Any young ladies feeling like you don't have a voice?

avadooneSeptember 20, 2010

I moved in to my grandparents home. I am updating it. It's my first home. I've been constantly screwed over with installs.

I am a 24 year old woman and I am sure this has something to do with it. I am trying really hard to stand up for myself, as a homeowner, with out seeming too demanding or too picky. I make it clear that I am looking for quality and treat it like it was their home.

Any other ladies out there with some advice? I am a strong girl but am not an expert and I usually just get a lot of run around like "oh, there will be some expansion and contraction in the wood" meanwhile, I can put a nickle between the wood with wiggle room. For example. Unfortunatly, they were installed while I was away for medical treatment. It took me longer to get well than anticipated. When I finally came home it was summer and not that bad, but that winter it got really bad, and the year warranty was up!

I just feel like a lot of people just come in here and "half a**" everything. I had some cabinet sides refaced and after a year it's already falling apart. I don't want the same guy to come back, because clearly he doesn't care or doesn't have the skill.

After almost everything I have had done to the house has been wrong, not disasterous, but not right. Is this just a problem for everyone. I do my best to research people and things like that.

I'm pretty handy and try to do a lot of work myself, then I have no one to blame, but me. However, I do know when to bring in a "professional" I just need some advice from someone that has felt like I do.

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It's really too bad that you got sick at that time (couldn't you postpone it :-) because unless someone's right there paying attention at least daily, though being there through the day is best, you won't get decent work a lot (most?) of the time. The other thing is that yes, you're female and 24, and as a (lot older) female on her own having had to deal with contractors, you are very likely to get treated better if there's a guy around when possible (like when you take in your car). It stinks, and shouldn't be this way, but it doesn't seem to have changed much in decades, and if you don't want your money wasted, it's important to show authority in ways they understand. There ARE good people out there, honorable and honest, but it's hard to know who's who until the work really starts.

    Bookmark   September 21, 2010 at 8:53PM
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avadoone - Unfortunately, what you have experienced is still the way the world works. For women, particularly young women, there is a very fine line between that b-word that rhymes with witch (gardenweb won't let me post it) and doormat and if you don't want to be treated like a doormat, sometimes you will just have to be assertive and accept that you might be considered a witch. Sad but true. Wouldn't you think we would be beyond all this by now?

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 1:05PM
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I'm more than twice your age ... boy does that make me feel old! And have experienced some of the same things you have, it's a live and learn thing unfortunately.

I still live by myself, but am nobodies doormat! I've learned and listened. I fortunately live in a small town, and ask around when I need things done. I have been very fortunate over time to find good contractors/companies who take care of the things I need done.

The last major remodel I did, I had a real problem with the sloppiness of the painter that my contractor had sub-contracted out to. I made a list, called my contractor and had him come over and walk through with me to see my concerns. We walked through the work that had been done and I showed him the problems I found. He was grateful for the way I handled it; we ended up firing the painter, and he wasn't sure he would ever use him again.

Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers for recommendations for people they ahve used before. And ask the contractors for references ... and then CALL the references.

Be calm and assertive, and never pay the entire bill until the work hs been performed to your satisfaction, as long as you had communicated your requirements originally.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2010 at 3:17PM
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I need to find that medium between doormat and witch :)

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 8:20PM
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You have gotten some good advice. I'm sorry to hear that you have had such bad luck with contractors, but it happens to men as well. My DH is not the confrontational type and would rather just end the contract than get into an argument.

Our solution (after some bad experiences, like the contractor who used a piece of a used pizza box as a shim) was to join Angie's List. They collect ratings on companies. Some cities have a similar service/publication which would be at the local library.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 23, 2010 at 10:08PM
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I am the confrontational type and my wife lives in fear that I am going to hurt the feelings of some one I've hired to do what ever.

Some years ago we added a new master suite. GC did ok but I had to stay on him. Was time for final draw. Got suspicious and contacted his suppliers. Found he had not paid a single one. I went around and payed all of them using his final draw. He was pissed but no supplier had to file a lien on my house!

    Bookmark   September 24, 2010 at 8:21AM
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Do some research on the projects you want done.
Read your contracts.
Ask for and get warranties.
Be assertive in a nice way.
Look at he work everyday.
If you feel a male figure would help, get someone that you know.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 12:54AM
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My father always taught me that knowledge is power - armed with as much info as possible puts one less at the mercy of another.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2010 at 7:59PM
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To texasredhead

"GC did ok but I had to stay on him. Was time for final draw. Got suspicious and contacted his suppliers. Found he had not paid a single one. I went around and payed all of them using his final draw. He was pissed but no supplier had to file a lien on my house!"

