Trim - Am I Being Too Picky

Questioner72March 16, 2013

We're finishing a remodel, and I feel that I shouldn't be able to see any lines where the corners of the trim (there aren't necessarily gaps, just a line that I can see where it meets). My husband says that he can't see it, but my mom and I can see it. I'm also insisting that the knobs on the closets (no one in their right mind should buy bi-folds, my complaints came true about binding) were only primed; the contractor said that he'd have his man check it (that's not a solution as he already told me he painted them and that's done his job long enough to know how to do it). I was worried about less expensive trim, but it does look better than an old part of the house which has really bad brown cheap trim. Am I being too picky?

Background -
We're finishing up our remodel, what was supposed to be an estimated 4 month project turned into now a 7th month. We're not doing anything extravagant; we've lived in 840 sq. ft. for 20 years and now we'll have 1,365 sq. ft. My dreams have been dented somewhat as we've gone with less expensive products (but now we have space and can actually move around). Our $76,000 job increased to $86,000 (mainly by agreeing to update the ceilings in the old construction to get rid of the gaps between the ceiling with the new trusses, replacing the old wiring in the old part of the house, new paint, texturizing and flooring in the old part of the house, knocking out the lowered ceiling in the oppressive hallway, etc.); I've kept our budget down, and due to our savings and refinancing which adds a slight increase to our incredibly low house payment, we're not getting in over heads by spending too much money (I also tried to estimate what could truly cost big $ in the future if we went too cheap).

I've been fairly easy-going although firm in some areas; the contractor receives his money the morning after he requests it, and I've disagreed and stood my ground on some things- some products I've insisted on, others I've conceded. He seems to be a nice very quiet man with good construction skills, but he is pretty much a two man show. I did have to tell him that I don't like operating in a vacuum and that we haven't really communicated (his emails tend say just "ok"). Communication is not his thing. He's like my husband and doesn't want to have any sort of exchange - my husband gets to be the good guy BFF to them (I get to be the banker, decision maker, guard dog, etc.) It's been a pain in the neck to come up with things to find nice things to say about the job to even the vinegar with honey; my husband "loves" everything whereas I'm honest and will admit that there are looks and products that I'll live with but won't say I love. I've also had to tell the contractor that we needed to wait on a couple cosmetic change orders until I was sure no other problems would crop up as he certainly wasn't going to accept a smile and a wink for payment. My husband is tired of my analogy (and the contractor didn't look excited either) when I said that we could fix it ourselves, but that when he buys a new $50-70,000 pickup, he's not going to accept the truck with a big dent although he would get a dent in it anyway in the future. He also doesn't want to hear my words when I point out that once something is done it's too late, so I have to question things earlier. (I'm actually not this wordy when I'm speaking; I'm pretty much black and white.)

As I asked, am I being too picky?

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Hard to say if you're being picky or not. Do you have a photo of the mitered corner?
I don't see any seams on my door frames from a distance but if I look closely, with the lighting at a certain angle, I can see the seam. If they did a good spackle job and spray painted afterward, the seam would be more difficult to see.
As for the knob on the door, maybe the guy used a flat paint if it looks primed. If you don't like it painted, you can always put a metal knob on the door.
When you said " I've also had to tell the contractor that we needed to wait on a couple cosmetic change orders ", do you mean you've withheld payment for his work on the change order? I think if the work has been done and it''s satisfactory, then he should be paid.

What people expect from contractors vary from client to client. Some will be happy with whatever they get whereas another may walk into a freshly painted room, with perfect detailing, and find the one and only small drip.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 3:59PM
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I think what's bothering me is that we're paying $86,000 (I put up with more on the $1,000 job last year - different contractor - and just about told the guy to just finish his crappy work and leave - on that job I had to fight for the toilet and flooring I wanted and paid for). As to waiting for change orders on this new project, I just couldn't commit to one of the project changes until we were sure we had the funds to cover any unplanned contingencies - the decision for new flooring in the old part had to wait until we got closer to the end of the project.

I can tell the difference between the knobs I painted and the ones that I feel are just primed (the bi-fold doors bind like I said they would, so I just told the contractor to drill a set of holes on the opposite doors and we'd add a second set of knobs to close the fully opened doors). We used the same paint. I actually painted the trim before it was applied (two coats) because the contractor expected to paint the trim the same color as the walls after it was installed (we learned this after we started), so he said he'd have to charge more because it would be more work for him to do the three coats necessary for a different color trim. I just don't think the contractor is looking at his worker's work as closely yet contractor is meticulous on his own cabinetry. I think we've been pretty good clients - I haven't fussed about painting the trim, we said we would repaint the old bathroom (they had to move the vent as the new trusses went over it) instead of having him paint, we didn't have him caulk the old trim in the areas where we put the old trim back on - I couldn't see spending the extra $ for new trim there at this time, we haven't argued about paying him, etc.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2013 at 5:32PM
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Christopher Nelson Wallcovering and Painting

I did not read all that has been posted but if you think that this pick of the miter is bad, then you are WAY to picky. It will not get any better than that.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 4:44AM
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How would you not expect to see that?

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 10:04AM
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Sophie Wheeler

WAY WAY too picky. Wood expands and contracts with the flux of humidity in the seasons. Painted wood will ALWAYS show where different sections join.

