what are the critical days to be present during a remodel?

scrappy25March 7, 2014

Many of the threads here indicate disappointments with results when the owner was not present to indicate if something was off or wrong with the installation of various items. What do you think are the critical days that a full time employee (with limited ability to have days off, planned several months in advance) needs to take off to be present during a kitchen remodel, based on your experience?

It seems like countertop templating and install is definitely one of them. Cabinet installation is harder since it may be a multi day process. Would being there the last day of an install be sufficient?

Any others?

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The most critical day is the one when the contractor is selected and the contract signed. When you get this right, all other problems will get resolved professionally, whether the homeowner is there or not.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 3:01PM
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Without knowing how complex your remodel is, I'd try being there at least the first day of the cabinet install. I would think that most of the cabinet issues would reveal themselves on that day. Our installers had all of the cabinets in place the first day. The second day was installing crown, light rail, toe kicks, and end panels.

I'd also be there when countertops are installed.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 3:41PM
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The previous answers are correct that those are crucial, but in my experience, the day you are not there and a decision has to be made regarding some detail that does not have a drawing or written document attached to it, is the day the "wrong" decision will be made.

I am not saying that something will be done incorrectly, it's just that given more than one way to do something, it's likely it will be done Not the way you would choose. And this is with really good contractors.

I have found it best to at least touch base in person every single day or close to it. Could you get to work later and leave later? My schedule is sometimes 6 months out on certain days, and on others if I am not there the entire operation would cease, but I would try to plan any major project around time I could be present even if it meant I got no vacation that year.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 4:00PM
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All of us could make smart aleck comments like "all the days with a "Y" in them.

But you may need to consider being there before certain things happen, more than while certain things happen. You should be happy with all the electric (in the island, on the backsplash) before granite, drywall, or tile makes changes difficult. You should be happy with the template, radii, and edge profile of your slabs before they are cut. You should be happy with the plan for mounting your sink, and location of your faucets/gd switch/soap dispenser before they are installed.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 4:19PM
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I totally disagree with
>>The most critical day is the one when the contractor is selected and the contract signed. When you get this right, all other problems will get resolved professionally, whether the homeowner is there or not.I cannot be the only one who cares about every detail and inevitably the one detail I'm not asked about, has the wrong decision made about it. Every single time.

I'll do the smart-alecy answer: EVERY darned DAY a workman is IN YOUR HOME. Every Single One.

It's far easier to make a decision at the moment than to trust someone to see your vision, then need to become the picky b!tch that's never satisfied, that won't pay the final payment until that outlet installed on the leg of a desk is actually put in the wall. For example.
Or to have to threaten legal and physical action to get the joist hangers installed on your 38' x 12' porch (although it was pulling away from the wall, dangling visibly by nails, I was unreasonable).

Or to have the porch supported by 6x6s rather than 4x4s -- just because it was already bowing? Oh, things'll settle. If I knew anything, I'd know that.

How 'bout having the windows NAILED IN PLACE vs. balanced waiting for trim? The trim will hold them in. I was demanding overkill.

And no, it's not ok to connect plumbing with electrical tape "for now."

Do you get my point?
Read the darned board again. Let's say just the 1st 4 pages.

Make a little list of all that's gone wrong when workmen or husbands are left alone. Unsupervised. No, that's not a gender slam, it's an observation of posts on this board. The few men I've ever met that had an eye, or sense of efficiency or balance are here on this board. IRL? Yeah right. And as far as workmen? Sometimes I shudder to wonder what their homes are like. After all... I'm living proof that a contractor doesn't always give an aesthetic damn, let alone a functional damn.

IMHO, if you're not home when someone is there to work, you get exactly what you get. (I really was going to say "deserve" but I know that'd make some people ... unhappy.)

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 5:03PM
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With a well written scope of work, and all prior elements selected before hand, and detailed design drawings, you don't really need to be there at all if you choose the right contractor. Unfortunately, many people don't do the above, or choose a contractor who doesn't insist on all the details in writing, and the result is less than satisfactory to everyone. No contractor likes to do rework and no customer likes to have something they didn't want.

It's like any business. Select the right people, and give them a plan of action, and you don't need to "manage" them. Hire just one problem child, and it throws everyone off.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 5:04PM
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I did not mean to start a firestorm.

I intend to choose a contractor that I fully trust. There is no way that I can be home for the entire scope of work.

That said, I am not one to ding the contractor if a choice is made that we have not already discussed so I am trying to choose the critical days given that my days off are limited. I work in the medical field and we can't really get in late or get off early without prearrangement.

So the scope of work will be discussed in detail beforehand as much as possible.
I really like kksmama's suggestions of details that need to be hammered out before they are in your home.

