Advice Needed! What to do with overbilling?

Melissa-KitchenJanuary 31, 2013

Hello everyone! I've been struggling with this dilemma for two days and need some advice. In December, I had our oak cabinets professionally painted white. Prior to painting them, I had new hinges installed. Before choosing a painting company, I had two estimates. The first painter wanted me to have to carpenter rehang all of the doors before he painted. He said he'd rather take them down than have to worry about hanging them correctly. The second company said that they would take the doors to be sprayed when the carpenter was done and not to put them back up because it didn't make sense to hang them, just to take them down the next day and it was easier for them. I decided to go with the second company as they had just completed my husband's coworker's kitchen. The owner of the company also sold me on the care that they put into every kitchen and detailed all of the labor involved (including rehanging the doors). I am thrilled with the results. I have no complaints whatsoever with the work that they did.

I received their bill two days ago. On the invoice, there is the amount that he quoted, plus extra chanrges of painting the ceiling (I'm fine with that), $190 to fill the holes whre the previous hinges were drilled (he wanted to dowel them in case the new hinges needed to be screwed into the same area) and $720 to rehang the cabinets. I was not expecting the $910 since I was told that everything was included in my quote.

I spoke with the owner yesterday, exspressing my concerns that they did not tell me that they would be billing me the additional amount to rehang the cabinets. He came to our house twice, once to quote and a second time to pick up the doors on the first day. At first he was concerned that the carpenter had not rehung the doors but I told him that when he quoted me I was told not to have the carpenter rehang them. He then said that he had a guy who used to do cabinetry and he could rehang them. He never mentioned the extra cost of $910 at either visit.

The conversation was a little heated. He told me that he went out of his way to do the best job he could.... I was clear that I was very happy with the painter and the job they did. I was just unhappy that the quote "which included everything" didn't really include hanging the doors. He charged me $45/hour to do this and said it took two men a total of 16 hours. (It didn't take that long - they were gone before I got home at 2:00 that day.) In the end, the owner said "I am not going to argue over the bill. I am too old to argue and my nerves cannot take it. Just send me a cheque for whatever you want. No hard feelings."

So how much do I send? The quoted amount? The full amount with the surpise $920 or do I split the difference? I am not someone who is trying to get out of paying. I've been waiting for this bill for a month. I want to pay him for the job and I want to do the "right" thing. I just don't know what the right thing is. I am peeved that it's higher than quoted, that he never told me about the extra charges and that he billed me for at least 6 extra hours at $45/hour. However, I am not one to not pay my bills and he made me feel extremely guilty about complaining.

I'd appreciate everyone's input. Pay it all, pay the quoted amount or split the difference. It's very silly that I am this upset about this but I want to make sure that I make the right decision. I don't want to shortchange him but I also don't want to be overbilled and $720 to hang cabinet doors seems incredibly high.

Thanks in advance to everyone who responds and takes the time to read this long winded post. :)


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Did you get a written quote? If yes, it should either include the charges for re-hanging or not. If it did, I would not pay for it.
If it does not, I'd pay for the time the two workers spent on the job. However, I have to say that where I live 22.50/hour is incredibly cheap.
Also, how does the overall cost, painting and rehanging, etc. compare to what others quoted you? If it seems like a reasonable price, INCLUDING the cost for rehanging that's now in contention, I'd be more inclined to pay it.

What did the owner say about the re-hanging? That is was never included in the original quote? If yes, didn't he revise the estimate when it became clear that he would rehang the doors? Also, it sounds that all the holes had to be redrilled, right?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 10:48AM
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It was $45/hour each painter, not for both.

No I did not get a written quote that specifically included the work that needed to be done.

He explained when he came that everything from A to Z was included. Washing down the cabinets, sanding, 2 coats of primer, painting, rehanging, installing hardware and filling the old holes (I chose hardware that was the same size and he said he would deduct $100 for that portion from the original amount but did not - not a huge deal and I'll pay the full amount). However, in his mind he only estimated that it would take them 5 hours to hang the doors and it took them longer than that. (The invoice clearly has the quoted amount and then the additional charge for rehanging and filling the holes separately.) It certainly did not take the 16 hours that he is billing me for but it did take longer than 5 hours. That said, the entire job was done in 8 days, exactly the time that he said it would. They did not have to come back for an extra day to install the doors.

