Return to the Kitchens Forum | Post a Follow-Up

 o
HUGE general contractor overrun

Posted by Ashe42 (My Page) on
Mon, Sep 2, 13 at 19:52

We got the final bill for our kitchen reno and the total is about a third higher than the bid, with no warning or discussion whatsoever. Plumbing, electricity, drywall etc came in about at the estimate--the extra is virtually all GC labor. $8,000 is a lot of extra labor! This was the highest bid to begin with. We're absolutely devastated. Any suggestions? Is this normal or insane?


Follow-Up Postings:

 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Was there a signed contract with the expected amount due?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Yes, there was a contract with a detailed estimate. The estimate included a lot of items that weren't in the end provided by the GC; a couple of items were added. The extra $8000 is after all that has been appropriately deducted and added.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Wow. I was $1600 over, but I knew it was mostly all the extra drywall and trim that was replaced unexpectedly. And I knew when those issues came up because I was informed of the options.

That's a huge amount to just appear. Might be a good time to ask if he can check his notes and make sure he has adjusted for everything and if his math is right. Maybe a polite "Gee, this is much higher than you estimated, could you double check to make sure all the additions/deductions were accounted for and the total is right?" will help. He may have made a mistake, or it might encourage him to reevaluate his increase, without losing face, if he is padding and thinks you might contest it.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I literally just sent off a sarcastic email to my contractor who asked me to round up the final bill $8 to cover a Sheetrock repair I asked for in an adjoining room on the last day. I count my blessings that he's been so cooperative - never charged my anything beyond materials on all the extras I threw in. I realize that's not the norm, but I'd be absolutely flipping at a 30% increase and would withhold payment until every speck of roller lint was removed and repaired from the paint job if he doesn't come to his senses. Good luck!!!


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If you have a signed flat fee contract with a stated amount, and didn't sign any change order amendments, the contractor can't "just decide" that you owe him anything. Changes have to be agreed upon by both parties. Now, if this is a cost plus contract where you agreed to pay for the materials and time plus the contractor's fee, if he can present you with the paperwork showing you where the money he's asking for comes from, then he is due the money. It would have been nice had he given you a running total of the overages though.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

What does he say about the difference?

$8000 is a pretty significant increase - I am curious to learn where it comes from. Did your GC just buy a new boat, by any chance?

This post was edited by annkh on Mon, Sep 2, 13 at 23:24


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Agreed, it depends on what kind of contract you have. Is it is fixed bid ? It sounds like you agreed to some changes during the process - what was the process for agreeing on those changes - did a change order get issued? Your contract should outline what occured.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

In my opinion, an "estimate" isn't worth the paper its written on. Typically, its on the lower end of the scale, to get you to move forward with them.. or the project..

A firm bid that outlines the scope of the contract is what you want to have signed..


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

What were the "couple of extra things" that were added? They'd have to be pretty huge things to justify an $8,000 increase! I can see not getting a written change order for a small change or two, but for $8,000??? In general contractor LABOR??? What in the world is his hourly rate??


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Oh I really do hate when that happens. Mine was on a much more modest scale but when he handed me a bill for $300 more I was stunned for a few seconds. I'm on a strict budget when it comes to projects but never learn that estimates are just that - estimates. I've asked for a materials list to see what he spent $300 on as I had bought most everything else before hand except the tile grout - which was in his estimate and was only needed for two small half-walls. He never gave me one. Never came back to install the ceramic soap dish on the wall either. When I called to say I'd finally found one, he wanted another $75 to come install it! Sorry, this wasn't suppose to be my rant. Hope you get some resolve.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Thanks for the responses; I've never done a kitchen reno before and I was pretty sure this is not acceptable or normal but wanted to check with you all--there are a lot of experienced renovators on this site!

I did send off an email detailing my math--accounting for the changes--and got a rather stiff email back saying they'd go over their work sheets and then have a meeting with us. I absolutely would have halted the work if I'd had any idea that this was happening. I can see going over and I'm sure there are a few things I didn't account for--if the bill had been a thousand or two over, I wouldn't have made a fuss. But this is, truly, huge.

All the contractors we talked to said they would not do a fixed bid on a reno because they'd have to make it high to take into account any problems uncovered when walls came out. The closest bid was $10,000 less and I didn't hire him because it was SO much lower that it worried me; the GC I did hire said that people often under-bid and he included everything I could expect to pay in his bid--which is why I hired him. LOL.

The hourly rate was $50 for master carpenter and $35 for, um, not master carpenter.

The lower bid contractor scratched his head when I said I was concerned the cost could be higher and said well, I could see it being 10% over but no more than that; I've never had a project come in more than 10% over unless there's a big problem.

At least I'm making those of you who got unexpected charges feel that you got off lightly!

I have never encountered this before. We've had plenty of work done -- sheetrocking cheaply-panelled rooms, new tile floors with underfloor heating, roof, etc. and everything's always come in at or close to the price given. I'm really losing sleep over it.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If a general contractor let things get so out of hand that the customer is stuck with a huge unexpected bill at the end, that's inexcusable. How many people do you know who have an extra $8,000 they can part with without blinking an eye? Part of the job of being a contractor is being able to foresee problems and keep the customer informed. The time to have the meeting with you was BEFORE they took it upon themselves to add $8,000 to the contract.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I would never hire my GC again, but not because he stuck me with unexpected charges.

I didn't like the under-cabinet lights he installed, so I bought my own and had his guys redo the work. He told me it would be $100 or so, I agreed to it, and cut a separate check.

He ranted about the cost of hinges, but didn't charge me extra.

On their way out the door (and out of my life), they hung an old cabinet in my garage for me, not in the contract at all. No extra charge.

I understand that things can run over and/or get changed by the owner. If it isn't in the contract, it needs to be addressed explicitly between you and the GC. $8K is serious money.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If he doesn't come up with a satisfactory explanation, I would be letting him know that what would have been a positive review on Yelp, Angies List, Google +, facebook, neighborhood newsletter, co-workers (I work in an organization of 1000+ people) etc will now include the experience with unexpected, unexplained, and unreasonable charges.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If you have a lawyer, now might be an appropriate time to involve one.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Yep. I'm really horrible at dealing with stuff like this and could probably have worded my email better, but this is, as you say, serious money and I literally can't afford to let it go.

The electrical contractor also screwed up the ceiling lights--one side of the kitchen is practically dark--and they totally blew me off on it several times. I made a conscious decision to let it go and put in the additional lights at my expense because the contractors are (were) sort of friends, or at least good acquaintances, and I found the whole thing embarrassing.

But, as a kitchen writer friend who came to visit put it, shouldn't THEY be embarrassed? And she hasn't even heard about the extra $8,000 yet!

I can do the whole public exposure thing really well if I want to. I just don't know that I want to go there. Hopefully they will come up with a good resolution.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Make him detail everything that goes into the $8K overrun, including all material and labor with dates.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If he doesn't come up with a satisfactory explanation, I would be letting him know that he is not getting an extra $8,000.

Ashe42, what exactly were the extras that generated such a huge price increase? And was there any discussion about the costs beforehand?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

What exactly does your signed contract say about the payment fee and schedule? Is it a time and materials contract? Or a fixed fee? What does it say about change orders?

You've got to be able to answer those questions clearly. What's in writing rules.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Unless you gave him carte blanche, he has failed his job as a GC to keep the project on track and you advised. That is his job. You can't just spring $8000 on a customer.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Small claims court if all else fails and it doesn't get resolved. It depends on your state how much you can sue for, so there may be a 5K maximum.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

It's a time and materials contract that references the estimate. I don't recall anything about change fees; will have to check. Pretty sure it didn't say 'go wild.'

It actually looks, on reflection, as though they just figured 10 percent over the estimate and forgot that I paid for floors etc myself (because they didn't come up with a flooring contractor themselves, so I found one).

The work was done in short bursts--an hour or two here and there, which drove me crazy. Again, on reflection, I'd guess that they were juggling jobs and trying to keep everyone feel as if they were on it. But you lose focus when you work like that and waste a lot of time.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

An hour or two at a time, he should be refunding you, lol. A good chunk of that would be for setting up and shutting down. Doing nothing. And as you say, lost focus, etc. Travel time too? They build that into the short jobs.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If it's time and materials, then you're unfortunately out of luck unless there was wording in there about how to notify you in case of overage.

Even T&M contracts should have some wording related to an estimate that either caps overall expenses at a fixed amount, or requires them to give you advance warning if you may exceed estimated numbers.

If the overage is 10% and it's T&M, that's actually not that unusual. The biggest issue is to not expect that T&M is the same thing as a fixed bid.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

A T&M contract doesn't give the contractor free reign to charge anything he wants. He needs to account for the Time and Materials and with an $8K overrun, he needs to provide a detailed accounting.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

weissman -- that's right. My point is that the contractor can probably detail all the hours they've spent on the job. At that point it's hard to refute unless there's something in the contract that caps overage amounts or requires the contractor to warn the owner if overages are coming.

Hopefully the overage is based on an actual miscalculation.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I honestly can't figure this out. They are nice guys and I wouldn't have thought that they were dishonest. But they know we're not wealthy--it's pretty obvious from the house!--and seemed to understand that the budget was an issue, so I just do not understand why they didn't do their job and keep track, and advise me. As I told them, there is no way I'd have gone ahead with an overrun this large.

Calumin, it's 10 % over the estimate, but the estimate included a lot of items they didn't end up providing. I'm not going to pay for those twice and shouldn't be expected to.