Please keep your opinions coming no matter how diverse they are.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 5:18PM
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I scheduled a bathroom remodel. Then my mother became critically ill--ICU, ventilator, really critically ill. (Mom is mostly fine now, though still on oxygen at times eight months later.) I left town on less than 12 hours notice less than twelve hours before my contractor began gutting my bathroom. I was gone for 2 1/2 weeks. The bathroom is fabulous. Guess I got what I deserved. ;)

I have also remodeled a kitchen from the opposite coast in a house I had never set foot in. (Dh bought, took photos and measured.). That kitchen was awesome.

Anyway, in my experience, it's the tile work that seems to need supervision. I don't know why, but that's where I have needed to step in and provide more guidance.

I will also say that there is only so much you can do to be at home when you need the job to earn the paycheck to cover the work. And contractors' schedules shift all the time. So you may think they will be installing cabinets on Friday, but then Joe's behind with the electrical because his other job ran over and then Bob hurts his knee playing football with his son, and well, they install the cabinets on Wednesday.

I would try not to worry about it too much.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 5:32PM
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" ... you don't really need to be there at all if you choose the right contractor."

The problem is, often people don't know they've chosen the wrong contractor until something (or a lot of things) goes wrong. NO ONE chooses the wrong contractor intentionally!! Everyone begins their job believing (or sometimes just hoping) that they've chosen the right contractor. But as CEFreeman so eloquently points out, this forum is chock full of threads from disappointed and distressed homeowners who THOUGHT they chose the right contractor. Even the RIGHT contractor (what is that, really?) makes mistakes or makes decisions that are not always what the homeowner would want. No one will look after your home and your project like YOU will. IMHO, the homeowner should always be keeping an eye on things, even with the most trusted and best contractor in the world.

Are you living in this home now? If not, is there a way you can stop by after work every day or every few days to check on the progress or look to see that things have been done to your satisfaction? Is your contractor able to reach you by phone in case a critical decision has to be made?

As far as what days to definitely be on site for ... installation of the slabs (actually, you should check them out before they start cutting them), and the day the appliances are delivered (once someone signs for them, you will have a heck of time getting issues resolved, if they get resolved at all).

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 5:53PM
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The reality is that most things like kitchens are done with a cabinet layout and no detail drawings at all, and many bathrooms are done with absolutely no drawings if plumbing stays in place.

So even if you *do all these drawings, if the contractor you use is accustomed to working off a cabinet layout and nothing else, they may not even realize what they have to refer to. I am not talking about bad contractors either. I am talking about decent contractors.

One bad contractor we worked with (chosen by the homeowners, not us) took down the detail drawings that were taped up in near the area, crumpled them up and threw them in the corner. Every morning. We interpreted this as an act of hostility, as if we were on the contractor's turf by telling him how we wanted things done.

A good contractor I worked with completely missed a drawing and put all the light rail up differently than it was detailed, and it all needed to be replaced. Another hung the undercounter lighting backwards and at the wrong spot on the cabinet because they had never worked with it before.

These are honest mistakes. That last honest mistake, however, put holes in an expensive stainless steel liner that covered the bottom of all the upper cabinets in that run in the wrong place, and when the lighting was put up correctly the liner was riddled with holes. The person who did this would have been fired if I insisted the GC replace it, (she was that kind of person) so we let it go.

I am not recommending that you be there as much as possible because contractors or bad or stupid people, but because most remodeling jobs do not come with documentation so complete that every decision is covered.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 8:07PM
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I hired an electrical sub on a kitchen remodel and if he walked in my door right now, I wouldn't know him. We've never met. How can this be?

When I needed a sub I called a fellow GC who gave me this guy's name. I called him, told him Marty had referred him to me, and asked when he could start. We never discussed price. The next call I got was from the customers raving about what a pro he was. I told him to send me a bill, he did, it was exactly what I had anticipated, and I paid it immediately.

I started an $11,000.00 commercial solid surface job from a phone call, no money down. After the first delivery my associate Ken and I were having lunch and he asked me "Are you doing alright?" (Translation: "You're making money on this one aren't you?") "I'm fine." I replied.

These relationships work because everyone has a stake in the game. Marty knew that if he gave me a bad electrical referral, it would make him look bad and he may need a favor from me sometime. The electrician knew if he did a poor job or charged me too much, he would jeopardize his relationship with Marty who throws him a lot of work. Ken knew that a sub that is losing money is a bomb waiting for an ignition source.

Instead of constantly concerning themselves with low price, which is like searching for the metaphorical bomb, homeowners would be wise to learn from the pros. When you cultivate and sustain relationships and make sure your subs are making money, you can leave town and your job will be perfect when you get back.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 8:36PM
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Yup, every single day. And if they tell you they don't need you there or to just go out or something, huge red flag that they don't want you to see how they are doing things, just want to bang the job out quickly without homeowner involvement, like to goof off with lots of breaks ... or are up to no good in your house.