While I appreciate your sentiment, and I am glad it worked out OK, you are lucky you weren't sued for the balance of the contract owed the GC, as well as any damages your act caused the GC. You still may get sued, if the GC has a clue. You did not have the right to do what you did.

If your story is true, you commited the illegal act of conversion.

It's almost as if you "garnisheed" his wages without benefit of a court order.

The suppliers could be sued for releasing the private information about the GC. I find it extremly hard to believe that a suppler would do such a thing in this litigious society. Most businesses these days err on the side of caution.

An exception or defense against a charge of conversion could be:
"Fraud of the plaintiff.(the GC, in this case) Conveying property to a third person for purposes of evading creditors is a complete defense to a subsequent action in conversion."

You would have to prove the GC was past due/delinquent on his bills to the material creditors. And there's the rub.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2010 at 8:19AM
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**While I appreciate your sentiment, and I am glad it worked out OK, you are lucky you weren't sued for the balance of the contract owed the GC, as well as any damages your act caused the GC. You still may get sued, if the GC has a clue. You did not have the right to do what you did.
If your story is true, you commited the illegal act of conversion.**

Oh please. Tell me, what would be the point of the GC suing the homeowner FOR MONEY THAT DID NOT BELONG TO THE GC?? If I owe the GC $1000 and the GC owes two subs $500 each, the GC has lost exactly $0 if I go ahead and pay the subs myself. So the GC has no damages to sue me for, because the $1000 that I owed him was actually owed to the subs.

And more to the point, there is NOTHING private about the fact that the GC hasn't yet paid the subs. The GC signed a contract with you that imposed on him the duty to pay the subs, on top of the duty to do whatever the contract was for (remodel your kitchen, build an addition, whatever). It is 100% your business to know if the GC is complying with the contract. You have the right to check up on whether he's complying with it.

I don't know how your state works, but as a random example, in Texas, a homeowner has the automatic right to request a sworn affidavit from the GC stating whether he has paid all his subs, and if so how much to each, and if not how much he owes each of them. The homeowner can refuse to pay the GC at all until the GC presents this affidavit. It's NOT private; it's YOUR BUSINESS to know whether the subs are paid, because paying the subs is part of the contractor's job.

Here is a link that might be useful: Random link on Texas lien law

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 10:04PM
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I've had this problem (the one the OP was talking about, not the more recent followups). What I do is learn as much about the work being done, and then ask questions that demonstrate I have some familiarity with it. I don't overdo it by trying to pretend I know more than I do, but usually after reading about whatever it is, I'll be curious about it. How the person answers the questions (condescending, patronizing, evasive, informative, respectful) can help weed people out.

A secondary but related problem is that when my DH is around, people talk to him and not to me. Even though I'm the one who called them and have been working with them and making all the decisions, if my DH chats with someone for five minutes, half the time people will start communicating with him about the work instead of me. It's very frustrating.

Finally, not really related but just venting, recently I had a guy in here for an estimate on some work, and he told me that (DIY) women are generally better at drywall patching than (DIY) men because they take the time to do the work right because, "they don't have anything better to do anyway." I am not making that up. Needless to say, I didn't hire him, although lack of a written estimate after I'd specifically said I wanted a written estimate was also a factor (writing a number down on a piece of paper doesn't count).

    Bookmark   October 3, 2010 at 10:16AM
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The big deal is called the contract. If you buy a tank of gasoline, can you just pay his supplier? No. You contracted to buy gas and pay the attendant, not his creditors, just as the homeowner contracted with the GC, not the subs.

You are wrong if you think Joe's Lumber Company can give out private (that's right, I said private) financial information about a client. Have you ever had to sign a document to GRANT THE RIGHT to someone to obtain your credit report? There are stringent laws regulating who has access to this type of information, and under what circumstances.

While Texas law may allow the homeowner to require the contractor to provide "an affidavit stating that the person has paid each of the person's subcontractors, laborers, or materialmen in full for all labor and materials provided to the person for the construction" it does not give the homeowner the right to go around the contract and pay the creditors directly.

