I hired Cosgrove & Sons to provide General Contractor services for a mud room & bedroom addition including foundation & roof; remodeling of kitchen; relocating a bathroom; and rebuilding a sunroom (walls & roof). Contract included plumbing, heating, electrical, insulation, flooring, appliances, siding, windows & exterior doors, carpentry, painting, creation of architectural drawings and permit drawings (dimensioned plans, elevations, sections) for owner, all required permits).
Cosgrove & Sons was selected from among several firms listed on the Houzz and other web sites. After an interview and some negotiation of the scope of work, price, construction schedule, and terms, they were contracted to provide complete construction of an addition to & remodel of a private residence in College Park, MD. Key considerations in their selection were their claimed ability to create architectural design drawings from sketches provided by owner, knowledge of all Code requirements necessary for various construction permits, work experience on projects similar to mine (multi-trade, size, cost, complexity, etc.), in the vicinity of this project, positive reviews, etc. My experience to date has not been consistent with their initial claims and not entirely positive (at this time the project is not complete and I am having some difficulty getting a commitment to finish).
1)Lack of Expertise:
a)Code: Cosgrove purported to be familiar with all local Code and construction Permit requirements. But he did not pull some permits until after construction started and some were not pulled until authorities gave him notice of violation. Dry wall in kitchen was installed prior to required inspection – the inspector made Cosgrove remove dry wall, which then had to be redone resulting in contract delay and unnecessary cost.
b)Software: Though the drawings were to be created on contractor’s commercial software program it often seemed as if the software was not up to date on the local Code, contractor was not efficiently able to incorporate our notes, or trained to operate the system in order to generate the drawings (sections, details, etc.) Several months elapsed and construction proceeded without owner approved drawings.
c)Trades scheduling: Rather than scheduling the whole contract sequence in advance & scheduling subcontractors ahead of time, work seemed to progress in a one-step-at-a-time fashion (i.e., electrical, heating & plumbing subs could have performed some work simultaneously) which created gaps between trades that extended the contract period.
a)Contract called for 9-12 weeks. Work began in February 2015 with demolition of interior walls, bathroom, kitchen, etc. It is now December 2015 and the work is still not complete.
b)During the construction period workers were frequently scheduled on or pulled off the job without adequate notice (often notice was given the day before work was to be performed; sometimes workers didn’t show up when expected) – this resulted in consuming all of my vacation days, and frequent rescheduling of my work (or requiring contractor to reschedule work when my schedule could not be changed).
c)The extended construction period (now in its 40th week with an unknown completion date) has cost me more than $700 for additional offsite storage).
d)I repeatedly asked for a schedule of items I needed to supply and a date they had to be on site in order to not delay the Cosgrove schedule – this information was never provided so I made every effort to order materials early (this strained my cash flow, caused congestion for storage, put some items nearer the end of their warranty claim period, prevented inspection for hidden damage, etc.
e)I have been informed that they are now working on other projects so completion of mine is held hostage to their schedule, and a delay in finishing seems to be a result of their scheduling additional projects before finishing mine.
3)Communication: Contract calls for timely and regular communication with owner and a weekly in-person conference with owner – this almost never occurred. In fact, Cosgrove seldom even visited my job site
a)Cosgrove agreed to provide all architectural & permit drawings. At least four sets of incomplete architectural drawings were submitted. Each was promptly returned with many notes questioning dimensional & factual errors, omissions, discrepancies, and questions - almost all of which were either ignored or not discussed or corrected on subsequent submissions. Intended as the basis for construction, the fact that these were never completed or accurate led to many delays, misunderstandings, construction errors and probably extended the construction period.
b)Dimensional Errors: An example is the interior wall for the relocated bathroom, which was not installed where the drawings stipulated. When this was called to his attention, Cosgrove chose to extend the bedroom addition by about 7” (adding cost to foundation, roof and exterior wall and lowered the ceiling in the bedroom). Then Cosgrove personnel didn’t place the new foundation wall accurately to accommodate this error so the bedroom was built several inches smaller than originally intended). As sign of good faith I accepted this change without further dispute.
5)Insulation: Contract stipulates that insulation is included per Code. Cosgrove apparently was not aware that local Code required R49 insulation in ceilings for new construction. Contractor drawings showed R3/inch and in order to install enough additional batt insulation he intended to make the roof ‘thicker’ and install a scissors truss over the sunroom, which would have changed both the pitch of the ceilings and made them lower in bedroom & sunroom – unacceptable aesthetic changes for owner. In order to resolve this situation I stepped in and found a sprayed-in foam insulation product that achieved Code requirements without changes to roof structure, dimensions & details. This saved Cosgrove the additional cost and installation of scissors trusses and the work was completed within two working days but at an additional cost to me.
6)Electrical: Some electrical work was performed by general workers and not performed by licensed Electricians – such as installation of some switches, outlets, moving some lighting fixtures, etc.
7)Plumbing: Some plumbing work was performed by general workers and not performed by licensed Plumbers – such as connection of kitchen sink to drain, reconnection of plumbing after removal of basement bathroom, etc.