Like ineff posted above, all sorts of things happen. If you are not there to catch them or answer questions, it's a done deal. And, right or wrong, done is where it's at for them.

Be there as much as possible and aware of what's going on. With GC's relying on foreign labor these days it's even more important. Especially if they are illiterate or don't even speak english.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 8:37PM
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robo (z6a)

I work full time and definitely could never take six weeks off to supervise a full remodel, especially since work is paying for the remodel. I took cabinet install day off and am glad I did, even though a few details still got past me. I wish I had taken counter day off. I also wish I was there the day the electrician started his rough in.

I have a good, trustworthy contractor who does things about 95% the way I like them. I have a feeling I'd have to double my budget to get that last five percent on the first try. Although honestly even though we had cash in hand, a flexible timeline, a realistically large budget, and architect drawings, I think we seemed too something...young? Middle class? for some of the reputable GCs to think we were worth their time so it was hard even getting people out to look at the job.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 8:40PM
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Well, there is the rub (ineffablespace's post above). Intentionally or not, some workman just will not read or follow instructions. Others, just won't do anything that they weren't explicitly instructed to do, even if common sense seems to dictate that they should.

But, you really can't be there for every little thing. I was lucky that I could be most days, since I arranged to work on the weekends.

My best advice is to think about every item and detail that is to be installed, and how you want it to be installed (or if you have no preference), discuss that with the GC (in case there is some practical issue with your wishes) and get it in writing -- a copy for all concerned.

For example, you are putting in undercabinet lights. You are using the Utilitech hardwired LED bars from Lowes. Do you want them installed at the front or the rear of the cabinets? Do you want the metal part forward or the lens? How do you want the wires to run? Are they going to be all on one switch or multiple switches? Which ones on which switch? where should each switch be located on the wall?

Your pendant over the sink -- comes with multiple lengths of rod--which one(s) do you want used? Where will the switch for it be?

Do you want the dishwasher to be flush with the cabinets or stick out half an inch?

My cabinet installer asked me which side of the crown molding I wanted to be on top -- I never thought about that!

Even down to little things like removing the protective plastic from the stainless steel hood before installing...some things may just be best done by yourself!

And have really clear cabinet drawings that show the exact placement, even if you can be there that first day.

If things are going to be delivered when you aren't there, talk to the GC about who is going to accept the item and make sure that it is correct and in good condition.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:09PM
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Having been married to a GC for 18 years, I'm here to tell you a referral is great, but in the long run doesn't necessarily mean a thing. My ex-DH did fantastic, beautiful work and his family company worked only from referrals since 1950.

The fellow who worked on my porch was a referral. The fellow who effed up my only bathroom's plumbing was a referral. Him wanting to give me an estimate on the phone rather than coming to look at what I KNOW is a messed up house was a red flag, but he was a referral from my Multi-purpose Fred, whom I trust implicitly.

I will find someone else to complete the 2nd bathroom, including the man-sized hole in the floor from my ex-DH-GC's 1/2 assed work on his own home.

It would be more helpful, and both parties would leave happy if some of these referrals simply said, "I don't want the job. (maybe) Here's someone I recommend." Of course, it's just another referral.

Look. As we all know, there are good and bad stories. The bad seriously outweigh the good. I think the best recommendation other than working from home -- which we all can't -- would be there for every single moment you can.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:17PM
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Spelling things out doesn't necessarily work either. They are in a hurry, and it takes time to read and follow drawings and instructions. Especially when they already know everything and know better!

I was once told drawings are always wrong so they don't use them. Those people were complete screw ups who didn't think industry standards for their trade were worth bothering with either. All his credentials meant nothing.
When the job failed, of course it had nothing to do with them.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 9:44PM
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Ok, lots of warnings and some reassurances.

Practically, I am hearing- cabinet install day 1, electrical roughin start, countertop install , and tiling as some of the key days. Touch bases every day with the workers or contractor.

Leaving lots of diagrams may help but better to review with the contractor beforehand, best by email for documentation.

On days that I am not working too far away (we have different centers), try to stop by to see what they are working on .

So many to thank - I'll single out Raee for this- "My best advice is to think about every item and detail that is to be installed, and how you want it to be installed (or if you have no preference), discuss that with the GC (in case there is some practical issue with your wishes) and get it in writing -- a copy for all concerned. "- and all the examples that followed.

Any others?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 10:17PM
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And to think there's a new thread about outlets too high.
She even gave pictures to the GC, but lo! It doesn't look like the info got TO THE ELECTRICIAN.

She caught it and it's at a stage it's a simple fix.


