New Window Installers Ruined all of my woodwork - advice, please!

ammartonNovember 8, 2006

Hello! Just going through a bit of a disaster with our woodwork.

Last year we moved into a 1946 Chicago Bungalow with pristine, untouched original woodwork. You just can't buy this stuff anymore -- it was a major selling point. How easy can you find 60 year old woodwork that isn't painted over or all scratched up? I digress...

Last year we had half of the windows replaced in our house by a fairly well-known window company througout Chicago (it is not like I went through Bob's Discount Window Shack). As stipulated in the contract all windows were installed from the outside as to not require any touching of the interior woodwork. The windows were installed that way and my wood remained untouched. Completely satisifed customer.

So we of course went back to this company this year when it came time to finish the rest of the windows. Again, sales man said windows must be installed from the outside to preserve the existing woodwork, and it was stipulated in the contract. So Monday morning, here come the window guys. In a thick accent he says to me "Don't worry. I am carpenter. If I need to replace wood, I do beautiful job".

I said "No No No No"! The existing woodwork is not to be touched. Last time the windows were installed from the outside and that is how they need to be installed this time. It is in the contract. I do not want my wood touched at all! He said "Okay Okay....I don't like to do it that way but I can. I will install from outside just like they did last year".

So they are working away all day....and I was peeping at them but I really couldn't go up to them since stuff was flying everywhere. At 2:30 they finished with one room so I went up to inspect. Something didn't look right. They ripped all of my door stops off with a crowbar and used a nailgun to tack it back up every 1". In addition since these are older windows, all of the charming and large brass screws were gone. I called my husband and he ran home from work. He made them find every brass screw in the front lawn and replace them. Most of the brass screws were damaged, split in half, name it. But what about all those nail gun holes? They filled them with blonde, stainable wood putty on my golden-deep, rich existing wood work!!!! Not to mention that as they pryed off my doorstops with a chisel and hammer, they would miss and made huge, deep gashes in my window sills and frame around the windows.

Needless to say I am furious. We called the window company and they were totally apologetic. They came today to take pictures of the damage (they took pictures with a cellphone ---- yuck!) and suggested a fix might be replacing the doorstops with new wood....but not staining them. Wouldn't say anything about the gashes in the window sills or frame around the window sills. He said he would get back to us with their fix proposal in a couple of days...

Sorry for the lengthy narrative...but, I just had to explain it all. Question ---- What should I demand? There is nothing they can do to get them back to their original state other than inventing a time machine and stoping those two idiots from installing from the inside.

I want the woodwoork undamaged, but I want it to match with everything else. What if they can't get it to match? Do I demand money???

Please --- I'd really appreciate your thoughts or if you have ever experienced a similar problem. Thanks!!!!

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I just got done reading your dilema and wish to offer what I can. As a carpenter taught and trained by my father, I share your disappointment in what has occurred--there are very few crafstmen left and hundreds of parties who call themselves a carpenter because they claim to know which end of a hammer to hold. I suggest the following:

1) Take your own detailed phots of the damage as future evidence in case you end up in court over the matter later. Photograph the poor workmanship presently completed, the good work you were satisfied in the past, and any work that remains untouched from original installations. Remember, your photos will be reviewed by a judge who has not seen your home, so be sure to review them honestly regarding the detail they provide.

2) I would refuse any further attempts at this contractor to correct the problem. Their carelessness has already brought you to this juncture--no point in exacerbating the matter "hoping" that it will somehow get better.

3) Seek out the assistance of a good restoration carpenter/contractor. This can likely be resolved by going to the yellow pages or similar directory for assistance. Going to the carpenters union may also be a good solution, but if they tell you just about anyone can do the work, get out fast. I think you got really lucky with the first carpenter and, if you think the contractor you used can get you back to him, you might try that also. When you think you've found someone you can trust, demand references and/or a portfolio of completed projects to assure youself your confidence is properly placed--this type of work is tedious and demanding--anyone worth their snuff is going to be documenting their work for future customers to build confidence they can handle the project.

4) Once you have found the contractor you like and feel you can trust, let them give an estimate on repairs and bring that to the contractor you first used. You will likely get the cold shoulder, which will make point #1 all that more important.

5) Let the new contractor make the repairs, but insist on watching them for the first window if you wish to be sure they will meet your standards. A respectable contractor will not be offended by this and is even proud to demonstrate the cautious behavior required in dealing with such work. They will also have access to suppliers for replacement mouldings if the need develops.

I caution you that it will only be through your own dillegence that the matter is corrected to your satisfaction--it may take 3-6 months of hard searching to locate the person to go to for the repairs--but I assure you it will be worth it.

Good Luck.
Bruce L

    Bookmark   November 12, 2006 at 8:44PM
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Oh, I feel for you. Since you live in a metropolitan area, there ought to be at least one place that does custom millwork if you need to replace sections that were damaged. The bad news is that today's wood isn't nearly as good as what it is replacing. Top restoration finish carpenters know those milling places and which lumber yards carry the best wood that they will hand choose. At least my window guy did.

I am not familiar with brass screws, but you could probably find them at a salvage yard or upscale restoration place.

I was told the trim in my 1928/29 house was always painted and never stained, so admittedly my restoration job was easier since stain and woodgrain did not need to be matched. IMHO, custom millwork makes a huge difference in making recent work invisible. The biggest charge is set-up, so you might consider buying more footage than you think you need.

Off the top of my head, I am wondering if a custom cabinetmaker might be the person who could best match your existing stain? Regardless, I think you should be able to get your windows to match once you find the right craftsman/craftsmen. It won't necessarily be cheap, but really, that is not your problem, especially since you had the foresight to specify your requirements in your contract.

Best wishes, and you don't need to settle for second (or third) best.

    Bookmark   November 28, 2006 at 4:57PM
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