He never revised the estimate to include filling the old holes or installing the doors so I was unaware that I was going to be charged more. The owner actually left for holidays the day they started at our house. He was aware of the work they were doing and called to check in with the painter a few times but never mentioned the additonal cost.

I'm just frustrated because I paid a carpenter to route the holes, install the hinges and reinstall the cabinets. I paid him in full but didn't make him come back to reinstall them because the painter said that they would do it. I could have had the carpenter install them for free.

I think that they just installed the screws into the wood without redrilling the holes but I am not 100% sure. The cabinet store said that the screws I purchased did not have to be predrilled but I didn't watch them reinstall the doors so I can't be sure either way.

The cost of this company was about $500 more than my other quote (or double the other company if I wanted the cabinets painted with a brush instead of sprayed). It was slightly more expensive but the other painter was not going to rehang the doors. I was going to get the carpenter to come back. I went with this company on the recommendation of my husband's coworker who was happy with a similar job that they did at her house. For the record, they charged her 25% of what they charged me. Yes, I paid 4 times more. Apparently, her husband had gotten them a lot of business so they gave her a "deal" and her kitchen is very small compared to ours.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 11:30AM
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You pay what was quoted and agreed.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:00PM
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Poor communication is a big problem with any business - large or small. If he verbally said they would rehang the cabinets but did not tell you there would be an additional charge then that is his mistake as you are the client and the onus to give you an accurate quote is on him. If he assumed you would somehow just know this would cost extra, he made a mistake. It sounds as if rehanging the cabinets was something he was aware of all along so this should have been factored in his quote.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:01PM
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It does sound very frustrating indeed, especially since you paid the carpenter for a job that you are now being charged a second time.

I have a question: What holes did he fill? Presumably, he must have drilled new holes if he didn't use the old ones.

16x45 is 720.00, meaning that he charged you 8 hours for each of two men, so a total of 16 man hours.

You say that the owner estimated that it would take 5 hours to rehang the doors. Was that 5 man hours or 5 hours for two men, i.e. 10?

Does he now say that the rehanging was never included in his estimate, or that it took longer than anticipated? If the latter, you should subtract the 5 hours (or 10) from the amount he now charges as well as the 100.00 for the hardware holes he didn't have to redrill.

How long do you think they actually spent on rehanging the doors? Also, could you check with the carpenter how long it should have taken to rehang them?

If they didn't have to redrill the holes for the hinges but just re-hang the doors, it should have been very quick, not more than 10 minuets per door (probably more like 3 minutes).

Did you ever get any written estimate before? If yes, what exactly does it say?

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:03PM
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Well, first of all, you should definitely not consider paying them the full amount as billed if you know for a fact that they billed hours that people were not working (16 hours to hang cabinet doors is insane ... how long can it possible take even in a very large kitchen).

As for the rest of it, I actually don't think you should pay for anything related to the hanging. You got and paid a carpenter for that and it wasn't needed. I don't think a company (in this case the painters) can just add extra work that was not requested or agreed and then present a bill for it.

The fact that the owner backed down like he did tells me he knows they screwed up. People don't do that if they know they are right.

I have, in the past, split costs with a contractor when they billed more than was agreed to, but that was because I felt that the work needed to be done. Although I thought it could have been done in a more timely fashion and I certainly should have approved the extra time/cost, it still needed to be done, so the compromise was splitting the cost.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:20PM
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He estimated a total of 5 hours for one man, so 11 hours less than he was billing me. He sent two men on the last day because the second man had worked for a kitchen installer in the past and had a lot of experience hanging doors. When I left, he was installing the doors and the gentleman who did the painting was doing something else (repairing ceiling that was painted the following week and finishing up some of the painting). I have no clue what each of them did that day but I presume that they both worked on installing the doors, putting the hardware on, reinstalling the hinges that they had removed to paint.... I just know that they were gone when I got home at 2:00.