Provide a link giving one the right to pay the subs directly, without the permission of the GC.

I'll type slowly, so you'll understand: The homeowner contracts with the GC to provide a service. The GC provides this service. The homeowner is OBLIGATED, as per the contract, to pay the GC for this service. The damages to the GC are that you disrupted his cash flow, causing who knows what problems.
For the homeowner to take it upon himself to BREACH the contract is not a legal remedy.

And study contract law 101 to find out why you can't do the things mentioned, or perhaps do a little online research.

    Bookmark   October 5, 2010 at 8:44PM
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You are not alone. I'm a woman and a retired dental professional, not a contractor. If someone needed dentistry, they paid me for my expertise. If I need a contractor, I hire them for their expertise and expect them to provide proficient and professional services as I would provide in dentistry. Unfortunately there are bad dentists and also bad contractors. I've not been very lucky with the latter.

I've begun year 4 of my renovation and I fired my 4th contractor last June. I've taken over as GC because I'm at the point in my project where I decided I can do this better myself than at least 3 of the GC's I've had. The good-'ol-boy network of roosters, which I was not part of, was not working for me. I could write a script of construction situations and blunders that could create a 4 season sit-com.

I am the quality control inspector which might also make me the witch, but I have no problem with that role when needed...I don't need these guys to be my hockey buddies.

I'm on my 3rd plumber (I'm actually in a lawsuit with the first plumber, who knowingly put in stuff that was not up to second plumber had lovely copper pipe running from the side of my pony wall tile to my toilet in my guest house, which I made him rip out and re-do...he didn't know I had distant plumbers in my family)
On a positive note, I was very lucky with my electrician and 3rd plumber...and a carpenter who is excellent...all very detail oriented and actually use their brains.

Avadoone, I don't know if this encourages you, but at least you know that you aren't alone.

    Bookmark   October 8, 2010 at 6:19PM
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Chaz Oh,

You suggested that I "please study contracts 101." The class isn't called contracts 101; it's called first-year contracts. The reason I know that is because I am a lawyer. As such, I already took that class, but thanks for the suggestion.

I can't tell you what your state's laws are in a situation like this. Every state is different. But anyone who wants to know what they can do in such a situation (i.e. where the contractor hasn't paid the subs) could probably find out for about $100-$150 tops by calling up a local lawyer and talking to him or her for half an hour. The kinds of lawyers who handle small disputes like this are not expensive--we're not talking big-firm New York prices, not by a long shot--so if you're in a situation like this, call your local bar association (google [name of your city or county] bar association) and ask if they can refer you to a lawyer who handles this type of situation.

As a general rule, the basic principle of contract law is that the courts will "make the injured party whole" or "put them in the position they would have occupied but for the breach." In English that means that if A breaches a contract with B, what the courts will do is make sure that B is NO WORSE OFF than he would've been if A had performed the contract like he said he would. Here's an example: say we agree that you'll sell me your Honda for $3000. But then someone offers you $3500 for your Honda, so you sell it to them instead. What happens? Well, if I look in the classified and I find the same car--same make, model and year, basically the same state of wear and tear--for $4000, I can buy it and get the $1000 difference back from you, because "the position I would have occupied" if you hadn't breached our contract was being able to get that car for $3000. But what if I find the same car in the classified for $3000? Then nothing happens to you. I can't get any money from you, because I am in just as good a situation as I would have been if you hadn't breached the contract: I can get that car for $3000.

So as a basic principle--and we're talking first-year contracts here; we're not talking about the particular details of your state's law--the contractor has nothing to sue you for unless he is financially WORSE OFF after you pay the subs than he would have been if you had paid him directly. So let's say the deal was he would remodel your kitchen for $20,000, and out of that the subs were going to get $16,000. If he finishes the job and you pay the subs $16,000, then yes, you still owe him $4000 and he could sue you for that. But what if he finishes, you pay the subs $16k, AND you pay him $4k? Does he have anything to sue you for because you paid the subs directly? No, he doesn't, because he is no worse off. So yes, technically you breached the contract, but he has no damages (i.e. he didn't lose any money). With no damages, there is nothing to sue you for.

As for the alleged privacy of the information that he didn't pay the subs, information is not private unless the law says it is. So, Chaz Oh, quote me the law that says that information is private. If there were such a law you could eventually find it on google, so knock yourself out.

