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Reno newbie asking for advice. Should my bathroom Reno take 12 weeks?

May 17, 2014
Hello: Generally I am more of a "lurker" than a "poster" on this site so please be kind:). Let me preface this dilemma by saying I am a first-time home buyer with absolutely no experience with renovations and I would really appreciate some advice.

My husband and I hired a general contractor to renovate our 6'x11' bathroom. He informed us the job would take two weeks but we are now 12 weeks and counting. I assumed there would be delays but is 12 weeks normal? I will attach photos of our bathroom. It was a gut job and we did not change placement of the plumbing. Just wanted all new.

My husband and I have started completing tasks included in our quote just to get them done (painting, etc. ). I've been giving my contractor lists of outstanding items and requesting timelines. Most of the time these items aren't addressed. Our contractor also asked me to call some of his trades to finish up items (drywalling, electrical). Am I incorrect that I assumed our contractor would be doing this stuff? I know our quote from him included a management fee.

What makes this more difficult for me is that I actually quite like our contractor. Would anyone mind giving me some advice on how they would deal with this situation? On the bright side in the last two weeks we've finally got a working toilet and sink! Thanks so much.
Comments (8)
  • PRO
    1st Steps Custom Floor Design
    I don't know how much money you have spent with this guy, but you need to get rid of him. He is taking you to the cleaners! I have done similar jobs and about two weeks to complete is correct. Btw, you shouldn't be doing anything but paying this guy to do the job. Here is a few photos.
  • carrieii
    Hi Sorry to hear you have had so many issues :(. Did you pay the contractor yet? If not my advice is dont pay until the job is complete. At least then there is incentive for him to complete the job. If you have paid I am not sure what you can do other than speaking to him directly (which it sounds like you have done). When contracting someone to complete a task it is not your responsibilty to contact his tradesmen however in the interest of getting the job done you might end up having to do it? When a person quotes a job to be complete in 2 weeks there are sometimes set backs but 12 weeks seems excessive. Maybe discuss the job with him and the problems you have had. I just hope you have not paid in full at the beginning of the job. Good luck.
  • PRO
    I live in a country where converting a bathroom is not as easy - so I count six weeks from start to finish - and even then it can take longer.In your case, have you asked what the delay is? If you can get to the root of the problem, you might find there is a misunderstanding between who is doing what. If you have started painting - that basically absolves him of any recourse you may have over the paint job... etc etc.Normally with the contractor you go through the renovation and create a "punch list". This is the list of outstanding items that need to be done. He and you maintain the list and check off items that are done.Now, the problem always lies in the little end jobs - the majority of work gets done and then a replaced tile, or adding silicone around something that wasn't done first time are the pains. I call it the Pareto Principle of Builds (80% of the build gets done in 20% of the time; and the last 20% takes 80% longer!). I have learned to organize a build so there is everything in place, so each time a workman comes out - he has everything he needs to ensure there is no need for a repeat visit.Hope this gives some insight.
  • PRO
    Rebecca Mitchell Interiors
    There is something not "kosher" with this contractor. Do not pay him any more money until he has finished the scope of work. And do not use him again. Your bathroom looks fab at least:)
  • saratogaswizzlestick
    Hold back on any further payments. Give him a punch list and let him know if he does not complete the work in a timely fashion you will hire subs yourself and substrate to it from what you owe.
  • libradesigneye
    There may have been things found during demo that delayed the job. Or, he was oversubscribed and you guys weren't nasty as his other customers. Your contractor may not have had sufficient cash flow to keep the job going but didn't want to reveal that. One of his subs (a plumber on a bathroom) might have one of these issues and he is disappointed in their performance, has moved on to his next client and juggling.

    A standard commercial payment holds 10% retainage from every payment so that the contractor will have sufficient incentive to get his money and finish the job. If you have paid him close to the full amount and he has other projects going, some contractors are not terribly good at managing their money or time so . . . you guys are the nice ones, and someone else is screaming at him unhappy . . who do you please? He could simply be oversubscribed. Don't do the tasks you paid him for unless you deduct from his contract (including painting, calling subs).

    The quality of the work appears to be excellent . . that is the most important thing in the long run. Things can also go slow for no fault of the contractor - you haven't picked something out, you can't make up your own mind about what you want, or you change things after they are begun. Things that seem like a small decision to a layperson can have a large ripple effect on the project. Since you do have a good working relationship, ask him what he attributes the delays to. It could be as simple as the tile you had to have not being shipped for 4 weeks. Own your part in it, and then let the rest go. Do come up with a timeline that he commits to -
  • roger1932
    Thanks everyone for your comments. Luckily, we have paid him nothing (which I don't quite understand since I assumed he would ask for partial payment and I was willing to provide it).

    We are out of pocket approximately $2,000 for supplies we purchased (which we needed for the bathroom anyway!). He said he wouldn't be billing us until his trades billed him. His estimate for our bathroom was $10,000. He told me that cost included all supplies at the "mid range". We did get multiple estimates and picked the middle of the road one, got references and saw examples of his work.

    And yes, I feel like his craftsmanship is good, just not his follow through :). It's true, all the last 20% finicky details are not complete. Also, he informed me that there were no issues with the bathroom at all and that it was a very straightforward job. We live in Canada! He is very, very busy too.

    Just a question about money and comments about subtracting money for work we have done? I'm not sure how I will deal with that? I want to be fair for both us and our contractor. Would you ask for a detailed list of all costs (he's also not much of a paperwork fellow) and subtract the costs of what we have done? That is if he includes those things. It's sort of a subjective idea to estimate what my time has cost me?

    FYI - most of you are right. I avoid conflict like the plague. I've sort of put myself in this situation by not being very demanding.
  • libradesigneye
    If you haven't paid him, wait until his bill comes. Ask him what he thinks is a fair discount for the late delivery of the work and the work that you guys self performed? Discount around 3% as an estimate of that - it isn't all the guys profit, but wait until y ou have the whole bill and are making the final payment. If you take it from an early bill, he will get it back somehow . . .
    You can throw out a figure of 3% and negotiate until you agree, but if you know you are a bad negotiator, let your husband play bad cop and you can tell him what a good job he did.

    if you haven't paid him at all then you can see he doesn't manage his cash flow too tightly.

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