wow! had a fight w/my contractor!

persimmon3September 15, 2012

i was scheduled to start my kitchen remodel october 1, 2012, but i had a fight with my designer (her husband is the contractor) and so everything is up in the air! we have been working the last couple of weeks finalizing the details on my kitchen layout and she needed all the specs of the appliances that i wanted. she wanted me to use her man at this particular kitchen supply place but after reading all the reviews here i decided to go with a blue star range top, which he didn't carry! i think this is where all our disagreements started! after i started doing comparison shopping i found that there were a couple of other kitchen appliance suppliers that were cheaper in price than her supplier! i told her i would probably purchase elsewhere for most of my appliances ... she didn't like that! the final straw came today when she wanted me to purchase the GE counter-depth fridge and i said i liked the LG counter-depth fridge instead! she wouldn't put my advantium speed cook and warming drawer next to the fridge saying it wouldn't look right because the handles didn't match. she said i needed to get the GE fridge to go with the advantium! i suggested to put the advantium and warming drawer under the island counter and/or under the counter along the wall - she wouldn't go for it! i suggested that we should wait until we can agree on where my appliances should go and she then lectured me on how much work she had done and that i owed her money! i had already paid her $300 for drawing up some plans and now she wanted another $250 for the details she was added to the plans! i told her i'd pay her the $250 but she needed to send me what plans she has done to date... i also said that i may be able to figure out where my appliances can go and then we can begin construction ... so it wasn't a 'you're fired' situation! is this normal?

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Oh gosh - no that's not normal. So, customer service isn't her strong suit. Maybe she was having a bad day, or a mini-stroke. Who knows, she could call you tomorrow and apologize. You didn't really fight with your contractor, though, you had a disagreement with your KD. Presumably, you had separate contracts with each, though, no?

She makes money off of the purchases you make from her people, she "loses" money when you buy elsewhere, but if you are paying for her design work, she's really supposed to give you what you want - in fact, she's supposed to give you something more extraordinary than you can produce on your own. I actually recommend you get your designs and walk, but that's up to you. If you've signed a contract that specifies her rate and work product, make sure you (both) live up to it. If you've signed a contract with her husband, then you'll use him. If not, look around.

If it makes you feel better, I got fired by my attorney. You read that right - my attorney. These people have an endless capacity for difficult people and situations and I, sweet Ohio girl that I am, was too much to be borne. Bottom line: working relationships don't always pan out. Don't sweat it. If these people don't want your business, there are plenty of great designers and contractors out there who do. $550 is a lot to pay if you're not getting plans you can use, but it's still cheaper than getting a kitchen that's not what you want.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:10AM
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I think it's time for you to take your plans and move on. It's your kitchen, not hers and she can make suggestions but she can't tell you what appliances to buy and where to put them. It's sounds like she has some kind of financial arrangement with her appliance supplier and isn't happy that you want to go elsewhere. Be glad these issues surfaced at this stage before you got locked into a contract with her and her husband.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:12AM
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Luckily I didn't sign any contract or put a deposit down! I paid $300 for kitchen layout designs and now another $250 for final details she worked on for half my kitchen.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:21AM
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Does the KD only do designing as her job, hence why she wants to be paid for her design work, or does she also sell you your cabinets ?

My KD was the cabinet dealer and he charged me nothing for the design work (not that he had much of anything to do, my TKO friends at GW and I had already hammered out the kitchen design). He made his money on me by selling me the cabinets. He did not make anything off any of the other components of the kitchen ... the appliances, granite, flooring, sinks, etc all came from other vendors that he was not associated with.

Post your plans here for design advice on where your appliances should go.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:35AM
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They were charging me $50k for everything else ( flooring, cabinets, electrical, plumbing, countertops, demolition, painting, lighting) except appliances. There was no structural changes like new windows or walls coming down. Actually there's not much of a change except my peninsula us changing to an island. Everything else is pretty much the same.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 2:14AM
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They were charging me $50k for everything else ( flooring, cabinets, electrical, plumbing, countertops, demolition, painting, lighting) except appliances. There was no structural changes like new windows or walls coming down. Actually there's not much of a change except my peninsula us changing to an island. Everything else is pretty much the same.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 3:11AM
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It sounds like time to take your plans and find someone else to work with. Totally not normal (or okay!) for a KD to tell you what appliances you need to have and who you need to buy them from. My KD told me to get what I wanted/needed and it was her job to make them work in my space. The KD is there to make suggestions and guide you, not dictate.