So I'm thinking you might want to discuss special details with the GC and the sub who is actually going to do the work YOU want done.

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 10:55PM
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Get a tentative remodeling schedule so you know who will be there & what will they be doing. Tell your GC you want to be informed with any schedule changes. Then have a plan for information you need to communicate before scheduled work. I was home most of our remodel but there were a few things I missed because I wasn't well prepared. Many/most days I had no issues I needed to address. I'll go thru our schedule & **days I feel you need to be there
Demolition: clearly labeled anything you plan to keep & have a space for it to be stored. Have them install dust curtains. We moved all our upholstered furniture & rugs upstairs. We covered everything in nearby rooms with sheets & then plastic. We covered everything in the garage with plastic as they had their saws in the garage. They did saw outside a couple of days. Big mistake. Sawdust all over my window mullions, plants, etc. i would have rather kept it contained in the garage.

Rough framing: inspect everything when you get home from work.

Hood ducting:.we were initially not thrilled with where the duct exited our house but this ended up being a non-issue

Rough plumbing: no issues but I did make visually verify old copper was replaced with new & inspected nightly.

***Rough electrical - needed to be there for pendant location, outlet locations, light switch locations. Did not know about low horizontal backsplash outlets or plugmolds & ended up with outlets & light switches in my backsplash. Bummer!
Also, if doing recessed lighting choose your can size, trim color (inside of the can light & ceiling trim).
Remind them you want dimmers everywhere. Pick out you switch & outlet style, finish & color so they don't pick them out for you.

Drywall, taping, prime new drywall : no issues

**Floors: tile in laundry room. Was there to make some decisions about tile layout. We had used this tile installer before so I knew grout lines would be good.
**Wood floors: needed to be there one day to select stain color & finish for sealer (matte, satin or gloss). Address any areas where wood meets another floor, especially if they are different heights. What kind of threshold piece.My floor guy made me a custom piece between tile and wood. Inspect before they cover floors. Inspect when they uncover floors. We had some minor damage even tho they were covered that they came back & fixed. I would not uncover wood flooring until all the work is done.

*Cabinet Delivery: everything was boxed but I checked boxes for damage. Not sure being there was necessary.

*Cabinetry Install- I noticed glass cabinet design was wrong before it was installed. Saved the guys from installing & then uninstalling. It was fun seeing the install but not necessary to be there in my case. Inspect everything nightly. We had a couple of doors/panels that had to be replaced due to minor damage that required more than touching up.

Scribe countertops: no issues

Initial Electrical Trim: no issues except the ones that were too late to be fixed because my walls were closed.

**Appliance delivery- We purchased thru our KD/Installer so they signed for them & were responsible if there were issues. No issues.

Appliance install- no issues

Interior Trim moldings- I had them make a sample of the crown molding so I knew exactly what it was going to look like-no issues

***Choose countertops. Inspect & take pictures of your slabs. Tag an extra slab if possible. Choose your fabricator carefully.

***Template Countertops ** take picures** If you are having a special edge, have them make you a sample so there are no surprises. Find out what kind of sealer will be used.

***Install Countertops - had to have them come back & redo a seam & remove "smudges" caused by sealer. Watch them seal your stone for a learning experience.

***Trim plumbing - be there anytime there is a hole going in your countertop (faucet placement).

***Install Backsplash- my tile guy made me 4 sample boards of different grout colors. Make sure they use silicone caulk rather than grout where tile meets the countertop. Some grout has instructions to wait a few days before sealing.
That's all I can think of. Long, but will hopefully help someone who has never been thru a remodel (like me).

This post was edited by romy718 on Sat, Mar 8, 14 at 13:18

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 11:26PM
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I second the think through everything advice.
-have -everything- picked out
-have as much as possible on site, dig out all the spec sheets/install instructions for quick reference
-have any customer service numbers available on hand

I found having a few key diagrams helped. I had a color coded lighting plan, each circuit including it's switches had it's own color. I had elevations clearly indicating how the outlets were moving/being added/removed.

I had all the switches/dimmers labeled with sticky notes. Basically anything that was going to be installed was either obvious (like GD), labeled, or on a diagram. I think the key for me was being organized with the info and being efficient with just those few diagrams.

My crazy work schedule actually worked in my favor because each week I had one morning home (I worked the closing shift that day) and one day off due to the length of my shifts. DH was similar, though that wasn't very helpful. He did call me with questions, for some reason despite my assurances it was absolutely fine to call me, I rarely got calls from my GC.

I totally understand you work schedule problem. Since you need to plan your work schedule, would you be able to come in 30 minutes later those weeks and ask your GC to meet with you each morning to touch base and ask/answer questions? Or maybe arrange for a slightly longer lunch on days you are at the clinic close to your house? Or both - longer lunch on closer clinic days and a few minutes late the other days?