He filled the old holes. He drilled out the old holes and put dowels in them because he was concerned that if the new holes went near the old ones, the hinges may not be installed correctly

I never got a written estimate. It was verbal and the invoice clearly list the original amount that was estimated.

At this point, I am tired of thinking about this. I just want to pay what is fair but not get taken for money that I shouldn't owe. The thing that bothers me a little is that the owner didn't want to argue and after two minutes just told me to pay what I wanted. If I did in fact owe him almost $1000, I am wondering why he didn't put up a fight. Part of me thinks that he realizes it was his mistake to underestimate the time it would take to rehang the doors. His original quote certainly was not cheap. Even without paying the extra amount, it was over $50/hour for the painter.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:29PM
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It wouldn't take 16 hours to rehang all of the doors in my entire showroom! Either his guys are clueless, or the positioning of the doors wasn't marked and kept track of. One of my cabinet installers also does this type of work, and for him and his helper to do an entire 8 hours of work, he usually charges around $600, so if it took an entire day for two men to do, that is the ballpark figure in my area for "simple" fine carpentry/painting type work. If you are in a more expensive labor area, I can see that charge being $720. So, the dollar figure is certainly "fair", except that it isn't clear to anyone that it was "extra" for that portion of the job and why it took so long.

Also, I am a bit confused as to the carpenter vs. painter portions and accountability. It sounds as though you didn't really need the carpenter and that a good paint company could have handled it all. And some of the back and forth and extra charges could possibly have been eliminated? Because you don't paint doors with the hinges on, so why did the carpenter install the hinges before the doors were painted in the first place? The painter should have removed the doors and the hinges from the doors, prepped for paint, painted, and then drilled and installed the new hardware? The fact that something seems to be wrong with the order of operations here is adding to the confusion about what was who's job.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:34PM
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We had a pool installed 2 years ago and the landscaper charged me $3500 more than his written quote because he said they needed extra soil and plants to complete the job. We ended up splitting the cost. I thought that he should have known how much he needed in the way of supplies but thought that splitting the cost was fair. I wasn't happy with the service they provided and won\t use them again.

The pool company billed me $5000 for overages 10 months after the pool was installed and I paid the full amount. I was shocked to get the bill almost a year later that I didn't expect but the pool company had warned me in the beginning that there may be overages for extra gravel and other things that they had to do and clearly outlined what those charges were for. I just assumed that when I didn't get a bill after months and months that they didn't have any additional costs. Why they waited that long, who knows but I would use them again in a heartbeat and recommend them to others.

Anyways, I have had instances like this in the past. Once I paid in full, once I split the difference. I guess I just have to decide what to do this time. I do agree with you that he backed down very easily and knows he was wrong. That said, I don't want to be unreasonable.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:47PM
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I remember your reveal, your kitchen is lovely. I think you should pay what your were quoted plus the extra charge you were expecting. I'd like to think that he forgot what he said to you and when you called he did eventually remember but by then he was too far into his argument. So his pride got in the way and he couldn't admit you were right.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:54PM
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live wire

I previously had exposed brass hinges that I didn't want to reuse. Since I was buying new hinges anyways, I hired a carpenter to install new european hinges (as well as a few other things like removing an appliance garage, and changing my hood over the range). He had to route the doors.(I think that's the term. He made circles so the new hinges could be installed.) After making the holes, he attached the new hinges but I didn't have them screwed into the cabinets because the painter said it wasn't necessary.

Sorry if this sounds confusing. Maybe I did do it in reverse order. We were concerned about the new finish on the cabinets so we had the hinges installed first. I was told that it was best that way. Maybe I was wrong.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 12:58PM
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What do you think would be fair, considering the initial estimate, the actual time they spent on rehanging, any additional work that may have been added (ceiling)but also dropped (holes for hardware)? Also, was the idea with the dowels included originally or later, and where the dowels put in before the painting (in that case, they were included in the estimate).
Did you take notes about all these items?
I would just summarize what you said and explain how come to the final amount of what you should pay.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 1:02PM
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You may be correct and thanks for the compliment on my reveal. I don't think that the painter was deliberately trying to overcharge me and they did a great job. He may have remembered our conversation when we were dicussing the extra charges. I'm just not a confrontational person at all so I guess I'm upset with the way he left things. No hard feelings, just send me a cheque for what you want is not what I expected from him.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 1:03PM
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The only thing that I added was the ceiling. I took down an old light fixture so I needed the ceiling repainted. I fully expected that to be an additional cost.