Way better to have this happen now than after your kitchen has been demoed and you're stuck! As disappointing as it is to have to wait, you're so much better off if you find the right people to work with and a plan in place that you're happy with.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 5:50AM
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Agree for sure. She gives advice and guides and not demands. And I would stay far away from the GE frig. We had so many problems with it month one we now have a Samsung.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 6:13AM
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Let me get this straight - you have no written contract with her, but a verbal agreement that she would provide plans for a new kitchen, and you would pay 50K to use her contractor to bring those plans to fruition - is that right? If so, you are under no obligation to pay her another penny.

There are those GWers who will disagree, mostly because there are a lot of KD and contractors (or worse, former KD or contractors) who think that all members of their trades should be paid (early and in abundance) no matter how mediocre their performance, but that's how the law works, and it works that way for a reason. One of you will be dissatisfied, and the law makes sure it is the provider of services that has the responsibility to, well, provide satisfactory service.

Think about it a while longer before you write any more checks.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 8:03AM
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You should have seen my doctor's face when I fired him for being careless with my time.

Made me drive across Washington, DC at lunch time for an appointment we could have handled on the phone.
Noooooo, he had to see me in person to tell me something I had already told HIM.

When I told him he could close his door, block the time, and call me, I'd pay for the appointment, he looked taken aback. That was when I decided I didn't need that contractor anymore.

This person isn't a KD, she's an appliance salesman. You can find them anywhere.
Honor the contract, but dump her. If it's a marital issue, dump him, too. Frankly, I'd talk with him to ask if he was comfortable about the fact you and his wife/KD had such differences. If not, you understand and (run!) will bow out gracefully to work with someone else.

Actually, he might learn how much he's NOT in charge of this reno, but the homeowner is. Gotta wonder if they're both used to telling people how it's gonna be?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 8:06AM
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without significant infrastructure changes I think they were overcharging you. Did you get other quotes at the start of all this?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 8:39AM
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It sounds like a lot of money without structural changes. Did he break it down?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 8:49AM
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That was my initial thought too - sounds like a lot of money unless your kitchen is really huge. I just completed a remodel of my kitchen and, given that my kitchen is small, it was still about $25,000 including appliances (not high end, but Bosch, so they were upper middle end). Did you get other estimates?

Pay the $300 then run, don't walk. If you are having problems now with your KD/GC, they will only increase as the renovation starts and nerves come into play.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 9:19AM
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modern life interiors

your kitchen designer is a bully. she is using intimidation to keep her hand in your pocket. This is not a reputable designer. cut your losses short and find another one.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 10:39AM
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Her reaction seems inappropriate, maybe let the dust settle and see how she follows up as well as how you feel about it. I assume with her goes your contractor so if a delay isn't a problem then no big deal. Also make sure if you patch things up it is real because you don't want any spillover into your relationship with your contractor.


I find your comment about folks in the industry on here a bit below the belt. In my experience over the years it is the pros (current and former) who offer the most reasoned advice to distressed renovators who are often bombarded with increasingly punitive advice from the sidelines that if implemented as given would likely create unmanageable and hostile situations that are completely counter productive and unnecessary to resolving their problems.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:27PM
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this morning she emailed me and said she/her husband had a design-build company, which means that her designs facilitate their construction projects. For this reason, she charges nominal prices for drawings when we have a construction agreement (which we don't).

she won't release any working drawings - even unfinished drawings for $250! 'I suggested this price only because you've chosen to cancel our agreement, and this would be a small compensation for my time. If you think $250 is not reasonable, please pay whatever you think is appropriate. '

WOW! she wants me to pay her and not give me any drawings! who knows if she did any drawings!

mind you i never told her that i wanted to cancel this project ... just put it on hold till we could figure out where the appliances should go!

thank you all for your responses. i was uncertain about what to do but you have made it clear that i need to 'run' as fast as i can away from her!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:32PM
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We dealt with a design-build firm and I could buy what I wanted from where I wanted. They did use their own suppliers for the cabinets and floor and I was ok with that but noone was going to tell me where and what appliances, taps, light, etc to buy. My mantra during our reno was My money, my reno, my way. Very simple.

A quick comment on the GE fridge. Someone commented about having trouble with theirs - I know that there is a breaking in period for the temperature controls and it probably took us about 6 weeks to get it regulated for our house and our usage - but we've had it for 2 years and since the initial breaking in period I haven't had to touch the temperature controls.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:45PM
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Fori is not pleased

Well then she said pay what's appropriate. Considering you have nothing to show for it, I guess her time is worth absolutely nothing to you. Pay accordingly. If she presses, you might mention how much of your time she wasted.