I am just praying that they figure out a miscalculation. It's a small town and I can pretty easily get the word out, but I'd prefer to resolve it. I am really heartsick over it.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Time and materials is at least straightforward. You ask for a sitdown with the contractor to see what materials were over, and where the additional labor came from. You're entitled to view all of the invoices and records keeping. If you ran into something like water damage behind a wall, or electrical insufficiency, or foundation issues, that's easily 8K. Communication with the contractor should be happening all along. For anyone reading this, establish a weekly "staff" meeting where progress and issues are discussed. Sometimes contractors are better laborers than they are business men and you have to force the communication issue.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

No, there was nothing like electrical insufficiency or water damage. We did have to move some wiring unexpectedly--which in retrospect should have been an obvious issue as it was clearly visible from the basement--but I accounted for that. That cost was estimated and approved by me. Then the laundry couldn't be put where it was planned, but the costs for moving the laundry into the basement were all electrical and plumbing and didn't run any extra. In the space where the laundry would have been, we added a window and extra cabinetry. I did the plans and ordered the cabinets; they arrived long before they'd even started with the other cabinets.

I added in all those extra costs. So yeah, I could understand maybe a few extra hours there for head-scratching and dealing with me wringing my hands over the laundry. Like I said, I wouldn't have blinked too hard if it was a couple of thousand over--I'm not a nitpicker by nature. That would be 30 extra hours of labor plus GC fee--does a GC get to charge labor AND a GC fee for meeting with you?--which should be ample.

Weekly meetings are a great idea! Which I'd thought of it..


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

does a GC get to charge labor AND a GC fee for meeting with you?

Again, what does your CONTRACT say? If it's time and materials, what is the cost for TIME? There's no add this or add that, it's the amount of extra time and extra materials, period. Has he itemized the extra time and extra materials yet?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

No it is starting to get convoluted. How did you add in the "extra cost"? What type of contract did you sign? You mentioned three or four changes that could easily be considered more than minor changes, again I think knowing the type contract you signed will be the only possible way people could offer advice.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

There's no accounting for his not accounting for his charges (both not being upfront, and after the fact). You have to ask him specifically what it's for to gauge if the amount for the extra work is reasonable. Also ask him why he didn't let you know things were running over so much. Project management 101. It was his job to keep you informed so you could make decisions.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I think the catch 22 in this, as someone else posted earlier, is that people who are generally very good at home building are not also very good at project management. and people who are very good at project management generally add in lots of project management buffer and charge you a lot more -- which means they work well for very large projects, say 200K or more, but not so great for smaller jobs.

when you find someone who does both well, and doesn't charge you a premium for that skill, you're in a very privileged situation. usually you have to decide what's better for you and compensate accordingly.

in my opinion, in this case it's not clear whether the extra 8K is really justified. sometimes the overage is really because they needed to work more, and the fair thing would be to pay it. obviously it would be better if he informed you up-front to give you more ability to control costs -- that is probably worth a deduction in its own right. on the other hand, if you go too far on the project management route, all those hours of meetings are all billable in a time and materials project, so you have to decide how much overhead you want to pay for.

My approach has been to just accept that some overage is going to happen, but to limit the top-end and tell the contractor that you can't go over that no matter what, even if he wants to bill by the hour. and to put that in the contract.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Whether they are nice guys or know you are not wealthy has nothing to do with the issue.

I would suggest having an impartial person such as an attorney or accountant look over the contract and bill. Sometimes you are too close to the situation to be objective and just look at the facts.

Hope you can get it resolved.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

That is why the entire conversation may change knowing the type of contract she had signed.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

That is why the entire conversation may change knowing the type of contract she had signed.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If you give them an overage at the outset, they will take the high end of the budget.

"sometimes the overage is really because they needed to work more, and the fair thing would be to pay it. "

Not sure what you mean by this. Do you mean they needed more work or it took extra time to accomplish?

Of course it's fair to pay them for their honest time for a job well done, if things took longer than expected. But you can't just spring $8000 of labor on people without warning. For all he knows, they would have nixed things because they couldn't afford another $8000 of work. That's not his call, to just tap into people's bank accounts. It's obvious that a lot of people here have big projects and budgets, but that is not the case for the OP and many others. $8000 would be a huge deal breaker for a lot of people. Having seen how these guys worry about their every minute and penny when it's their own, I don't think it is at all unreasonable or a stretch to expect that same kind of attention for the homeowner's finances. They have noses like a shark with this stuff when it's their own time/money.

That he doesn't even account for the up charge is odd, imo. No one here can speculate on anything other than whether that's acceptable and to just pay it. Of course, he can just throw some hours at you but unless you kept track of his stop start routine, you'll never know.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

We're setting up a meeting and I guess I'll know more then. It's just a simple time and materials contract with the estimate included; plus I have a detailed spreadsheet estimate. I will have to go over the contract.

My understanding is that a GC should coordinate work, make sure the work is done properly by all employees and subs, and keep the budget in line. That's why you hire one. He didn't do well with either checking the subs' work or the budget.

I haven't even mentioned that they didn't turn on the water to the dishwasher (high heat, stainless interior). Now THAT doesn't work right. As for the lighting--it's ridiculous. There are, I now know, standard figures for distance from wall to can light, and they didn't follow those.

I would have said that $8000 without warning is well over the line of reasonable and fair. If at any point he'd said, hey, this is harder than we thought and it's going to cost more, I could have looked at my options. It is NOT a complicated project. The only thing I'm truly happy with is the floor--and I organized all that!


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Another thing some do is bid low to get the job, then with a time and materials contract in place, it would be easy for him to charge more in the end. Like a bait and switch.

You say all GC labor. Was he actually doing work on the job site himself?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I totally agree with you Ashe. That's his job. If he doesn't have those skills, then he shouldn't be a GC. He should be still working labor.

Messing it all up on top of a high bill is salt in the wound. If the lighting isn't correct and is really poorly lit, I guess he should correct it?

This is another problem with time and materials. They get paid extra for their mistakes, doing things over again until it is correct.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I guess I agree, except in the final analysis what matters is what you get and how much you pay for it, relative to the other options.

If Contractor A gives a fixed-bid of $130K and has excellent project management, and Contractor B gives a T-and-M bid of $80K with minimal project management, then goes 10% over, which is the better option?

Some people like Contractor A more and will pay for it. Some people will take their chances with Contractor B and take more project ownership on themselves.

The mistake might be in thinking that there really is a Contractor C, which is a fixed bid price of $80K with great project management where they absorb any overage costs -- or in thinking Contractor B actually sold you the Contractor C model.

I think this negotiation can go one of two ways. One is where you abide by the letter of the contract -- from what we know so far that might not go so well for the OP. The other is to appeal to a sense of what is fair. The contract might not stipulate that the GC needs to forewarn of any overage, but the contractor's obligation to do the right thing might be more persuasive. It depends on what kind of GC this person is.

The best leverage the OP has is that the GC should have warned before going over -- however 10% isn't a really big overage for an entire remodel. But the GC should have done a better job of managing the owner's budget.

Given there are other things on the agenda (water and lighting problems), I think the OP needs to figure out what's most important and tailor the negotiation strategy accordingly.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

" But the GC should have done a better job of managing the owner's budget."

Actually, the GC should have done a better job of managing his own TIME, as the OP said that virtually all of the extra charges were for his own labor.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Another angle to see this problem-

How did you structure payment for work completed? Did you not make incremental payments along the way? Did you not have a checklist to verify completed work if it met your original specifications and requirements? I am puzzled as why you found the huge overage at the end.

"All the contractors we talked to said they would not do a fixed bid on a reno because they'd have to make it high to take into account any problems uncovered when walls came out."

We would never sign a fluid contract. We want to know exact what we are paying and getting. If there is any problem uncovered, it is perfect to write a change order based on mutually agreed scope, cost and schedule. Reno is not playing in casino, each work should be spelled out and priced in, fairly and squarely to both the contractor and home owner.

We finished the hall bath, the over run was $136.00 for the work contractor forgot to include in the bid.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I agree that you can pay more for a highly skilled GC. He might charge more than the average Joe does, but not necessarily unless you are working high end projects. If someone is cheap, you will probably get what you pay for. They all charge a lot for their "expertise", imo. So you should get some in return. And it is the nature of the job, the reason you have a GC, to manage the whole project. It doesn't sound like he "managed" anything for them.

The quality of the work should at least be there to hold any argument for the GC charges. It doesn't sound like he delivered there. So what did he do for them that they had to pay him over $8000 for his labor -- and that's just the overage amount.

I think 38% of project costs for GC labor would be very high ($50,000 on a $130,000 project example). As much as 20% comes to mind as typical. About 10-20 percent is what I remember from somewhere but might be wrong. Not sure if that includes all their markups on products too. But 40% of the job sounds very high.

What was the total charge for him, any source, and the percentage of the project cost?

I am wondering about the extras. I see you say a window was added, sounding like where there was none? That could be expensive but not GC labor. Unless he did it himself, of course. (inhouse construction fee, cost of window if you did not supply.)

This post was edited by snookums2 on Fri, Sep 6, 13 at 13:14


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Snookums - I'm not sure that GC labor as a percentage of total project cost is a useful figure at all. In my case my contractor was about 37%*** but with the blink of an eye I could have doubled my appliance and cabinet budget without it costing him a minute more of labor, and it would have been more like 23%.

*** In my case my contractor did electrical (significant) and plumbing (minor) as well as everything else except granite. I realize this might not be the norm, but when Ashe mentions drywall as a separate cost and you seem to assume the GC did not install the window, I'm kind of left wondering what the heck a "normal" GC does do. Demo, frame, and hang cabinets?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I've often heard it represented as a typical percentage range, for how people get an idea of the cost of having a GC.