The first thing that they did was the dowels, before starting to paint.

I guess I was asking everyone here what would be fair. :) At first I didn't want to pay extra for anything besides the ceiling but had second thoughts, thinking that maybe I was being unreasonable.

The point of my phone call was not to get out of paying the extra amount, it was to express my concern about being billed the extra because I could have gotten the carpenter to do it for the amount that I had already paid him. The carpenter was willing to come back to hang them. He said it was a very simple task. That said, the carpenter made a mistake during the job (accidentally sawed through my kitchen wall into the dining room) so when the painters said that they would hang them, I decided not to have him back. I thought all along that my quote from that painting company included rehanging the cabinet doors so I thought it would be easier to have them do it and not risk him scratching the paint or making another mistake like he made installing the hood. I never suspected that they would be billing me for an additional 11 hours.

Thanks everyone for your advice and listening to my ramblings. At this point, my husband is sick of hearing about it and suggested that he write the cheque because I am so consumed with doing the right thing but not get ripped off. I am guessing that the painter is not losing any sleep over this, so I shouldn't be either.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 1:14PM
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Make sure you get a lien release when you pay.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 1:15PM
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Miscommunications happen all the time. Obviously the guy isn't losing sleep over it since he told you to pay what was fair. I wouldn't pay him the full amount but what you think is reasonable in terms of the hours he put in. And as meek95 said, make sure he acknowledges that you paid in full with a lien release.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 1:21PM
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Sophie Wheeler

This is a prime example to everyone to get it in writing! No matter what "it" is. It needs to be written down so that both parties completely understand what is to take place and what will be owed for what.

And, I was right there with you about this being an overcharge that shouldn't have happened. Until you came back and added that this has happened to you several times before with several different tradesmen. So, this isn't your first rodeo. And, you knew that you've had these difficulties in the past. And you still didn't get it in writing. Add all of that with your post that was confusing enough to everyone here, I'm really thinking that the pattern of miscommunication is on your end, not the painter's end. I think you should pay, and take this to heart that maybe a verbal agreement isn't going to be your best bet for any contract. Get everything in writing for whatever job you need done next. And if there are any changes, get that in writing too.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 1:34PM
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Melissa, I really do sympathize with you over feeling you were overcharged for something you already agreed upon verbally. It sounds like the number of hours for hanging the doors is excessive.

However, I don't see how the fact that you paid your carpenter for doing this, but didn't require him to actually do this is the fault of the painter. If anything, the carpenter could have knocked that amount off his final invoice? I don't know, but paying one person and having another do the work may be a wash in your mind, but not the guy who did the work.

Like you, I would want this to be over and done with, without anything hanging out there making me wonder if I did the right thing. I would be inclined to cough up the full amount and chalk it up to a costly learning experience. I agree with Hollysprings about getting everything in writing. It's a lesson I'm still learning. I watch Judge Judy every day and most of the litigants would never appear before her if they had gotten everything in writing.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 1:49PM
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For the record, I had everything in writing for the other instances. The additonal charges for the pool and landscaping were never part of my quotes and I didn't add anything extra. I had them in writing and I expected to be charged that amount but paid the additional amounts because I thought that they were reasonable.

As far as the painter, yes I should have gotten them to do a written quote. On the phone I was told that he was mailing it but he started the work a few days later and I never received it. It was my mistake to not demand it before the work was started. I only thought of it the day that the afternoon they started and by then, the owner was on his way to Kentucky for a hunting trip. I asked the painter and he said that his boss handled the financial aspect so I would have to wait until he returned. Obviously it was too late then since they were done by the time he returned.