If you want "perfect" trim, then contact a Corian fabricator to create it for you and it can be solvent welded together with no apparent seams. But, if the house settles at all, or the walls themselves experience normal seasonal movement, then it will crack because it can't expand and contract with the rest of the home's elements.

And no, I don't think any contractor would ever describe you as "easy" to work for. Quite the opposite, given your narrative. Which probably subjects you to the PIA upcharge. 86K sure is very modest for the amount of work you've described with an addition. I don't think you have a lot of experience in remodeling or construction at all. Perhaps some DIY would help you to understand? I'd like to see you attempt to do a "better" job on that joint for sure.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 11:00AM
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Yep, I agree, that's nice work.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 12:37PM
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That is a beautifully mitered corner! No capenter can get any better than that!

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 1:21PM
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You have unrealistic expectations. That is beautiful work.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 1:31PM
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nice mitered cut. what else?

I don't know what it is about one of the homeowners
being the 'heavy' & the other making new bff's.
but it isn't uncommon.

funny though...those new bff's don't hang when
the paycheck stops.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   March 17, 2013 at 5:30PM
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I'm a homeowner / perfectionist... and that trim work is beautiful. Based on that pic, he seems to do very nice detail work.

If your concern is the knobs, just take them off and give them another coat. One screw in the back of each one and a can of glossy spray paint will fix this for $4.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 9:35AM
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Those miters look great.

The back-and-forth about the bi-fold knobs reveals as much about your manner of dealing with people as anything else. The wordy postings, too. If you've been corresponding to him like that, along with nit-picking, he's likely near his breaking point by now. Your lucky he mostly responds "ok."

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 12:42PM
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by OP in first post. (I'm actually not this wordy when I'm speaking; I'm pretty much black and white.)

I think we all tend to be more wordy when writing
that when speaking.
keep your email & dicsussions on point.
either change bi fold doors or let it go.
re-paint knobs to match the ones you painted.
you know exactly what you did..easier for you
to re-produce than worker to copy.

best of luck.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 3:16PM
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Thank you for the opinions. My question isn't about the quality of miter joint on the trim as the contractor *himself* does nice work, but rather if it's considered too picky to want the lines between joins to be hidden (some are hidden and others are not - my hands-on references are that the joins on my mom's new trim and some other homes that I've viewed are hidden). Opinions in general are a mixed bag. The limited Garden Web opinions fall to the side of too picky, and local on-site opinions fall to the side of not too picky.

I understand that I can paint the knobs, trim, etc. (plus other jobs requiring completion) myself (and I probably will) in addition to currently paying a professional to do the same job.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2013 at 8:57PM
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There is a difference in real wood joints and plastic polyurethane molding joints. You have real wood. Plastic will always be tight and practically invisible because it's plastic. But, it's plastic.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 12:38AM
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I don't think I've ever seen seamless mitered corners. What you have looks great to me.

The limited Garden Web opinions fall to the side of too picky
Limited? I didn't actually count, but I think upwards of 10 people said it looks good. Which means there are countless others that agreed and didn't bother to respond since it had already been said. Not one person agreed with you on here.

How many people have you asked on-site? And remember that many friends and family may tend to agree with your opinion solely because they have no strong opinion and agreeing with you is the easier thing to do. Internet opinions can be tough to take because they are usually more blunt, but they are typically unbiased.

This post was edited by greg_2010 on Tue, Mar 19, 13 at 11:21

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 11:05AM
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Circus Peanut

I don't quite understand how a mitered trim seam can be "hidden"? Do you have any photos of your mom's seams, so we can see the negative comparison you're drawing?

Do you perhaps mean you want the seams caulked and painted over? This wouldn't be a good idea, since they will separate with normal age and house movement, and then you'd really have an ugly joint.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 1:04PM
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Your walls have knock-down texture!

You should have done level 5 smooth walls. The surface should be sprayed and NOT backrolled, to look like an automotive paint job.

If you had paid for that level of work, you could afford to be this picky. How's $200,000 sound? You had over 500 sq ft added, plus the rest of the 840 sf house updated. Only reason you could afford this is because it took 7 months with a small 2 worker crew. (You are the one who turned it from 4 months to 7, with change orders and additional scope of work.)

This is not a high end job. Knock down texture is economical. Paint grade casing is also economical. Your contractor's workmanship meets or exceeds the standard you paid for.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 6:04PM
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Thanks Greg. One of the reasons that I've enjoyed the Garden Web forum is that respondents are generally helpful and positive, and I learn things that I don't already know or have experience. You are correct that many times acquaintances tend to feel it's easier to agree although the Internet breeds blunt (to put it nicely) reactions because it's anonymous. My family and friends pretty much don't shy away from being blunt and honest. (BTW Aidan 3/4 of the change orders were the contractor's; we just approved them. They added less two weeks to the job, and the contractor was told about the ones we initiated BEFORE the bid.)

    Bookmark   March 19, 2013 at 10:10PM
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"3/4 of the change orders were the contractor's; we just approved them. "

Then they are your change orders.

He/She only asked for your Okay.

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 6:55PM
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Change orders before the bid?

    Bookmark   March 21, 2013 at 8:05PM
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