    Bookmark   March 7, 2014 at 11:28PM
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I have been lurking mostly for the past year because our project is going slowly and we haven't gotten to the kitchen part of our house addition. This topic is certainly one I feel I can contribute to since we are in the midst of what seems like an interminably long construction project in which we'll never get to the good parts. Or maybe it is just the long cold winter. This is a long post so please bear with me.

We are adding a one story addition with a half basement. New kitchen, dining room, bathroom, master bedroom, walkin closet and a ton of storage. We have a very good GC, a woman who we have known for many years. GC is very particular about her subs and is on site every day that her subs are here and makes sure they are done to her standards which is good for us. She works with her husband who is an architect. My DH is also an architect and the two men worked together many years ago and trust each others expertise.

DH has done the design work on the addition, the other architect did the construction drawings so that GC can carry out the project. We trust both of them and made our decision to use them based on our own experience with them as people and coworkers, as well as seeing examples of the work they have done on recent projects and talking to other clients. So we were as careful in our decision as anyone could be.

As others have said, despite all of the care we have taken, things have not always gone correctly. We have been through many delays since we broke ground last Sept. mostly out of our control. During rough carpentry, the carpenters had detailed drawings, yet still put up some framing for the new closet in the wrong place. Another time, I happened to be home with a migraine when I heard a lot of hammering and plaster suddenly fell to the floor in the closet with all of my clothes in the bedroom we are using. Turns out the carpenter intended to take out that wall, even though it wasn't supposed to happen at that time. I stopped him, got the GC on the phone, and she had to reiterate that he was not supposed to take out the closet wall at that particular time.. Thank heaven I was home. I can't imagine the mess I would have had with plaster dust in all of my clothes not to mention the cold air and open access to the part of the house we are living in.

What is important is DH has inspected all of the work as it has been going along. Both of us have to work and cannot be home, but he goes out each night with the flashlight and looks at everything done each day. When we find problems, like the framing problem or fact that the locks on the new doors are not all keyed alike even though they were labeled & shipped as such, GC has taken care of them right away. I'm sure my husband is driving her crazy sometimes because he does ask lots of questions, checks on the details and knows what to look for since he also deals with construction and contractors. But the daily review has been important in keeping problems from becoming bigger and more expensive to fix later on.

The point is that you can provide as exquisitely detailed instructions as possible, only to find the subs have the wrong set of drawings, or something was left off the drawings, or the workers don't always follow them correctly And mistakes happen even when you are present as I found out. The workers are not always going to stop to ask you questions. It is important to inspect the work done each day. There has to be good communication and trust with your GC and a good contract.

For me, I wish she would give more frequent schedule updates, but I ask questions to get the information I need the most and learned to let go of other things I thought I absolutely had to know about or wanted to control. This has lowered my stress level for now, but drywalling will be coming soon and the temporary walls will be coming down. And we may eventually get to the kitchen....finally. Thanks for reading this far.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 12:47AM
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Please note I've only read the OP's post.

Based on my experiences, it was important to be home when:

1. Appliances were delivered, since it required my initial inspection of them. But you can schedule this for a weekend, if you work weekdays.
2. Installation of anything fixed and costly to move, such as range hood and shelving.
3. Countertop templating, because a lot of little questions came up (overhang, radius, etc.) that I hadn't anticipated, but, looking back, should have been decided prior to templating.
4. Electrical--but who knew? Our electrician showed up ready to install outlets and switches that didn't match the rest of our house. I was flabbergasted.

We had a GC who would have taken care of any of these items had they been wrong. But some of these I would have let slide simply because I didn't want another hassle. I didn't have any problems with the cabinet installation, since this was carefully determined before the cabinet order was placed.

I don't think you can anticipate fully what you need to address upfront, and what you need to be on site to determine. Frankly, it seems more reactionary--which mistakes you decide you can live with after the fact, and which battles you choose to fight.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 1:12AM
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During the latest remodel, it was key that my GC laid out what days were the most important and/or the KD would arrange to meet. Also, once the walls open up, things come up and stuff happens. Even with the best laid plans, something may happen or the original plan may need to get modified (for example, due to an unexpected obstacle). It also pays to have a GC with a good eye for design -- that is not always the case, as that generally is not their field.

The very best day to be there was when the electrical rough in was completed (cans placed, outlets placed, switches located!) and when the hardware was placed (which style on which cabinet door/drawer, and in which location)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 1:20AM
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It's not a substitute for being there, but a contractor who knows how to take pictures, label them, and send them to you when there is a question or problem can go a long way towards keeping things flowing.

I was having some minor things done and the GC was checking up on my crew as well as taking advantage of my modem to send some pics from his tablet to a customer who was out of town. It was an "oh crap, we can't continue without a decision from you" sort of problem, and he had several shots showing the problem with the possible solutions, time needed, and cost for each.