Some take markup on appliances and cabinets, so doubling that cost could have an effect. They might also raise the price if high end materials are involved, due to the risk factor for damage claims or maybe more complex installation requirements. They even charge more in expensive neighborhoods or for higher end jobs because the clients have money. Different pricing structures, but that's a bit off topic, lol.

The GC doesn't always do work on the job but I've seen some that do. They often just coordinate the trades and subs (gets a cut), obtain permits, communicate with trades and check the work, solve problems, direct clients to their material suppliers (gets a cut) and oversees the project generally. If you don't buy materials through them, they will likely adjust for labor because product markups are part of how they make their money.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Fri, Sep 6, 13 at 0:40


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

So more of a project manager who may or may not do (or have employees do) basic rough work? To me that sounds like someone you may more likely need on a large job. And I'm having a hard time figuring out the scale of this job. In the first post $8k was "about a third higher than the bid" which would make the bid about $24k. Later it's "10% over the estimate" which would make the estimate $80k.

Depending on the original bid/estimate, 8k can sound drastic or not too bad. As I re-read this thread I think there are just far too many variables for us (me, anyway) to judge.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I agree food and that is why I stated it was getting convoluted. A GC in my mind is a General Contractor who actual does some of if not most of the work (as my friends who are GC's do), a Project Manager as is being alluded to possibly is an entirely different breed of cats. In addition to multiple types of contracts being mentioned and extras with potentially no change orders or maybe there were change orders. As you stated food "far too many variables".


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

The job above had various trades involved, which is where a GC comes in handy.

A GC has to be a project manager since he is coordinating the whole job. You hire one when there is a more complex project than just one type of work, where you could just call an independent trade in. They usually work their way up from the construction trades. Maybe on the larger jobs they are often on site working along with the crew. I'm sure that varies considerably by individual. When I've used them, they just sent workers out and had other jobs going.

Wiki, sourced from a textbook:

"A general contractor is responsible for the day-to-day oversight of a construction site, management of vendors and trades, and communication of information to involved parties throughout the course of a building project."


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I have a friend who is owns a GC firm as you describe, and everything is subbed out except for some laborers on his payroll. But he builds schools, hospitals, shopping malls, etc. I still think that when the average person calls a GC to do a home project such as a kitchen, the GC does most of the work. Sure it may be one of his crews and the owner may rarely be on site, but it's "his guys" mainly. It sounds to me like that's what we're talking about here.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I agree, they are companies that often have their own employees, subbing out for things like electrical or plumbing.

It must vary widely if what you see is different. I have only used home contractors.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Another thing is that he would have had to be keeping a running tally of expenses along the way anyway. So there's no reason to have not advised the homeowner of an impending overrun.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

We're hiring a GC to do our small remodeling project (3-3/12 weeks of work, some walls being installed, tile work, bathroom plumbing work). It's exactly as snookums described - his crew will do everything except the painting (because he uses a painter we would have hired separately anyway and not pay his markup - his idea), electrical and plumbing. They'll get the permits, do the framing, sheetrock, tiling, hang doors, medicine cabinets, install light fixtures, kitchen cabinets, some opening up of walls and reframing. Except for the painter, he'll hire any needed subs. So he's a GC and a project manager.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

sj - That's exactly what I would expect.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

So, I guess I still speak Japanese, lol.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

LOL! I just hope this thread doesn't get run up to 150 before Ashe comes back with a (hopefully good) conclusion to the saga. I'll try to step away now!


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Y'all are too funny! The contract was time and materials, referenced the detailed estimate, and included a 15% general contractor fee. I thought one of the guys who sort of ran the project and did a lot of the carpentry work was a partner, but possibly not. He did send an employee to coordinate with the electrician that marked out the project and did not come himself. I got all sorts of excuses about the crap job they did, including 'the plans weren't finalized"--which they were.

I'm new to doing this and was in shock at the original estimate, so I had a couple of more experienced friends (engineers, who were all to familiar with my original kitchen although they no longer live here) look at the estimate and they said it was steep but reasonable. The original estimate was $28,645 and included things we didn't end up using--like engineering fees, porta potties, fixture allowances, a flooring allowance, etc. So I subtracted those and added the extra work. The end total should have been about $23,000 and ended up at $31,000.

I'd have been cool with $25,000 but I strongly believe that even for that kind of extra billing I should had a heads-up.

I have learned a lot and realize that I have been very naive and trusting. I will see what happens at the meeting. If all else fails, I'll go with online dispute resolution or Small Claims.

Funnily enough someone called the other day, having being referred to me by my flooring guy. I told her I could whole-heartedly recommend him as he showed up when he said he would, did the job beautifully and with due consideration to the conditions in my house, and charged exactly what he said he would--even with no written contract. Whereas my builder..!!..she asked for the builder's name and I said I would give it to her only if the situation wasn't resolved.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Was the 31K just the labor for the remodel? It's still not clear. Or was that the project total? For a 90K project, 31K wouldn't be a bad total for just the labor. 23K would be low for a higher than average cost redo. Probably too low for someone with the proper licensure and insurance. Average would be from 1/3 to 1/2 the cost of the project being labor, depending on the tasks being done. Some tasks like demolition and framing are mostly labor costs, and have very little material costs.

A whole kitchen redo for 31K including materials would also be very low for what it sounds like you got. National average is around 50K for a medium like to like redo with no structural alterations.

I'm not defending the lack of communication about the issue here. I'm just trying to show you that the initial estimates perhaps weren't quite realistic from either you or him, and that the final numbers, although shocking to you when presented as a fait accompli, aren't out of line with industry averages. Perhaps you can come to some compromise where both of you are equally unhappy about the overage numbers. ;) And perhaps the contractor can learn from this to be a better businessman, and you can learn to be a better consumer. :)


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

The cost didn't include the cabinets, floors, painting, appliances, etc. When I add those in, I'm way over the industry average. It was for electrical, plumbing, drywall, demolition of old cabinets and 2 non-load bearing walls (not replaced), installation of new cabinets, 3 new windows, and trim (most of the actual trim was supplied by cabinetry company). They also built a post around a pipe in one of the demolished walls, which they knew about upfront.

The electrician came in at budget, despite doing a lousy job. The plumber and drywall came in at budget too (drywall a little higher, but it saved some work that had been included in the estimate so that should have been a wash or lower cost).

I filled every damn nail hole and did the painting. I said upfront I'd do the painting to save cost, and they were fine with that and didn't include it in the estimate. Nail holes were a surprise, but I guess that was part of the painting job.

It really is mostly a GC labor issue, and that really is a heck of a lot of labor to underestimate. They've been around a long time, so it's a mystery to me. We're both going to be unhappy, regardless of how we settle it, but I hope we can at least compromise.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Fascinating case, lol, but It's really hard to know how much work was involved, that anyone can accurately provide what reasonable cost would have been. And for what. Does the $31,000 GC labor include his workmen or just him to oversee the job?

How big is your kitchen? How much cabinetry? Was it totally reconfigured or pretty much replacement?

When you say GC labor, does that include the $50/$35 workmen you mentioned above?

Trying to figure out what was done. You say only GC labor on these items.

Take out old cabinets (how many)
Take out two walls (long? short?)
Dispose of old appliances, cabinetry and debris
Install 2 new existing windows
Open wall to install a 3rd window (in previous laundry area)?
Build post around beam
Move laundry area to basement *
Drywall repair (how much area involved? A lot, a little?
Install window trim (3 windows) and other odd finishing trim work from demo areas
Install new cabinets (how many?)
Hook up new appliances

Electrical (how much work) - a GC mark up 15 % only?
Plumbing (how much work) - a GC mark up 15% only?

* Opening up a new window and the labor for installing additional cabinets in the previous laundry location - was not in original estimate

This post was edited by snookums2 on Sun, Sep 8, 13 at 14:29


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Not sure how many old cabinets were taken out, but it took about 2 hours.

Installation of 22 cabinets was originally estimated at $92 per cabinet plus 15% GC fee, so I just added the extra 5 proportionately. Home Depot, for example, gave a price of $79 per cabinet--and that included THEIR 'GC' fee.

They didn't dispose of any appliances except the stove, which went in the dumpster.

New drywall went on all walls and the ceiling in the kitchen and dining room; there was nothing to do there except book 'em and pick up the fee.

The builder did come in for a couple of hours to talk over the issue of what to put in the laundry space, at his suggestion. I don't mind paying for that (I'd add that into the 'couple of thousand extra') even though he came up with NO suggestions and essentially said 'whatever you want' over and over. I figured it all out and did the ordering, supervised delivery, etc, except for the window.

I don't know how you estimate cost, but then, I'm not the expert. Just as I would have expected a home builder/GC and an electrical contractor between them to know how far can lights should be from the cabinets, I expect a home builder to know how to figure his costs. The kitchen was there; he came over three times before giving the final estimate and went into the basement below and the attic above; it really wasn't rocket science. No fancy finishes or materials. You could see the pipe they had to frame around (again, not rocket science) from the attic.

How on earth could he have underestimated by 160 hours of skilled carpentry labor?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

The labor sounds excessive to me (without the overrun) but I'm still not clear on what it's for. Your project sounds fairly small, simple and straightforward. Like you said, demo 2 hours.

Kills me they charge $100 to install one cabinet, lol. Wow. What a rip off. That would mean the rocket science engineers should get what, about $1000 per hour, $10,000 an hour.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

omg.

Salary

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for an aerospace engineer is $93,980 per year. The bureau reports that the average hourly wage for aerospace engineers is about $45.18.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Oh, wait....so it IS rocket science, only more expensive!


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

lol Ashe!