Do you have any drawings from her from earlier sessions? Having the basic measurements of the space would be something for what you've already spent and help you get jump started on your newer better plan.

You got out early, and that's probably a good thing!

Congratulations are in order, I guess?

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 12:54PM
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I do not agree with the method in which she raised objections to your ideas, BUT, those are objections that should be raised. I can't tell you the number of posts on here that agonize over whether or not the handles on the appliances will match, or why GE prohibits the under counter installation of an Advantium. These are issues that should be discussed. On such issues as the installation of the Advantium contrary to manufacturer's instructions, if that's what you want, then sure, I'll put it in the design, but you will need to sign a waiver first.

It's important to know that these are issues that you need to decide on your yourself, and you need to understand the consequences of your decisions. So I don't fault her for raising them. However, having a crappy day and taking it out on your client is NOT cool, and she should apologize.

As far as the financials go, if there is no written contract, then you do not owe her anything. If she is clueless enough to do all of that work without asking for a retainer, then it's a learning experience for her to have a lawyer draw up a sample contract that she can use spelling out the requirements of designer and client. And maybe losing your business because she was rude to you is another learning experience as well!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:37PM
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livewireoak: i completely understand that she wanted all the handles to match if the appliances were going to be side-by-side. there were, however, other options. the two appliances in question were the advantium and the warming drawer (both brands the same). i suggested putting the warming drawer under the island counter closer to the sink or on another wall where the oven (blue star single 30" wall oven) is situated and put the advantium under another counter or on that wall with the oven! i told her i would be ok if the handles didn't match but she didn't want to do that either!
i believe that this happened for a good reason ... it would have been a nightmare working with her through 3 months of reno!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 1:59PM
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whatever you do "walk". It's just too hard to work with people that are difficult and it will take all of the fun out of your project and cause you much stress. There is someone out there that is more of a fit for you.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 2:29PM
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Definitely walk, dont pay a dime if you dont have any work product. Take your own measurements and go to another 2 maybe 3 KDs who offer lines with cabinet choices and have an exploratory meeting. They all will come out and measure. Then choose the best designer, one whomyou like the best. At some point they will want a commitment and a deposit. What she did thus far is all part of the sales process.

We started a year ao with a design build firm. We actuallypaid a fee to do a conceptual design, as there were lots of walls moving, etc. we ended up not going with them, and hired a real architect and selected a KD.

We then interviewed GCs and putit out to bid. Fired the first GC. Now we are on the right trackwith a good GC.

Just dont let anyone tell you how to renovate your home. They have the right to express one maybe two strong opinions but thats about it. Best advice i can give is dont buy your appliances yet. Get your design down first. The KDs should be able to advise you on appliances but you really need to shop around yourself.
Definitely dont use the contractor either.
Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 3:04PM
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Ha - I told you so!

caryscott - your response is the proof of my theorem. I don't care if you are capable of seeing your deficit or not, but I was right to warn this GWer about it in advance.

Your advice was for her to patch things up and make nice with the contractor, and I assume you weren't joking. In what way does that solve her problem? All it does is get the trades - with whom she has no contract, and from whom she received no work product - paid. Just because one works in a trade does not make her a professional. If the KD were a true professional none of this would have happened. If someone gets the short end of the stick it should be the Luddite who calls herself a KD, not the client.

You too should feel free to learn from these posts whatever your trade. It can give you a better idea of how people in other professions view the relationship, and can provide a great dose of reality for all.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 3:22PM
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Your bias is showing - I did no such thing. I advised the poster to see how the KD dealt with the situation and to see how she herself felt about the event. I also indicated that given what happened she should reflect about what the implications would be on her relationship with the contractor (the KD's husband). I wasn't there so rather than assassinate the character of someone I never met or ascribing all sorts of sinister motivations to her actions I encouraged the OP to see what the follow-up would be. The follow-up confirmed all the red flags and I hardily agree with the OP's decision to run not walk away. It was her decision to make and she didn't need the baggage of my bad experiences or your joy in listening to the sound of your own voice pretending to be good advice when it is anything but.

For the record I don't work in the industry but when I am in a dispute I have genuinely found it helpful to try to look at things from the other person's perspective - I consider it common courtesy. Life is going to be a hard journey if you look at everyone as trying to stick it to you. The propensity on this board to vilify contractors and other professionals is disconcerting and in many instances homeowners with difficulties have been easily able to sort the situation out with Contractors they were told should be tar and feathered by folks on here who appear to have no capacity for self reflection. There are a number of folks on here with horrific Contractor stories and to be clear they are very rarely the ones that feed the hysteria that cycles through some threads.