Of course, you have to reply with decisions.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 4:39AM
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I do everything in my power to weed out hovering customers. If I haven't convinced you that I can get the job done to your satisfaction without your supervision, I have failed and don't deserve the work.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 8:50AM
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"I did not mean to start a firestorm."

Please, don't apologize. Obviously we love them.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 8:53AM
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In your first post, you disagree with me then make my point.

I said that if you make the right initial decision on a contractor your problems would pretty much be over. You then go on to tell us about all the poor contractor selections you made.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 8:58AM
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I think aamichz5 makes a good point about checking the work every evening. Even when I am home during work, I'm not watching the workers every second. For one thing I have a three year old and I am mostly focused on keeping her well out of the work space for everyone's safety and sanity. But more importantly, I don't want to be in the way. There's no room in a small bathroom for a third non-working person. Even in a bigger space, I'd just be cluttering things up and annoying the people trying to get the work done. And people don't always stop to ask even if you are just sitting in the next room, either because they think they know the answer or for whatever other reason.

My kitchen carpenter didn't center my sink cabinet on the window, even though the ikea drawings I provided showed it centered. Fortunately we had moved in at that point and I caught it that evening and he fixed it. Same with my bathroom tile, I told the GC I did not want it to the ceiling, he forgot and it got taken up to the ceiling. I saw it that night and he fixed it.

Those are the only two examples I can remember in both spaces of mistakes. Both were easily fixed because I looked at the work after it was finished for the day.

So I would agree to look every night and bring up any issues right away. (And I still think the tile work is worth sticking around for if possible.)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 9:34AM
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Actually, my point was that no matter how hard you try, no matter how great you think your referrals are, you can be sadly mistaken. Evidently you missed that

So in addition to that point, being home all the time would be optimal, given the [ahem] "initiative" some employees/contractors take to make things easier, save themselves money and time, or just plain stupidity. Ok, lack of logic as well.

If you can't be there, I think others have reinforced my point of looking at every single detail.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:08AM
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I thought flooring was a no-brainer. But I was glad to be around yesterday when they were installing the wood floor planks. It turned out that the entrance door was touching the floor - which was somewhat anticipated. The flooring guy asked me if I would approve cutting down the metal door, then did it on the spot. Not sure what would have happened otherwise - the door would have had to stay off? We also discussed how much he was cutting and I specified that I wanted enough room for a thin mat.

Also, the door threshold details hadn't been worked out in advance - partly because it wasn't clear what we'd be dealing with later. The head guy who I negotiated the contract with, isn't the same guy who actually figures out those details in situ. We discussed the options and I asked to have a separate wood piece along the threshold that could be replaced if necessary.

Just an example.

If you can't be there, be very very reachable. I taped up a big piece of paper with my cell number on it and I've asked every single person to call me if there are any questions. I'm staying in the complex, but not in my apartment because it's unliveable.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 12:55PM
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I was able to be at the jobsite every day, but thinking back on it, one of the things I felt was especially important was reviewing the HVAC, electric and plumbing roughins before the drywall went up. I compared everything to the plan drawings and appliance specs and I also took pictures of everything. The photos can be very useful in the future if you want to do additional remodeling or if you have any problems down the road. You'll know where all the pipes and wires and heating ducts are.

Even with all the details planned out and recorded on paper, and even with the best contractor, mistakes can be made, or you might realize when you see something that you want to change it. It's better to take care of that before the drywall goes up.

Good luck with your project!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 1:02PM
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Wow, THANK YOU for all this great advice! Nothing like hearing from homeowners who have been through it. I want to thank each one of you for contributing your wisdom and your detailed experiences.

More take home.
-Review the work every night in detail (I will be living there) and bring up discrepancies or problems early before the fixing becomes too expensive. Before AND after the walls go up.
-best to have a contractor that can send pictures electronically for rapid review and decisions if needed
-post my contact information in an obvious place with large "please call with questions" sign.

It sounds like issues are inevitable but are easily smoothed with a good contractor and an alert homeowner.

I am loving the advice so far so if you want to further contribute, please do so!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 1:36PM
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I think your sign should say, "Do not make any design decisions. CALL ME."

Call me with questions leaves open, "uhhh well. I didn't have any questions. I know how to do my job."

Or "I know what you want."

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 2:09PM
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And that is true! Call with questions is apparently not sufficient. Then again maybe "design decisions" needs to be clarified too, lol.