8)Heating System: The contract included changes to the existing hot water heating system – relocating pipes to two upstairs radiators, removal of two existing radiators, and installation of new fin-tube radiators in the sunroom. The subcontractor that Cosgrove hired for this work did the demolition and relocation work and suggested using cast iron radiators instead of fin-tube, which I agreed was a good idea at an extra cost of about $3500. However, this subcontractor was either unwilling or unable to provide the calculations for the required radiation in the sunroom, which created a delay in the project. Rather than discuss the issues with me or find another subcontractor Cosgrove suggested I find my own subcontractor. Meanwhile, Cosgrove proceeded with work ‘out of sequence’ (flooring was installed, walls were finished, base board installed, etc.) which resulted in extra work. I was able to locate another subcontractor who did provide the necessary calculations, could schedule the work, and provided a cost estimate. However, Cosgrove objected to this new estimate (probably since it was higher than his original) but he still didn’t suggest he would find his own alternate and initially offered only a fraction of the added cost as a credit even though a completed heating system was included in the contract. Only after I indicated that I would take this issue to arbitration as the contract stipulates for disputes did Cosgrove agree to credit the full amount of the new estimate (less the additional cost for cast iron radiators).
9)Doors & Windows:
a)The original contract had an allowance for doors and windows with a suggested source as an indication of quality. I opted for more expensive doors & windows for aesthetic reasons, paid the cost differential and Cosgrove was provided with the part numbers for ordering purposes. I made a typographic error in one part number, which resulted in the manufacturer telling Cosgrove that it could not provide this item as ordered. Rather than communicate this discrepancy to me Cosgrove ‘guessed’ at the “correct” part number. When the product arrived it didn’t match and was rejected, which resulted in a 6-week delay and extra cost to have the correct part manufactured. Although the rough opening didn’t change, I was presented with a $1200 extra cost for installation.
b)All doors & windows were to have the same interior & exterior installation details as the rest of the house (as noted frequently and consistently on the architectural drawings submitted by Cosgrove). Cosgrove told me to omit the exterior trim from the window & door order since ‘these could be fabricated on site at lower cost’. When Cosgrove employees installed the new windows and doors they had no exterior trim at all – a detail noted by me only after the siding was installed. This is still a disputed item.
c)Two of the windows arrived with damaged sashes – this was discovered by Cosgrove personnel in July at the time they were installed – even though this should have been a warranty item they not been replaced. By not being resolved it impacts the ability to apply finish to the windows, may no longer be covered by manufacturer warranty and is a problem for completing the contract.
10)Kitchen: As the project approached a potential inspection point (one that could trigger a progress payment), the kitchen counter top material was delayed due to Cosgrove not having ordered it in a timely fashion. Consequently, a Formica type material was crudely installed with the Cosgrove suggestion that this would allow the inspection to proceed. Only after I objected to this scenario was the inspection delayed until the correct material could be installed. In the meantime, the extra cost was borne by Cosgrove and I had to take more time off of work to be present during the second installation.
11)Flooring: The flooring subcontractor was required to reinstall flooring in the sunroom because many of the boards had rather large flaws (knots, shakes, uneven joints, etc.) that he proposed to fill – a solution not agreed to by me for practical reasons (since the floor was installed in the middle of a hot, humid spell when the wood would have swelled it would be subject to the maximum amount of shrinkage in the dry, cool winter and the seams would open up). Proper supervision of this work would have either had the materials protected or the work done under more climate controlled conditions.
12)Changes: Many changes resulted from the lack of the repeatedly requested drawings (for instance, cross sections showing ceiling heights, intersection of roof planes, and other construction details) and inaccuracy of the drawings that were created by Cosgrove (example - bedroom/bathroom as noted above). Most of the changes were verbal and not documented by Cosgrove as stipulated in the contract. Therefore, when Cosgrove’s office personnel would send through requests for payment many of these items had been previously deleted, some were duplicated (billed for more than once), some had inconsistent pricing (different prices for adding an item than for deleting the same item), incorrect quantities, items not requested by owner, missing credits, or billing for items specifically included in the contract, etc.
13)Attention to detail:
a)Although daily clean-up is stipulated in the contract this has occurred less and less frequently as the contract progressed.
b)Some finishes were not covered when paint was applied to adjacent surfaces – paint splashes appear on the floor, railings, etc.
c)Small things become apparent as the contract winds down and appear as ‘punch list’ items – some new wood moldings were not sanded prior to priming & paint – now they are ‘’fuzzy’ as the paint was absorbed; several moldings were not painted on the top surface, one balustrade was installed upside down in a railing, etc.
a)Except for the specific situations and comments above, contractor’s personnel and subcontractors were generally courteous and most seemed to have had experience in residential construction.
a)Release from subcontractor liens have not been received
b)Beyond the punch list, several issues remain unresolved and there is little to no response to emails sent to Cosgrove & Sons – examples are removing the door to basement and refinishing the walls & trim, thresholds at kitchen doors to living & dining rooms,
Would I hire Cosgrove & Sons for another project ? No. Would I recommend him ? Probably not unless it was a much smaller, less complicated project – for instance a screened in porch, or garage. My recommendations: the drawings should be created by another professional - someone trained in Code and able to use some software programs. Payment should be based on 80% of work accomplished not on the basis of passing an inspection. I would suggest a clause that rewarded or penalized him for variations from his project schedule, and I would insist on a hold-back of enough money to cover completion of the work by another contractor should Cosgrove not complete it to my satisfaction.