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 4:54PM
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Persimmon3, I don't know if it will make you feel any better to know that if you walk away now, you may still be getting away with relatively small financial losses. It cost me $2500 just to get measurements, and quickie drawings from a local kitchen shop (with a good reputation), and the kicker was that when we met to view the drawings, the "designer" had incorporated almost every one of my "do NOT want" ideas, and had left out my "definite wants" (such as a place for the trash...)

I chose not to work with someone who would so blatantly ignore all the work I had done to be specific about what I wanted and did not want. It was a lot of money to lose, and has delayed my project substantially, but I later realized that this guy didn't want the real renovation project, he just made his money selling measurements and bad drawings. For example, all he did was draw in 24 inch counters in a ring around the room, it was comical except for the $2500 price. Reading and lurking here, I know there are very talented and professional KDs out there, it's just that you and I didn't meet up with one yet,

Having been there, I echo the above advice to get away now!

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 5:10PM
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There are so many points of view - I love it! You all gave me plenty to think about and I am confident of walking (running) away! I am so grateful to have found this site! Thank you all! ðÂÂÂ

    Bookmark   September 15, 2012 at 7:21PM
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Persimmon3, I am sorry you are having problems so early in the process. I learnt from a similar situation, however, I lost $1500 and got nothing to show for it. It was a similar 'package' type deal. the so called designer tried to insist I should use certain colored fixtures (bath remo), although I wanted the boring white and they really were looking to make their money on cabinetry and install. Count your blessings that it wasn't more. In the end, for me, it was a blessing things didn't work out. I got the bathroom I WANTED for MY MONEY.

This time around, I made it clear to every KD I met with that I only wanted a design at this time. Some KDs were not interested, but some didn't have any problems with just the design (I'm sure they were hoping to get more later). I paid about 1k for design and lighting scheme with no strings attached for further work. I just wanted to take it slower this time. The KD I'm working with would love to sell me her cabinets and have me use her installer. Although I have asked her for a cabinetry quote which I will get this week and meet with her installer, it's understood that I am not obligated to use either service. I really would like to work more on this project with current KD, but it is really about the money and who could meet best my needs/wants. I had initially hoped that if I was not going to work with her on cabinetry that she would be open to working together in another capacity (eg, consultant)...until I found the TKO folks here at GW. I haven't decided yet what I'll do.

What's most important is that you get the kitchen YOU want. The designer could be right about some of the design features, but it is your kitchen and your money. Try to recognize that if there are issues now, the chances are good that once you are tied to the installer/husband, you are over a barrel and the money you've lost to date will be nothing compared to what you could lose or worse, have a half done kitchen.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 8:16PM
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Stick around here ... we will all tell you what you should do and chastise you if you disagree ... And not charge you anything for it !!

LOL :D big grin

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 8:43PM
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been there, done that!
Fired first KD. She sent me plans and 3 times I had to question her measurements. I told her to cease until we met again - but she frantically drew new plans and then wanted the rest of the $$$
I told her - no way! I said not to proceed and she proceeded and put together a totally worthless plan.
She said, I could take it anywhere to have it build, so worth the $$. I said, no plans to build what she drew.
New KD - New Plans - and I am happy! KD didn't charge but probably spend more on cabinets than if I free lanced - but the kitchen is great.
Tonight, we celebrated our 17th anniversary with a New England style Lobster bake (well modified using Swiss Chard from the garden) and did the stovetop version vs either a grill or bury in the ground! Made in our newly completed kitchen!!! (except for our table that should arrive in the next 1-2 weeks)
Stick to your guns - if it isn't what you wanted, I would not pay the additional - just the deposit..
Oh- and as mentioned above - our advice is free!
Good luck!

    Bookmark   September 16, 2012 at 9:16PM
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Sometimes it is all about the "fit". This is a bathroom story- but the shoe fits. We began our renovation with a small hall bath update. Project price tag 10K. My DH and I thought about it and the day before demo was scheduled, we requested a master bath update at the same time. Contractor was wonderful, stopped the project and worked out a new plan. Project price now slightly more than 60K. Two weeks later at two in the morning my DH and I decided we should include a full master suite renovation. Called the contractor and guess what, new plan. And that master bath layout had 5 revisons before I was satisfied. The contracor and design team were top knotch-always trying to make our space work for us. And you know what, that SMART CONTRACTOR is going to make a nice piece of profit from what began as a replace the blue toilet, tub and vanity project. If your current contractor is not a good fit-just move on. There are companies out there that would love to have your business.

    Bookmark   September 17, 2012 at 11:59AM
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