Livewire, in my view (from the facts as presented) this is not a case of consumer miseducation but sheer contractor incompetence -- on what planet is any form of service provider allowed to add random amounts to a pre-signed contract, much less for vaguely outlined and hitherto completely unannounced extra labor?

It's not about the amount of salary -- no matter what your GC's wage, $8k is a heckuvalot of extra "supervisory" hours, like into the weeks. At what point did this guy provide at least 40 extra full hours of labor?

Press him on the facts, Ashe. I consider it well within your rights to squawk at this. Make him accountable. It's not at all unreasonable to suspect that your GC is attempting to make up for some self-instigated budget shortfall by padding the bill.

FWIW, filling nail holes is generally under the painter's purview, at least around here, so I don't think they weaseled you on that issue (much as it might fit their pattern).

Best of luck! Fight the good fight.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Was kind of an aside but it does come down to salary. $8000 extra at $100 an hour amounts to two rocket scientists for 80 hours of what? Since they couldn't even light a kitchen, let's just say I won't be booking a seat on that flight, lol.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Yeah, I figured that on the nail holes. I mis-estimated MYSELF on the painting. I figured I'd just be painting the kitchen walls, no biggie. When they decided to extend the new drywall over into the dining room ceiling (instead of patching, or pulling down and replacing, the old ceiling, they just drywalled over the lot) I didn't think about having to paint the new ceiling---including one death-defying part over the stairwell! So that all took much more work on my part than I figured.

But my kitchen writer friend took one look -- BEFORE she knew about the extra charges-- and said, you paid that much and still have to fill nail holes?!


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Snookums, you're very funny! Maybe I should hire you to come deal with these clowns.

On the plus side, I've learned a lot, even if I now feel like a complete fool. And believe me, I'll be passing on what I learned. WITH names, if we don't come to a reasonable agreement.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

It seems to me that by handling parts of the project yourself in the interest of saving money, it should have been abundantly clear to your GC that you were interested in keeping costs under control.

Am I missing something here? If a GC charges a fee of 15 - 20% to oversee a project, isn't that fee supposed to be for his labor?

Here's something else I don't get ... hasn't this been unresolved now for about a week? Why is it taking so long for him to come forward with an explanation of the extra charges?

When we give a customer a bill for extra charges at the end of a project, each charge is clearly explained and accounted for and none of them come as a surprise to homeowner because they have ALL BEEN AGREED TO BEFOREHAND. That's just good business, and if a GC doesn't have enough sense to figure that out, he's not smart enough to be working on my house, much less running the show.

If your contractor did not have the detailed billing information right there in front of him, he had no business giving you a bill in the first place. When you asked him what is up with those extra charges, he should have been able to give you an accounting on the spot. What is taking him so long to figure out???


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

What is taking him so long to figure out???

JT - Don't underestimate the time required to justify creative accounting! Seriously though, the fact that he couldn't provide the breakdown on the spot in and of itself would make me suspicious. Even if he had run the numbers with pencil and paper it shouldn't have taken more than a couple minutes to transfer it to email, typing with two fingers. I never postpone meetings with my boss unless I need time to fabricate a story. (Janine, I hope you're not reading this!)


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I sent my original email on August 30 and got a response that they would go through the "post project spreadsheet" to account for specific task costs, and also review the "daily job reports that we keep to review the critical decisions that were made and why they were made." There was also some nonsense about doing their best to estimate but 'there's nothing like opening up walls' etc.

Wish they'd made some of those job reports to me. They did want to meet Friday but I couldn't make it, so hopefully it will be tomorrow.

I should add that during this time, first my mom had a heart attack and I had to go home, and then my FIL came to stay so that my BIL could go for his vacation. (We had thought the kitchen would be long done when we arranged it--what a nightmare!) Then my FIL was clearly ill when he got here and ended up in the hospital for 5 weeks before he died. So I was running back and forth to the hospital constantly to spend as much time as possible with him and talk to doctors and keep his family informed, as well as working and living in chaos.

All that to say that if I'd not had so much on my plate, I might have added up all the monthly bills and figured out that something was going wrong before, instead of just blindly paying out. But that doesn't relieve the GC of his responsibility to communicate.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

So true, foodonastump!

Ashe, regarding this ... " ... I got a response that they would go through the "post project spreadsheet" to account for specific task costs ... "

I would have naturally assumed that they had already done this, since they sent you a bill. How did they come up that amount in the first place? My guess is they just threw out a random number .... $8,000 ... and now they are back-peddling trying to account for it.

As foodonastump points out, you have reason to be suspicious, and you should look at the accounting that they finally DO present to you with a very critical eye. It's very unfortunate that he has put you in this position, because it is likely to get very uncomfortable. But unless they found a dollar-eating monster when they opened those walls, they have some explaining to do. You are entitled to know where every single dollar on your project is being spent.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Your scope of work is a good deal beyond a standard kitchen redo. I don't think the costs are out of line for the work you described at all. I think the GC doesn't know how to communicate that the estimate was incorrect though and that the work would take more hours than he though. When there are changes, or overruns, the additional costs should be documented, and should be paid for in advance of those changes or overruns if possible. If that's not possible, then they should be paid for on the next draw. It's really important to not only communicate what's happening, but to make sure that anything different gets paid for before the end of the project.

A GC's fee is for coordination and supervision of the trades. It's separate from his fee as a worker on the job. He can "hire himself" and pay himself labor on the job that he supervises. That's standard business practice.

Typically, a contractor will have fixed overhead costs of $300-$600 a day. That's whether he works or not. That's for tools, all manner of insurance that you have no idea about, his truck payment, his gas, his tools payments, his business license and continuing education, his retirement savings, medical insurance, and any pro bono projects he does through the year, like a H4H build.That's before the wages that his business pays him for his work. And that is if he is a small sole proprietor. If he has employees, start doubling, or tripling. He has to pay all of those hidden costs that the business that an hourly employee just shows up to and goes to work. An hourly wage comparison to other professions is a specious argument unless those professions also are self employees with similar overheads.

All of that overhead has to be paid for before his business ever starts earning a profit. Typically, not charging enough is why most new contractor business fail within two years time. Good contractors know their worth, and if they don't get awarded the bid, they don't sweat it. There's plenty of people looking for good contractors that are willing to pay their rates. They move on.

What they don't do is a time and materials contract, and then have a homeowner start taking away items from that scope of work ,and then slow down their work, or get creative in their time accounting to make the dollars back up. A good contractor would have the self respect to come to a stopping point in the labor for the amount paid so far, and then explain that they would no longer do the rest of the work at all because they were counting on making X dollars from this job as a whole project, as originally described. If the homeowner decided to change the scope of work and cherry pick it apart after the fact, and remove some of the higher profit work, then they'd rather not do any of the jobs in the contract. They'd walk away from the job entirely and just move on.

And that's also why most contractors won't break down a complex project by the individual jobs within that project. They know how much it costs them to do the work, and that's for the hard jobs and the easy jobs together. If someone wants to pull the job apart and start acting as the GC themselves, then there is more trouble to come usually, and it's the smarter thing to walk away from that trouble.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Hollysprings, I already had the cabinets and plan before they started, which they knew.

I would have done the floors, light fixtures etc through them had they suggested anyone. They seemed stunned when I asked who to use for floors and finally came up with a name; the guy tried to sell me some floors that were totally unsuitable for my house (random width in a house with no a/c) that he just happened to have 'in stock.' Even their own employee laughed at that one. (He's no longer working for them.)

I ran like hell from that nonsense. They couldn't come up with any alternatives. The contractor I eventually found was great. (The first thing he asked was: do you use A/c or keep your windows open?)

Same with lighting and plumbing fixtures--they just asked me where they were, so I went and got them. If they'd expected me to buy them through them, they should have arranged that.

I wish they had walked away, believe me! I was ready to fire them because it took so long with the hour here, two hours there thing, and didn't because they were, I thought, sort of friends and I was embarrassed to say Jeez you're slow!

A big part of the problem was lack of up-front discussion. I had assumed that floors went in last and had even commented to the GC before we started that the floors might have to wait if the budget went over: all of a sudden I got the 'do you have your floors?' half way through and only then had the discussion that they should go in under the cabinets to save labor raising the cabinets.

Even if I'd bought the floors and fixtures through them, at best that would account for $800.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

oops double post

This post was edited by Ashe42 on Sun, Sep 8, 13 at 20:02


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Hollysprings, I don't know where you're from but where I'm from, with all due respect, I'm trying hard not to laugh at the notion of your average sole proprietor contractor paying on-the-books wages, medical benefits and retirement to legal US citizens, and giving back to the community. That's not to say such a company doesn't exist but I would expect this to be a very professional outfit, one that's certainly equipped to provide a reasonably accurate estimate. And not screw up his scheduling so badly that he has to send his employees to the job in one or two hour bursts just to pretend they're working, which surely wastes at LEAST an hour per man on the customer's dime every time he does it.

This post was edited by foodonastump on Sun, Sep 8, 13 at 20:49


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Oh there's plenty of worthless hacks that call themselves "contractors" and do a hand to mouth low wage existence acting as "handyman" and screwing that up. But, presumably, no one who wants to do a 20K remodel would ever end up using those types of shady characters. Checking references, licenses, and insurance should be a standard part of vetting a contractor. Not just going with the lowest bid from the least toothless inbred who has the most undocumented workers in the back of their pickups.

Unfortunately, I think the OP got one of the toothless inbreds masquerading as a standup guy. But there are two sides to every story, and even with this guy being a poor businessman, he's got a right to expect that a contract that he enters into with a customer won't be changed to reduce his compensation after the agreement has been signed. Customers have obligations to contractors as well as contractors to customers. It's a two way street. And that's why I'd hope there is some compromise here where both can go their separate ways without too much hassle.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

No, he pays insurance etc. and has been in business a long time, which is why I'd have expected an on-target estimate and a proper plan of action.