I can see it first before install? ... Absolutely! ... is not clear enough for some people either.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 2:54PM
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Ditto that taking pictures of all the rough-in before the drywall goes in and make notes of measurements if necessary. Our demo revealed some rather creative framing and both pictures and notes were very helpful down the line. Of course, sometimes even the best notes can be useless if people don't look at them. I showed them to one contractor so he would know exactly where the studs, plumbing, electrical, etc. was behind the drywall, but still saw that he had drilled randomly into a cabinet in half a dozen spots, trying to find a stud that wasn't there. If he'd paid any attention to the measurements and pictures I'd left him, he would have not have had to guess at anything.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 3:10PM
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(assuming that I have left notes everywhere about my preferences)

What about-

Call me if any design decisions need to be made that are not already clearly noted or written.
Examples of design decisions:
- where and how to end (trim, tile extenders, thresholds, etc...)
- where to drill holes that are visible or permanent from any vantage point in the kitchen (any material)
-edging details on anything
-cutting something down or off other than the your primary material that you are responsible for in order to make it fit-
-questions about alignment preferences.
- if there is more than one choice for position of installation PLEASE CALL to check what I prefer.

any others?

Trebuchet, I am really curious to see if you would be ok to work with someone who gave you a list like that when they first met you, or go over the details with them beforehand so that you don't have to guess their preferences..

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 3:52PM
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I guess we were very fortunate to have a great crew and GC.At the end of almost every work day, ( most days we arrived home at just after 4 and the crew left at 4:30-5, ) we would do a walk around. The GC would show the days work and the we would chat about any issues or upcomining decisions we needed to make. We lived on the property though so easy to be around and also available by phone through the day and were called when things came up which allowed the project,a full house gut, only the roof and exterior walls to the studs remained, to flow quite smoothly.

Communication was the key and although there was a few bumps they were mostly due to weather and unexpected issues like some rot that came up.

I totally agree with keeping on top of things, ask lots of questions and insist you are informed as to the progression, of course you have to have the right crew to make it all work, we gained not only a new house but some good friendships along the way and a year later miss them being around all the time.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 6:54PM
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"Trebuchet, I am really curious to see if you would be ok to work with someone who gave you a list like that when they first met you, or go over the details with them beforehand so that you don't have to guess their preferences.."


If you want to spike my warning gauges, tell me what/how you want done in your initial communication with me. When I hear folks tell me "I need to have…. and … then…." I immediately put them on double secret probation.

I will assess your problem/project. It may coincide exactly with what/how you asked, it may not, however, your project will be done my way or we won't be doing any business. I have plenty of opportunities; I have only one reputation. I will not build your idea if I find it stupid, ugly, unsafe, or embarrassing to have my name on, no matter how much you're paying. This is the luxury of self-employment and I love it.

Okay, I take back ugly. I don't pick colors. Colors all pay the same.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 8:24PM
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Trebuchet, when the workmen at my house did some things without my input, I ended up with things like a wall phone jack that is unusable because there isn't enough space to hang the phone between the cabinet side and the power outlet. I am quite sure that you would not have done that, but I don't get to work with you!

I also know that the one fellow thought that my wish for the sink drain placement was stupid, not because it wouldn't work, but because he thought it was stupid to want to put a trash pullout under the sink (He wouldn't do that at his house, he told me.... I actually heard rather a lot about what he would not do at his house LOL!)

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 10:29PM
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I have a weekly meeting with my GC who writes down what will happen that week, what is happening the next week and what is coming down the pike (i.e. You need to pick appliances because we are 10 weeks from install, etc). These weekly meetings could some weeks be telephonic, but better to be at the house each week, same time, and things communicated. I have found that these meeting clarify most design decisions, fix problems, and generally reassure the both of us that the project is progressing, things are getting fixed, and that problems can be talked through.

Many things, even with drawings, need to be solved in the field. I would think that these weekly meetings could minimize your need to be there every day.

I have also found blue tape to be my friend--I leave messages on them like "Move this wall outlet over a foot this way", and other things. No mistaking the problems when the workers come back the next day and there's a huge swath of blue tape with a message on it! This immediately addresses the problem and then I get it definitely resolved in the monthly meeting.

    Bookmark   March 8, 2014 at 11:17PM
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Edited to correct a name (thank you, Surfergirl!) You continue to cause me to shake my head in wonder.

So all I'll do is share that I am very clear with anyone I save to hire about what I want, how anal I am, and how there can be no asymmetry. If they don't feel they can deal with what I've saved and planned for for 10 years, walk away and we'll both be the happier.

If an employee can't work with the one writing the checks? There are plenty of poor folks who don't have GardenWeb who will happily sign their life away to someone who can tell them what they want.

Keep in mind that a GC, developer, designer, sub, doctor, lawyer, whatever are nothing but employees. Employees can be fired when they're insubordinate or outright defy the "requests" of their employer.