    Bookmark   October 11, 2010 at 9:16AM
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I'm not going to debate this nonsense any longer. If you think I can take a bag of groceries from the store, not pay the grocer, but instead pay his creditors, because the grocer would have "nothing to sue you for unless he is financially WORSE OFF" you are a loon.

No need to reply, nothing you say will convince me a breach of contract is OK, except under certain circumstances.

And don't try to impress people by telling them that you are a law-yer, not everyone is impressed.

I've always liked some of the jokes, such as:

Q: How can you tell when a lawyer is lying?

A: When His (her) lips are moving!


Q: What do you call a bus full of lawyers going over a cliff?

A: A good Start!

Good luck in your career as a contract lawyer.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2010 at 8:07PM
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What you are missing with your gas supplier and grocery wholesale analogies is that they cannot lien your groceries or gas, but subcontractors can. Ideagirl is correct. The GC would not be entitled to damages in the case where the payments to the subs settled the debt and nothing else was owed because if the GC had received additional funds and kept them it would have been unjust enrichment. Now, we are assuming no unusual state laws, contract clauses, etc. And I am surprised all the subs were so willing to say what was owed them (perhaps this was a project where the homeowner saw all the bids and the GC was paid his profict percentage in earlier draws, who knows).

If the person who paid the suppliers came to me I would have told him to get the GC's cooperation before doing this. I would just tell him that he has a choice...he can pay them all and get me lien releases and then I will pay him, or I can pay them directly.

    Bookmark   October 22, 2010 at 5:17PM
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Avadoone, congratulations for taking on these projects at your age. You are learning a lot that will help you through your life, not the least of which is how to deal with management of others. Yes, some of the issues you are going through are gender-related, and some of it is just personality-related. And yes! you will find "your voice" and it will help you in all aspects of your life.

(I know some men who can't stand up to contractors or anyone else who is more aggressive. They just shrink back.)

The basic thing I learned is even if you bring in professionals to do work, whether it is major remodeling or changing a water heater, big job or small, you need to be on your toes about it. That means learning what you can online about the project you are hiring for, asking lots of questions until you are comfortable and satisfied that you understand what is being done and how. It's better to be a bit of a "pest" if that's what it takes.

What will happen, hopefully, is that you will find a handful of people you trust and use again and again. And when you need to hire someone new, you will know how to handle it.

Good luck with all your renovations!

    Bookmark   November 4, 2010 at 6:24PM
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Avadoone- Good for you for going DIY at such a young age! My father always taught me I could do anything a man could if I put my mind to it. I didn't get to test that until I bought my old house.

The first contractor did such a bad job- electrical- wrong sized wire- even I knew that! He was so cocky while in my house and took 8 hours for a quoted 2 hour job. I refused to pay- it took over a year to get the company to fix it, and they had to rip it all out and redo it. Luckily they didn't place a lien on my house, but I wouldn't pay until it was right. Then there was the plumber......I finally fixed his mistakes 5 years later.

So, today I do nearly everything on my own. Sometimes it's not fun, but I feel that I actually care about my home and they don't. Last month I posted about having a great experience with an electrician who just redid my panel. It was amazing, so I know there are good ones out there...... just not very many.

I found this guy through a friend who had done 2 remodels with him. Now I know that is the only way I will find a contractor- word of mouth from people I trust.

With the other contractors I got 5 bids, and chose based on how well they responded to my questions. If they were annoyed that I wanted to learn, they were out. Even then, they weren't the best choices.

The other bit of advice I can offer is to learn as much as you can from great sites such as this one,, old house web, etc. When I talk to a contractor now, I know what I want, know the pros and cons, and I have done my homework and am prepared. If I can talk to the contractors and know what I'm talking about so that nothing is left to chance, or 'well I assumed you wanted it this way' doesn't happen. It takes a lot of time- rather than watch TV or read at night, now I am doing research and getting ideas from GW!

I am 20 years older than you and still get the same treatment. I doubt that will change as we live in a man's world. But, today I feel I can make better choices having done the homework.

If that fails......just buy a bunch of tools and go at it! LOL!

    Bookmark   November 7, 2010 at 1:59AM
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To chaz oh, the addition to our home was made in 1975 and the GC is long dead. In another life I was the VP of a large HVAC distributer. When an A/C contractor came in to purchase a system to install in a customer's home, we required him/her to give us the name and address where the equipment was going to be installed. This was because we extended credit to our credit worthy contractor customers.