I understand where you're coming from, HollySprings, but he doesn't have the right to pad it up high to start with (e.g. engineering fees he knew from the start would be unnecessary but were put in there to reassure me that he'd covered every eventuality etc.) and then expect to collect on it all. Should I pay for a portapotty that never materialized because he thought he might need one?

Doesn't it make sense that if you want to make your money you'd provide the service? If he wanted to make the easy $600 on the floor, he should have provided a floor. I'd have been very happy not to be ringing around desperately trying to find a decent flooring contractor, trust me. It was like pulling teeth to get the first name, and the guy was clearly a scam artist--they should have been embarrassed to have referred him. And it should have been them calling him to come give a bid, not me, shouldn't it?

Ditto the sink. I got the 'did you get your sink yet? Will it be here ready for us on Monday?' and then, AFTER I'd picked it up, he said, well normally I'd have gone with you to X store (that I'd never heard of). The time to tell me about a joint expedition to X store would have been before I'd hustled down to Lowes. It isn't reasonable to expect the customer to do all the work while you collect the fee.

Again, it's communication. And if he'd communicated that he wasn't making enough money or hadn't budgeted enough, we could have parted ways.

But unless he was counting on a large kick-back on the fixtures and floor as well as the GC fee, like I said, that would have been $800 at best--not $8,000. And also like I said, I could see a couple of thou for the PITA factor etc. Just not $8,000.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I agree with you, foodonastump. And I think this clown is getting way too much credit from some.

Hollysprings, a lot of those things you listed as overhead expenses off the top, we regular folks have also -- and don't get to charge anyone for them. They come out of our salaries.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Holly, I think you insult the comprehension level of the average consumer. (Almost) everyone contracting this sort of remodeling project is gainfully employed themself, otherwise they couldn't afford it in the first place. Most of us are well aware of the overhead constraints facing the independent contractor. Are you seriously arguing that because a contractor pays insurance I "have no idea about", that gives him the right to add bogus additional charges at the END of my completed project?

A contractor has the right to charge whatever they deem necessary to cover their many overhead expenses, and the consumer can take it or leave it by either signing the contract or not.

A contractor does NOT have the right to miscalculate his own expenses and expect the consumer to pay significantly more than specified in the contract, just to compensate for his incompetent accounting.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I read hollysprings' two posts and honestly don't understand some of the comments that are being sent her (or his) way.

This is a time and materials project, in which the contractor's final bill came in at 10% over the estimate. To go from that to saying "a contractor does NOT have the right to miscalculate his own expenses and expect the consumer to pay significantly more..." is a stretch -- it's not that black and white.

The $8000 difference came because the OP did his own calculation and decided the total cost should be $5600 less than the estimate, without communicating that calculation up-front to get confirmation.

None of us were there so we don't actually know how the final bill got calculated. There may be other expenses that came up which offset the $5600 which the OP took out, which the OP didn't consider. As much as I hope the OP gets a positive outcome, I don't see direct evidence that the contractor is incompetent or has even miscalculated expenses.

The point that a customer shouldn't simply expect that a final bill be substantially less than an estimate without confirming with the contractor is a very reasonable one. In a T&M contract, both parties have to keep on top of expenses to know how the dollars & hours are actually being allocated, to avoid surprises at the end of the project. Or you can do a fixed-bid contract up-front and get the cost calculation out of the way early.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Calumin: Wait--so if a bid includes floors that weren't provided, the GC has earned the cost of the floors plus the GC fee?

.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

No. My point is different.

Everyone agrees that if the final price comes in higher than an estimate, the contractor should warn the owner of the overrun beforehand.

But if an owner sees specific things from an estimate not being used in the job, it's not a good idea to simply assume that the final bill will be lower than the estimate. It's a mistake to assume that the only (or even major) modifications from an estimate are the ones that bring the project cost down.

Beyond that, we're all building up good assumptions regarding what the final bill should actually be. It's kind of like guessing the length of a piece of string.

If the conversation with the GC really was the GC saying "yes the floors were in the estimate, and I am still going to charge you even though we didn't do that work" -- then yes the OP has a legitimate argument. But I'm not sure that's how the discussion went.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Calumin: Wait--so if a bid includes floors that weren't provided, the GC has earned the cost of the floors plus the GC fee?

I still do not understand this. What GC fee? Are you talking about the markup on the materials?

This wasn't a "bid" at all - it was an estimate of time and materials. Presumably there was an agreed-upon hourly rate for "time", and the materials were to be procured either by the homeowner or by the contractor. I don't think we have any idea what the contract actually said about materials procurement, or about a GC discount/markup on materials.

So while I agree that the contractor should have kept the homeowner more informed of the fact that the actual cost was running higher than his estimate, it's still a time and materials contract. He has to account for his time and the homeowner pays $x per hour. If he says he worked 160 extra man-hours, and can provide evidence of that, then he should be paid for it. If he can't provide evidence, or the actual hours worked are less than that extra 160, then the "time" component should be less. If there were materials included in the original estimate that he didn't provide, those should be deducted (whether he's entitled to a markup on them depends on what the contract says).


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Ashe - I think you're going to have a tough time disputing labor unless you were there at all times and checked everyone in and out diligently. How much can you subtract with hard evidence, stuff that was itemized but wasn't used, like the porta potty, engineer, however flooring was written into the contract, etc? Enough to where subtracting it would make the final bill more palatable for you?

I think hollysprings has made some potentially valid points from "the other side of the story" but taken at face value from what you've written there clearly seems to be a disconnect. I think you should approach the meeting as objectively as possible. If you start nickel and diming them down, they can nickel and dime you up. But there's no reason for them to charge for services they clearly did not provide or expenses they did not incurr. Did you hear if you'll be meeting today?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I do not mean to focus on verbiage however that is often times what contract disputes come down to. An estimate and a signed contract are two different things. If it was the contractors decision not to provide a certain good or service or their mistake that something was not done as per the original contract the contractor is not entitled to collect for services or goods not rendered.

Hopefully it does not go this far and a compromise can be reached however going a step further, if this dispute were to end up in court it is reasonable to think that services and goods not rendered represents a breach of contract. Labor fees are a tough issue to prove from either perspective, it gets into a he said she said and often times comes down to who kept more detailed records. Hidden expenses creating overages is one thing that as stated should be discussed throughout a project. Contractors not providing services and goods they were contractually obligated to is entirely another element.

To the OP I wish you the best of luck with resolving this issue in a timely manner. If nothing else this post has served as good practice for your upcoming meeting with the contractor. Hopefully an amicable compromise can be reached.

This post was edited by SaltLife631 on Mon, Sep 9, 13 at 13:41


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

No resolution either way.

He found a $2,000 error in the addition in his spreadsheet (oops) so there's that for him to explore.

He had forgotten to include in the estimate nearly $500 per window JUST to do exterior paint, caulk, and trim (is it just me or is that really hugely excessive?).

The cabinets came in at about $145 per cabinet rather than $92.

He knew that things were going well over budget in late April, not long after the guy doing the work told us that things were within budget and before the cabinetry installation had even started. He was very clear that he was alerted to this and was concerned.

But he hadn't told us because he was doing two other houses at the same time and someone else should have picked up the slack there (didn't specify who). He agrees that we should have been told and given the opportunity to make hard decisions, but oh well--we need to move forward because that's in the past, and pay the remaining bill quietly.

He agrees that the lighting sucks and is willing to make that right, or make the electrical contractor make it right, not sure which.

Took a good long walk to contemplate all this and I'm more angry, not less angry. I still don't see where all the excess went, even with those figures, but I will check the spreadsheet further.

I want to be fair, but I don't think he was at all fair with us.

I keep thinking about my roofing guy. He came to rip off a small flat roof that was leaking and re-did it. He and his partner were out there in the hot sun working their tails off for 4 partial days. He gave me a bill for $1,300 including materials, exactly what he'd quoted--VERBALLY. I said--'that doesn't seem like enough; it was a much bigger job than you thought.'

His response: "I screwed up the estimate, that's my problem."

End result: I gave him a bigger check than he asked for and will continue to refer him.

Maybe that's my problem. I've been given accurate estimates in the past and paid up happily. It just didn't occur to me that an established contractor would be incapable of doing a reasonably accurate estimate, or of communicating with his client properly.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

What do you mean the cabinets came in at $145 per cabinet? That was just for installing each cabinet? I'd want some sort of justification for that. Seems to say to me that it took 1.5 hrs to install one cabinet at a time @ $100/hour. I think Electricians around here charge about $100/hr just as a comparison and they have years of training and education to charge that. I would like more detail on why he is charging so much more.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

With out getting into all of the other elements at work here it appears to me that the contractor cannot adequately justify his increases in labor (whether they are real or not). If he were able to he would have shown you an accurate detailed record of time spent while also referencing the original contact. Reinforcing my point of view a $2000 error in addition is a big oops!

I believe you stated as per your contract the cabinets were to be $92 + 15% GC which may be a little high but not unreasonable. I am in a market where labor rates are generally high, coupled with the fact that contractors are extraordinarily busy due to Sandy relief efforts and as you can imagine supply and demand has caused prices to increase significantly. High end custom guys who only work in the Hamptons are getting about $125 per cabinet right now, not the $145 that he decided he now charges. How many windows did he work on for you at a cost of $500 per window?