This post was edited by CEFreeman on Sun, Mar 9, 14 at 10:02

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 12:19AM
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"Keep in mind that a GC, developer, designer, sub, doctor, lawyer, whatever are nothing but employees. Employees can be fired when they're insubordinate or outright defy the "requests" of their employer."

The real problem here is knowing what you don't know. Some folks are good at this and some aren't. I've been fortunate enough to know when I don't know something, unlike my lawyer brother-in-law who has an apparent genetic predisposition to carpentry which remains unrequited. Visions of the fence he built and of which he was so proud haunt me to this day.

There are some things I know a lot more about than the customers who hired me. I have an obligation to explain what's wrong with their idea, no matter how much they may want it. I expect this from the professionals I hire. I've hired them because they know more than I do.

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 9:43AM
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Trebruchet, explaining and being a snot about it are two different things. You're obviously not shy about sharing information, which only benefits everyone involved.

After I wiped the coffee off my monitor from laughing and spitting about your BIL's predisposition, I thought about all the wanna-bes my ex-DH-GC had to deal with. People with their very own, "more accurate" bullet level, for example. The architect at Georgetown who wanted to cut out the base of the flying buttresses in McDoungha (can't remember how to spell that) arena to make more room.

I think we can agree that knowledge goes both ways. Good and bad. That's perhaps why the homeowners/employers need to be there to make certain their (let's say) vision is carried out, and the pros need to communicate with the homeowner. Really, neither of which will happen if the homeowner isn't present. Easier to fix before the walls go up than later...

    Bookmark   March 9, 2014 at 10:11AM
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My vote is everyday or at least on days when something cannot be undone.

Yesterday, roofers cut branches off my evergreen tree. (Bare branches are a tree behind the house.)

What recourse do I have? Evergreen branches do not regrow. It is an old tree that has survived a partial (barely) sun location.

Guess I picked the wrong GC.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 12:45AM
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OH, that's sad! It's like cutting off trees' arms.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:22AM
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Mdln, hugs, I had that happen on our last build. I am horrible at choosing builders. We had a fully treed acreage that had 40+ foot trees. We marked out a beautiful winding path for the driveway through the trees with the builder. The contractor came to clear the path, drove "straight" into the lot, wrecked all the trees and the dream of the winding driveway and never noticed the markers. You don't replace 40+ foot trees in Alberta, at least not for 30 - 50 years. Priceless. I feel your pain.

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 1:54AM
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CEFreeman said: "Easier to fix before the walls go up than later..."

No kidding. See my thread on the messed up sink install. That's a day when I was there and DH wasn't and we both were there when they were installing but I was exhausted and not knowing what I was seeing and DH is i.n.c.a.p.a.b.l.e. of being anything other than "the good cop" with people we've hired to do things. I've always had to be the one to say things and fine but at least let me know that I should be saying something for cry aye!

Be present every second and never for a second forget or don't know something even if you don't know it, is what I'm getting out of this whole thing.

Those tree stories are really sad. We had an idiot run over and cut through a young-ish horse chestnut tree in our old backyard that my DH had planted (I think but he won't say for sure) as a memory of his young son's death. The idiot got out of his bobcat, laughed and said "you didn't want that tree, did you?"

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 2:04AM
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We had a lot of issues that could have been avoided if I had been there every day, all day. THen again, if I were able to be there every day, all day, I probably could have figured out how to be a decent GC myself. But we both work full time and have young kids so our lives are occupied from 6 am to 10 pm every day with work and childcare. I stopped by the house every night, often with a kid in tow, and tried to see what was happening. This often meant that I caught things after the fact, and had to decide whether something was worth changing or not. The more critical issue is that I didn't have a lot of experience in remodeling, hadn't been planning a remodel for years (unlike some people here) and didn't know just how many decisions there would be to make. I think planning in advance exactly what you want and being proactive about communicating is important (so now I really know how to do a remodel, I just don't want to ever again!). in terms of critical days, I would say counter top installation. I made our fabricator come back and recut the counters after a less than optimal seam. i also think being there for any kind of structural work is good--verifying that walls are being properly supported with temporary supports, etc. We had a very bad experience there!

    Bookmark   March 28, 2014 at 10:56AM
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every day is critical. progress occurs on a daily basis and on any day issues can develop.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 2:00AM
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THANK YOU - CEFreeman, xc60, deedles.

Babushka - you are correct and I have now learned that the hard way. Will now be rearranging my work schedule, taking all the vacation time I can, and stop by on way to work in AM, at lunch time and at the end of the day.

The day after the tree incident, the insulators sprayed cellulose on the walls without covering the new HVAC vents and sprayed an inch less of the closed cell foam on the ceilings than they were supposed to.

Think I am going to get a lawn chair to sit on, in the house.

    Bookmark   March 29, 2014 at 2:20AM
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