Wow! So glad I found gardenweb!! Everyone is so helpful! I'm new to this kitchen stuff, but if anyone needs any hair advice I'd be more than willing to help out. I've been a stylist for almost 20 years :) to say thank you for all the help :)

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