Yes this is not my first rodeo. Yes I should have gotten it in writing but does that mean that I need to overpay by $1000 and pay for labour that they didn't even do? They were not here a total of 16 hours that day. Even my invoice clearly states "job as quoted". He also agreed that he told me not to have to cupboards rehung by the carpenter and the invoice outlined the 5 hours he expected it to take. Maybe he just didn't realize it would take his men that long. I used plumbers, an electrician, granite, tile person for the backsplash... and have written quotes from them and of course they invoiced me that amount. I have defintely learned my lesson. That said, I was very clear with the painter and he was clear with me that they would rehang the doors. If I wasn't clear, he would not have put on the invoice that he estimated the task to be 5 hours.

I think that I have decided to split the difference. He told me to pay what I thought was fair and I think that is fair. He clearly told me that that portion of the job was included but if it was a larger job than he expected, I'll pay the extra labor. I will not pay the full bill though since they were not here a full 16 hours. He billed me for the entire day when they were here a maximum of 6 hours each, so 12 hours and I paid for 5 in the initial quote. 7 hours times $45/hour is $315. So if I pay half of the difference, I am defintely paying the men for the extra hours that they put it. That said, they completed the job in the same amount of time that it was supposed to take.

Thanks everyone for your input.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 2:39PM
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This sounds like a reasonable decision (also since you didn't get the 100.00 refund for the hardware).
I hope you enjoy your new kitchen! It looks REALLY nice.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 3:24PM
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Rachiele, LLC

I would like to chime in just to commend you on your empathy and your integrity. It is so nice to read about someone like you. It made my day.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 3:54PM
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Melissa, truly Solomanesque. Not sure this guy deserves you. ;)

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 5:11PM
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Of course she's had this situation before - everyone has some extras that happen. Basically if you've done work to a house you've had this happen either in a very organized manner with written sign offs, or more often.... not.
The fact that this has happened before does not make this the OP's fault.

I think you are being generous paying additional charges but you're probably making your life easier by doing so. I think you're doing the right thing for you and can move forward with your integrity intact.
Not sure the same can be said for him.

At least it's done and done well. That is ultimately the main thing.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 7:15PM
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Oh dear, no one like surprises and especially at $900. I hope all of this will blow over soon. I am a trusting person and while I think I am getting things in writing so many things come up during the process it's not always possible if they are right there and something needs to be right away. Happens a lot.

I had my bathroom cabinets painted by professionals and I can't imagine even thinking they would not put the doors back on. But in our case that is all the company does is cabinetry painting and carpentry so I am not sure if that makes a difference. But putting the doors on would seem like it would be part of the job unless all they ever do is paint. Such as if they really are house painters and just painted the cabinets as an extra thing. That would be a different scenario.

You are in a pickle because I understand you want to do the right thing but also want the right thing done by you. If he is an honorable man and well thought of and has been in business forever and comes highly recommended I may be thinking paying him the full would be the right thing to do. But if his workers put down more hours than they were there without his knowledge that wouldn't be fair to you or to him who has probably already paid them. I hope it all works out for you, I have had more than my share of poor work and high prices but I am so happy to hear that you at least are happy with the work that was done. That takes some of the sting out of it. All the best to you, I can totally relate! Good luck!

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 7:28PM
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The OP is probably doing the right thing because it enables her to put the matter out of her mind.

In general, though, you either pay a fixed price or you agree to pay time and materials. Fixed price is fixed price, period, and you should only let someone out of a fixed price obligation if a truly unanticipated event occurs (e.g., you open the walls and discover your house has no structural support whatsoever). A contractor's failure to accurately estimate his own time when the job itself presents no surprises is not an unanticipated event. If he truly said the price was inclusive of rehanging, then he is owed not a penny more and should be thankful the OP is easing the pain of his error.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 8:45PM
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I haven't read all the responses but I would recommend paying him only for the original quote + ceiling. That said, I'd personally probably split the difference because that's just the kind of sap I am!

Sounds like you are a similar kind of sap as me and would probably sleep easier doing that too, and at the end of the day you want to look back at your kitchen with good feelings and not memories of angst. So I don't really think you'll go wrong by splitting the diff if that's what you decide to do. :)

Good luck.

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 11:10PM
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