The contractor working on two other houses should not be your problem it was his choice. Also working on three projects at one time is not a viable reason for a contractor not to communicate effectively with their clients. If he spread himself too thin that is his fault not yours. It will be difficult to do but if at all possible I believe it is in your best interest to come up with a detailed account of the days people worked, how many people worked and for how long those individuals worked. Again I understand this is a tall task but may prove worth your while in resolving this dispute. Good luck.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Charging "per cabinet" is misleading. Cabinet installs involve a lot more than just hanging boxes on the walls. At any of the box stores, there is a per foot charge for every stick of molding too. So, if you've got a compound crown molding with 3 pieces, and light rail with an insert, that's 6 pieces of molding times however many linear feet of molding you might have, say 30. 30x6=180 feet of molding. Times the approximately 10 a foot molding charge and that's $1800 for the molding. Add that to the basic cabinet install of 80 per box (talls count as 2) plus the fee for installing applied end panels, back panels, and cutting holes for the DW drain hose, and installing an oven to trim it properly, and a kitchen with 15 boxes can easily be 5K for installation. Now, if you "divide" that by just the 15 boxes, you'd get over $300 "per box" for the install. But, that wouldn't be an accurate way to describe the charges, or the think about the install fee. For a non box contractor, he takes all of that into account when figuring out his price. He just may not list out what each portion of the install costs, but it's all rolled into the final figure.

BTW, the difference between your roofer and this guy was that the roofer was a fixed price contract, and this guy was a time and materials. Time and materials rarely works to a homeowner's benefit. Even if there are several unknowns, and a fixed price contract is "high" because of that, it's still usually cheaper to do a project that way than time and materials.

What usually works best is to have a combo of each type of contract in one to account for the knowns and the unknowns in the project. The knowns are fixed price, and the unknowns, such as water damage behind the wall, are time and material. Or, it could be a fixed fee too, but at that point, with the wall torn apart, the contractor could come up with whatever price he wanted to come up with when he's got you in a vulnerable position. Your only guarantee that the numbers will be fair is that the contractor is fair. That is hard to know on the front end, even when you do your homework.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

" So, if you've got a compound crown molding with 3 pieces, and light rail with an insert, that's 6 pieces of molding times however many linear feet of molding you might have, say 30. 30x6=180 feet of molding. Times the approximately 10 a foot molding charge and that's $1800 for the molding. Add that to the basic cabinet install of 80 per box (talls count as 2) plus the fee for installing applied end panels, back panels, and cutting holes for the DW drain hose, and installing an oven to trim it properly, and a kitchen with 15 boxes can easily be 5K for installation"

So how *long* does it take to do this work?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

"What usually works best is to have a combo of each type of contract in one to account for the knowns and the unknowns in the project. The knowns are fixed price, and the unknowns, such as water damage behind the wall, are time and material. Or, it could be a fixed fee too, but at that point, with the wall torn apart, the contractor could come up with whatever price he wanted to come up with when he's got you in a vulnerable position. Your only guarantee that the numbers will be fair is that the contractor is fair. That is hard to know on the front end, even when you do your homework."

I definitely agree with this, but I am still confused as to how the OP's contractor can get away with charging such a big overage at the end when he was working from the estimate of his given prices. Aren't these the "fixed expenses" you are referring to? If he and the OP had discussed the window trim/paint and it was included in the estimate, how can he then say that he forgot to charge for it in the end? That sounds like complete BS to me. And how do these guys get away with charging whatever they want? $500 for trimming a window and then painting it? Seriously??? A customer must surely have some recourse against this sort of thing. Personally, my recourse would be to withhold payment of any "extras" until I was completely satisfied that they were accurate, reasonable, and completely accounted for.

I don't blame the OP for being angry. Even if contractor is working on a time-and-materials basis, don't his charges have to be realistic and reasonable? Even lawyers account for every minute of their billable hours. Why should contractors be any different? To excuse poor management skills because contractors are "not good businessmen" is ridiculous.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

So does anyone else think that $5000 to install 15 cabinets with crown molding is an unreasonably high amount? No answer on manhours. I'm guessing it would require two men and they might take two days? Not sure how it could take that long either, really.

I have heard a number of doctors (talk about responsibility, skill and insurance out of the wazoo) rant about how much home contractors of various varieties make, too. More than them even. With problems. So it doesn't take an ill-informed, uneducated layperson to take note and question. They are paid well and far from living hand to mouth!! lol

The idea that anyone who has project woes all hire toothless lowest bidders or are somehow at fault otherwise is quite off the mark in my own personal experience. And while I have also ended up with cheap foreign labor, it has not been because I hired them trying to save money. They were a surprise -- even when I've asked who would be doing the work up front to avoid another disaster. And the price was still high on my end. I don't know where all these esteemed professional contractors are, that it seems so hard to find them and get the job done well and right (even when you think you have vetted enough and have someone competent lined up).

I agree that it seems a lot of contractors seem to think they are different or worse off than other occupations. All jobs have their stereotypes, difficulties, costs, pitfalls, people problems.

It's bad enough to tack on charges after the fact like that but to invoice without accountability for the expenses makes no sense at all. If he arrived at a number, he should be able to provide the details to back it up. I can see what the OP is saying, that it was even padded at the get go, so there was wiggle room already built in. Which they do anyway to cover themselves.

Good luck and I hope you post back with what actually did happen with costs!


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

"So does anyone else think that $5000 to install 15 cabinets with crown molding is an unreasonably high amount?"

Uh, YEAH ... I do!! We paid less than half that for more cabinets, and that's in California, land of inflated prices.

I'm still reeling over the $500 charge to trim a window and then paint it. I'm wondering why this guy even bothered to give an estimate if he had no intention of trying to stay within it. Oh yeah, that's right ... he had to give the estimate to get the job.



 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Just to clarify, a Fixed Price contract is "I will install and trim your windows to the same level as the existing windows for $900 each" If the contractor bids the price for less than the work ends up costing him in time or materials, it's on him. He eats it. If he over estimates the time that the job costs, then it's profit for him. And he'll probably underestimate one of the other jobs, so it's not like he's going to make a huge amount on a single portion of the job.

A better Fixed Price contract takes into account "ifs". " I will install and trim your windows to the same level as the existing windows for $500 each. If there are hidden conditions behind the wall, we will execute a change order to the scope of work to reflect the new conditions. All change order have to be paid in advance of the change in scope of work, separate from the original contract amount."

A time and materials contract is "I will charge you $100 per hour to install and trim out your windows to the level of the existing windows, plus the cost of the materials used on the job. Customer will be given copy of invoices for material, and time sheets for job time allocation. Not to exceed 10% of original estimate without prior authorization from homeowner" To many, it sounds cheaper than a fixed price, so they like time and materials. If the scope of work changes at all though, you run in to the changes costing you more than the fixed price guy.

In neither cases is the original estimate binding to either the contractor or the homeowner. What is binding, is the contract that is signed. When you sign a time and materials contract, you are promising to pay for however much time it takes to do the job, even if it's much higher than originally estimated. You're paying set rates for the actual time.

If you're doing something like an old house that has high potential for unseen damage, or you're wanting some unique custom work, then many contractors that will ONLY do the job by time and materials because there are just too many unknowns. And any contractor that will give you a price on something like that is not knowledgeable to do the job. Unless he bids really high ! Which in demand restoration experts can and do, and because they are in demand, have no quibbles about pricing from homeowners about rates at all.

However, when doing a time and materials, it's incumbent on the contractor to be a good record keeper. That goes for both invoices, and the time sheets that his employees (hopefully) sign at the end of the day. May contractors that I know have their employees fill out time sheets in quarter hour increments for the different aspects of the job.

None of them are hard cases about it, so in an 9 hour day, you might have an employee say they spend 5 hours on window trimming, and another 4 hours on wall prep for paint. It might be the other way around if you actually made them stop and write in the time as they went along, but it will all be close enough to be split out in their accounting software or Excel.

Yes, travel time to purchase or arrange for purchase of materials IS included in a time and materials contract. (It's also included in the fixed price, but it's folded into the bid as a whole.)

And the ONLY time a homeowner is allowed to see the invoices of a sub is for a time and materials contract, A fixed price is a bottom line deal. You can ask for a recalculation if you pull some jobs out, but don't expect the total to drop by a lot. A lot of the price of any job is that the guys are on site and can stay busy working on various projects and pulling one of the smaller projects out isn't going to save what it would cost to hire it separately from someone else.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

No light rail; one piece trim.

He was supposed to get back to me today but hasn't so far. I've asked for time sheets several times over the course of the project and was stone-walled. Should have been a big red flag.

It looks as if I've been charged twice for painting the windows, as per the spreadsheet. I asked at Lowe's about window installation, just for kicks and giggles. It's $99 installation per window including trim and caulk, even paying Lowe's GC fee.

Now, they're not Lowes, and I'd budgeted 400 per window, as per the estimate. But 900 per 30" window? REALLY?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Ashe as I stated in my first post working out an amicable compromise would be my first choice in resolving this issue. I would exhaust all reasonable avenues to reach this goal. I remember you stating something to the effect of settling on a resolution where you as the customer would not be totally happy, the contractor would not be totally happy and took that to mean neither of you were "getting your way" so to speak. You have illustrated a desire to be a cooperative consumer while also expressing a sincere willingness to work things out in a cordial fashion.