However, the owner of the company frequently over rode the decisions of me and the credit manager, giving credit to contractors that he knew from his church or what ever.

Frequently his decisions came back to bite us and we never got paid. As a result, our only recourse was to file a mechanics lien against the property where the equipment was installed.

Now in Texas, since the lien is against the house/property owner, it means the lien can only be collected IF the property owner sells the property. That lien must be paid if the new owners expect to get a clear deed of trust. Also under Texas law, a lien only remains in effect for 5 years so it is emcumbant on the supplier to continue to refile liens.

Bottom line, the owner of the HVAC supplier's bad credit decisions finally led to a chapter 7 involuntary bankruptcy, the doors were padlocked by our creditors and a lot of property owners got off the hook.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2010 at 8:04AM
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Chiming in to say 1) probably yes because you are female (not necessarily just because you are young) 2) we have a problem in our society in general of poor workmanship and lack of ethics as well

Advice: 1) do a lot of research before getting your bids and signing a contract--this site has been very helpful to me, as well as asking neighbors, co-workers, checking with the BBB, doing a google search, etc. 2)Get a good digital camera and take pictures of the entire process-before during and after, and make sure that they know you are documenting. Also document your conversations. Half of these workmen won't blink an eye at lying about what happened, what was done etc. They convince themselves that they are justified in some way. 3) Make sure that you know multiple ways to contact the contractor--phone, email, etc, so you can get around the "I didn't get your message" excuse. 4) If you can have a male around at the time of signing the contract or even the estimate do so. They don't have to be related, just just need to appear like they know something and have an interest in the situation 5) when or if you do have to dispute something, remember that thanks to your documentation and contract, you control the situation and the paycheck (you haven't paid them until you are satisfied, right?) and don't have to put up with it. Continue to state with a friendly-to-neutral voice and demeanor what needs to be fixed and why, and DON'T let the contractor distract you with red herrings (like "I shouldn't have to fix this hole in the wall because you changed the paint color") and excuses ("Grandma was sick")

Remember, you don't need them to LIKE you, and they don't care if you like them.

About the cabinets: I hope you have some sort of warranty. I would be asking for a refund and opening a complaint with the BBB.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2010 at 2:18PM
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:)your age isn't the problem, your gender isn't the problem - finding reputable contractors is the problem.

when we bought our house, I got lucky, and found that the local plumber is 1) brilliant 2) honest 3) experienced in old house, when I needed an electrician, I called the plumber's wife, and she sent me to a guy who's a bit quirky, but meticulous and wonderful to deal with.

they BOTH recommended the same guy for drywalling - who kinda took over as GC for me, did all the coordinating of schedules so the electrician could hang the new light as soon as the ceiling was up...

so, my best advice, besides a lifetime subscription of This Old House? is to keep looking - it took me three years of looking and not liking people until I thought to ask the plumber for help!

    Bookmark   November 30, 2010 at 4:20PM
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Not sure why this old thread surfaced now, but I was going to agree with other posters who said to use Angie's List or word of mouth from friends and acquaintances to find good contractors. Random chance from the phone book is going to get you average people, on average. :-]

It's amazing how dumb/lazy/no pride in their work the average person is. And to think that HALF the people are worse than THAT!

    Bookmark   January 22, 2015 at 4:34PM
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Came back up due to spammer and AL is just as big a crapshoot as any other pay per play site,

    Bookmark   January 22, 2015 at 7:46PM
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I haven't used AL much (once maybe) but I would think recommendations from customers has to be better than nothing at all. I would not expect perfection.

Actually I've done well by using people my friends recommended. Once you get a good general construction guy, they can recommend specialists. I have a mechanic I've used for 20+ years, and if I need body work, transmission, etc. he always knows who to go to.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2015 at 12:39PM
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Age and gender have zero to do with this.

Work ethic, and maybe even more importantly, is people are too cheap to pay for quality work. I've learned this the hard way many times.

A job done 80% perfect is four times the work of a half a$$ed job. A 95% + job is four times the work of the 80%.

Back in the olden days, there were only a handful of different building materials and there was centuries of knowledge base of how to build. Now, there are so many different types of building materials, many unproven, and little widespread knowledge of how these materials are installed.

All of the above affects everyone man woman old or young.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2015 at 2:28PM
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