I understand the contractor is an acquaintance of sorts which I believe should have been reason enough for him to communicate with you more effectively but that is besides the point. In this case as the facts are presented by you there is no excuse or legal grounds for the contractors' outright refusal to produce and review a record of the time spent on the job with you the customer, in fact it is unethical. If you find yourself getting nowhere you may suggest mediation, your court clerk could recommend a reputable mediation program. If none of the above proves to be an avenue towards a resolution as others have mentioned you may be headed to small claims court. Please feel free to let me know if you feel this course of action is something you may need to explore and I will do what I can to help you look into this option as well as prepare if necessary. Small claims court is not as intimidating as it may sound and you can even sit in on cases being heard by the same court that will hear your claim beforehand in order to get a feeling for how things go.

I would like to stress the need for trying to settle this matter out of court while at the same time reassuring you that you do have other viable actions for recourse. I empathize with the toll a situation like this can take on all areas of an individual's life. Hang in there and I sincerely wish you the best.

This post was edited by SaltLife631 on Wed, Sep 11, 13 at 13:22


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I, too, would try to reach a compromise, but I would not be stonewalled into paying for a bunch of inflated extra charges simply because I was billed for them.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Just curious where in CA you are jelly toast, since I'm going to be looking for a cabinet installer soon.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Whoa, I forgot to hit refresh before my last post. You all are the most helpful people on earth! SaltLife, I appreciate the offer and I may have to take you up on it if things don't resolve.

I still haven't sat down and really added up the items on the spreadsheet the contractor left, but I was blown away to discover almost $2,000 for 'accounting and project management.' (All that creative accounting takes time. It also takes a lot of time to properly screw up the lighting.) Estimate: 0.

Contractor fees (at 15% of time and materials) total 50% over the estimate. I don't even see how that's possible if the estimate is 35% over.

24.5 labor hours for drywalling and priming around the little post at the end of the counter, which totals almost 1,000. Either the labor time or the price is wrong. Neither makes sense.

It's as if they're not even trying to make sense, actually. It's more of a big '**** you, I'll charge what I want.

I do see where I didn't allow for installation of the plywood base for the countertop (which will be tiled). $750 seems steep but I wouldn't argue if everything else was correct. So we're down to a mere $7250 over estimate.

Anyway, I actually feel more cheerful because any judge, if it comes to that, will just be in hysterics. Must take a video of the lighting.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

"It's more of a big '**** you"

No doubt. He thinks you're dumb, he's smarter than you and can get away with bs'ing you or thinks you won't pursue.

It ran 3 days to drywall the post, dry time. So I guess he charged you 8 hours a day, lol.

I wouldn't pay any questionable charges until there is a clear accounting, including changes that reflect the work that was *not* done. You did not interrupt his work flow, in that he often only showed up an hour or two at a time. That is a very costly way to work, at your expense. You, too, have rights as a customer for a reasonable execution.

You could also have your lawyer draft a letter, so he knows you mean business.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Query (seriously) - when a contract is time and materials, should a contractor include his own time for "project management and accounting" and then mark that up by his fee, too, or should the "time" part of the contract only include the crew's time for actual work? (I ask because I'm about to start a project, and last time we did one each member of the GC's crew, including himself, had an hourly rate associated with his time, but the GC did not charge for "project management and accounting", just for the actual time he himself did on the project).


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

"Accounting fees" ... for real? I guess charging for that would be one way to discourage customers from asking for an accounting of the actual charges.

$750 for installation of a plywood base on the counter tops? Those are some really high prices your guy is throwing at you.

I don't care if what this guy gave you up front was only and "estimate" and shouldn't be relied upon for his actual expenses as some others have suggested. His estimate was so far off that it is practically useless. Did he have any project management and accounting fees in his estimate, or did he just throw them in there at the final billing?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

All I can say is, my drywall crew took a total of about 4 hours actual time (but with 3 people working) to tape, mud and sand my entire 13x11 kitchen. (clarification-- not all of every wall needed work, but the majority of the wall space did get at least a skim coat.) So that would be 12 hours of labor.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

This is one reason why fixed bid contracts are nice - nobody likes to see the process of sausage being made.

In T&M, of course project management time should be billable. It is time spent, so it should be paid for.

I don't think GCs do themselves a service by adding a markup fee for labor. There should be a single customer-facing fee for labor - any underlying fee he negotiates for his subs (or himself!) should be transparent to the customer. A labor markup fee is just another thing to make customers upset, for no reason.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

SJHockey fan: obviously I'm not the right person to ask about that!

Here's another question--I asked about the electrician's hourly fee because they simply didn't work the stated hours (I was there). He said their $35/hour starts from the time they leave the shop and ends when they get back...regardless of McFlurrie stops en route.

So at 2 AM I started wondering whether the contractor's guys were charging for that too. If so...no wonder they loved working a couple of hours at a time!

Snookums and Raee: Yeah, the GC's $1000 drywall charge was right next to the drywall contractor's charge of $1500 to do 4 walls and the ceiling right through the kitchen and dining room. No sense of irony.

Jellytoast: No, there were no accounting fees in the estimate. Zip, zero. No mention of project management either. In the UK they're cracking down on companies charging exorbitant 900 line fees for calls to customer service because it's so clearly an attempt to discourage complaints. I guess that's what 'accounting fees' are.

The contractor flat-out said he forgot that it would cost $500 per window for exterior trim so that's why it wasn't included in the estimate. I guess he forgot the mysterious project management fee, too.

There was no transparency in any of this. The estimate was apparently a drunk's scribble on a cocktail napkin--and when a contractor says to your face that he knew the billing was out of whack but declined to tell you, and that he knew at pretty much the same time his worker told me it was all on budget, he's clearly a very poor GC.

I really do feel mortified by the stupid mistakes I made. I see disputes every day...I just didn't think it would happen to me, especially with a 'friend.' I have never had this happen with any other contractor. I'm generally pretty easy to get along with....I think.

We were planning to build a house with this company in about a year. This was kind of a test run. Obviously we won't be doing that now.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Ashe, I fired an electrician for charging me a "trip charge" every time he came out ... he'd work for an hour or two, get a phone call and say he had to go to another job, and then charge the trip charge every time. Complete BS. The next electrician we hired did not charge a trip charge (even though he came from further away), put in a full day every time he was on the job, and never charged a dime for time that he wasn't actually here working. Electrical was the only trade that we hired on a time and materials basis, BTW. But he did give us an estimate based on the scope of work that I gave him, and when he made an error that resulted in extra labor for himself, he did not charge me for it.

I hope like hell that you aren't actually thinking of paying your guy for these ridiculous charges. $750.00 to cut and nail a rough top on cabinets is crazy. We had actual windows installed for around $500 a piece INCLUDING the window, so to charge $500 for the trim not only seems steep, but actually crazy as well.

We are in the business and don't know of anyone who charges for time to and from a job site OR "accounting fees." If this is a common practice, we've certainly never run across it. And if they intended to do that, they should have been up front about it from the get-go, because really, who would expect that sort of thing? And if your GC is taking his fee onto these "driving" hours, you are getting ripped off twice.

If I were in your position, I'd tell him flat-out to come up with a more realistic and honest bill if he has hopes of getting paid any time soon.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

The funny thing is he complained about how much time he'd spent going over the figures and then said 'hmmm...that seems excessive' when I asked about that $1500 exterior trim bill. I'm hoping that I haven't heard from him yet because he has found a big glitch in his accounting software. There has to be one. I just can't believe they mean to rip me off like this.

I had already paid all but the last $4200 or so...unfortunately, with all the other stuff going on, such as my mom's illness and my FIL's illness and death, I didn't go through the bills thoroughly before, just wrote checks. Again, stupid me--I trusted them.

They totally blew me off about the lights and all the other things that are wrong until they got the full details of everything I am unhappy about (including a 1 inch interior gap under one of those expensive windows LOL) and realized that I was serious. Then all of a sudden, wow, yes, the lights ARE lousy even if "they work."

The rough top is on a breakfast bar as well--total SF about 88 I think. Price didn't include material. Is that really a lot? I was going to ask a tile installer what they would charge.

What business exactly are you in?

It has been helpful to hear all the advice about what's normal and how contracts should be written. Wish I'd checked this site BEFORE I made moronic decisions.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Ashe, we've all made mistakes when involved with real life problems, e.g. Fil's illness. Because you kept paying, he felt he could keep on ripping you off. Let him know you will contact the state board that oversees his GC license. Let him be under the gun to have his files reviewed. Perhaps others have already filed complaints? Don't hesitate to let him know you will begin with your attorney or small claims court.

Point is, you are now looking at your kitchen, finding lots of flaws, and want them corrected. Even if you overpaid, you expect good craftmanship.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

You owe $4200 off the original quote or off the final bill?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

$4200 of the final bill.

Yes, this will definitely go to the state contractor's board if it isn't resolved--and to plenty of other places, too.

I don't think I'd be quite so furious if they hadn't made some pretty asinine comments. Saying that sure they knew the budget was blown was one of them.

I'm willing to be reasonable and I'm willing to acknowledge things I did wrong, but I'm not willing to just be unmercifully ripped off.

The dishwasher guy came today and laughed his tail off over the window costs. And yes--the dishwasher pump is blown, and there's a good chance it's because I ran it without water after the kitchen was cleared for use.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I can't imagine an electrician charging only $35 an hour. Can't remember but ours were, I think, at least $120/hour. The trip charges, I have had happen and it doesn't seem uncommon. I think others just build it in, if they are not upfront about it. Who gets paid to drive to work? You at least have to work a full day for that, lol. Have had the shorties too, lol. Paid for lots of driving around!! Probably at about 25mph.

I'm glad to hear you are not going to take this lying down. The charges are an asinine insult to your intelligence. Or a sign of his, lol. Anyway, maybe get someone in (another GC, the township, an inspector) to review the project and charges. An audit, so to speak. Then you have solid ground in mediation/court. You need an outside professional opinion from someone in the field to justify your complaints.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

These are like electrical laborers, don't forget--the contractor told them (apparently badly) where to put things and they put them there. Or not. Don't know what happened...but I think that's a whole lot different from regular call charges.

Just for comparison, a breaker mysteriously blew after they moved the wiring (I've never had a breaker blow before, although I've re-set a few over the years) and they charged $200 to come and fix that. Took about 20 minutes.

Anyway, my real problem isn't with the electrician--he came in about on budget, even if he did a lousy job, and I wouldn't have even looked at his hours if I wasn't struggling to understand the bills.

As you say, Snookums, the charges are an insult. I'm not sure that I could get anyone to review the project--it's a small town--but that's a good suggestion if it comes to that.

During the meeting the contractor kept saying 'we hate it when a FRIEND is disappointed.' I hate it when a friend hands me a bill for at least $5000 in bogus charges-- possibly as a result of my ordering the floor myself from a flooring contractor that wasn't trying to unload his totally unsuitable excess material. But why didn't he talk to me about it like a grown-up?

We all censor what we say. As a friend, I shut my mouth over many things, e.g. when the electrician moved the wiring into a space where a bookcase was supposed to go (another thing in the plan I expected to get and didn't) because neither the GC nor the electrician looked at the plan first. But when I shut my mouth, I don't later hand someone the bill.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I wish you owed more. That way you could offer him X if he accepts it as final payment or the full Y if he takes you to court and wins. His response would be an indication of whether these are bogus charges or not. But at this point it sounds like you already overpaid (according to you) so you have less leverage.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

"Anyway, my real problem isn't with the electrician--he came in about on budget, even if he did a lousy job,"

That would be an area I'd be very concerned about. Budget smudget. I would be having all the electrical work inspected, if it hasn't been done already. Idiots. No electrician. You don't want to mess with these things. The breaker blowing would concern me even more.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

What makes a breaker go bad? I honestly never questioned this when they said "sometimes they just go bad." I don't remember the circuit for that room (a bathroom) ever tripping before, and all I can see online is that repeated tripping is what does it.

Maybe they were the ones tripping hahaha.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

The only thing I know of is breakers tripping (or fuses blow if that's the type) because the circuit is overloaded. Not sure what a breaker "blowing" means. Do you know what they did to repair it? Flip the switch, lol? $80 service call, $120 for the one hour minimum labor.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Nope, it wasn't tripped--those I can reset, and believe me, I tried! It went bad and had to be completely replaced. Or at least, that's what I was told. A breaker doesn't cost much but I wouldn't want to do that myself although someone less prone to shocks could probably do it...


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

We had a breaker go bad in a cabin. Given the whole situation I would have the electrical inspector or another electrician go over the whole system. Maybe I've seen too many episodes of holmes on homes.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I've had two breakers go bad in my house over the past 12 years. First time I called an electrician because I thought there must be a short. He just replaced the breaker and said "it happens." Second time (different breaker) I replaced it myself. No problems since.

I'm not an electrician by a long shot, but my guess is that flipping the breakers during construction just happened to stress one. If it's not tripping during normal use I'd assume it's ok.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I second debrak to get the electrical inspected regardless of the breaker issue, given the whole situation has been shoddy.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Yet another question if anyone's still around: the contractor still has not got back to me about the obvious errors in his spreadsheet, but is now very keen to get the lights fixed and the dishwasher replaced.

He, or rather the guy doing the actual work who I think is a partner, totally blew me off about the terrible lighting before I withheld part of the final invoice.

Am I limiting my options for court or whatever if I accept the work? I feel as if he's positioning himself to show what a great guy he is and how he costs more because he's not happy til I'm happy blah blah.

Before I'd realized how much they'd added to the budget, I'd decided to suck it up on the lights and have a decent electrician add 3 cans--not perfect, but relatively simple. When he came to look at it and say why yes, the lighting does suck, he re-marked everything, which will involve ceiling repair. I'm actually uncomfortable with having the electrician in the house but it may be the best thing to do. Otherwise I could end up stuck with the ridiculous bill AND a bill for a different electrician.

What do you think?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Well if there's ONE thing I would want it would be to have my kitchen done right. I'd just confirm, in writing, that he's not going to add to the bill which you're already in disagreement about, for this correction.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

"When he came to look at it and say why yes, the lighting does suck, he re-marked everything, which will involve ceiling repair. I'm actually uncomfortable with having the electrician in the house but it may be the best thing to do. Otherwise I could end up stuck with the ridiculous bill AND a bill for a different electrician."

Having walked slightly in those shoes in a recent kitchen remodel, I understand your double think, which is actually clear thinking imho.

That said, if the GC has offered to fix the blundered electrical and ceiling job on his dime and time (which you'll have in writing of course), then I'd be prone to allowing such to keep the job moving forward to conclusion for sanity reasons.

This would be incumbent on your full understanding if part of the original $8000 overrun included labor, costs, etc for the lighting and if it did, how so? Was the electrician ringing up the bill as he tried to figure his problems out, rather than seeking GC input for alternative solutions?

In my medium size kitchen (main kitchen and eat in pantry), I found electrical to be a cost driver above that anticipated. It definitely fell into the "extra 10% or more" planning folder. Some was definitely due to GC insistence, e.g., direct wire vs low voltage wire/transformer. He won, I paid.

Btw, how are your floors holding up with all this traffic and potential redoing. Don't forget about your floors.

Good luck to you.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Yes and no. You are not limiting yourself in court with regard to the overages unrelated to the electrical issues, you already paid him to properly install the lighting and to complete the other necessary electrical work. However if he were to fix the electrical work to your satisfaction you would not be able to go after that portion of the bill in court.

If you are uncomfortable with the original electrician I would find another one with the understanding that you may or may not recoup that portion of the bill. Electrical work is not something you want to leave haphazard. It may be worth it to have another electrician you trust do the additional work so they can also check the work that has already been done. Small claims courts have a limit on the amount of money you can pursue. You will need to check with the proper court personnel in your area to make sure you don't exceed that limit with the addition of the electrical work to the other overages.

Well organized people who can accurately convey their account of what happened with evidentiary support are who wins in small claims court. This is definitely a case of you get back what you put in. You will need to be well prepared and able to provide detailed records of what happened. Some of these records may come in the form of contracts, payment receipts, time logs as well as anything else you feel gives credence to your claim such as emails where you asked the contractor to review his time logs. While you may have been quiet about certain issues throughout this process such as your bookcase, court is not the time to be quiet, these issues as well as others such as the dishwasher should be brought up. You will want to stick to the facts as they are in your favor. From this point forward you should communicate with your contractor via certified letter, email or text and do not give him any more money. It would be worth your time to create a record of who worked which days and for how long they worked. While it would have been more efficient to keep a running tally this can be done after the fact and would illustrate to whoever is hearing your case that you are on top of things. Creating your own record of time worked would give you and the court a point of reference to compare to what the contractor presents. Obtaining what is known as a second opinion letter from another professional in the field would help your case. These letters are often used in credit card disputes with contractors. The letter should state the issue is a direct result of the contractor you are working with and specifically mention that contractor by name.

Good luck...

This post was edited by SaltLife631 on Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 14:45


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Ashe, are you sure he's not going to bill you for this "extra" work to fix the lighting? Does he have any reason to believe that the only reason you are withholding final payment is because the electrical is insufficient? It's now been two weeks that you have been waiting for an accurate bill. That is unacceptable. If he had been keeping accurate records, that bill would have been at his fingertips. Have you made a list of all the charges that you find questionable?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If he has time to fix his prior mistakes, he has time to look over the massively inaccurate accounting in his final bill, no? I'd personally ask him to prioritize his time for ironing that out, first, before doing any more work. That said, I have no experience with iffy contractors, so definitely listen to SaltLife's wise advice.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

The electrical costs weren't any higher than anticipated apart from an additional $1,000 to move wiring, which I'd agreed to. The electrician didn't try to figure out any problems--including how to actually light the kitchen lol!

The extra costs are actually $7000, not $8000, now that I allow for the plywood countertop base I guess was not included in the estimate, and the $200 trip charge for the electrical breaker that blew.

The costs come from:

$2000 project management fee (estimate: 0)
$1000 to drywall the post lol
$2000 apparent spreadsheet error
$1800 extra for installing cabinets
$1500 for exterior trim
$400 error in 15% GC fee on total that also includes $2000 spreadsheet error...

which actually adds up in a way that makes me, too, want to go eat salt and vinegar chips. But I think there were a couple of subtractions from estimate elsewhere that made my $7,000 figure fairly round.

I'm pretty reasonable--I don't mind if it cost a bit extra. If he could justify $2000, I'd swallow that. But this is just ridiculous.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I have to LOL at that $750 to cut and install the plywood rough top, too ... that's outrageous.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Electricians are not lighting consultants!


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I agree that electricians are not lighting consultants, so expectations should be on the lower end there. But, everyone cannot afford design consultants for everything. Some can barely afford to get the work done at all. So, if you are on your own, you should do your own research, talk to the lighting stores (not necessarily well trained either), talk to the electrician who does installations and sees the results at work all the time, so is not exactly inexperienced. They should have been able to do better than a half dark kitchen! And I believe a lot of them will advise on layouts or give advice. Mine did when I asked about whether my plan would have sufficient lighting.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 20:09


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

If there's one charge I ABSOLUTELY would not pay it's the $2000 project management fee. Forget the fact that he did a crap job of managing the project, but if that was not laid out in the original contract then he's got no right to spring that on you now.

I think you really just need to play hardball. Give him an ultimatum. Offer him X as a middle ground if he makes everything right with no additional cost, or "sue me if you want one more penny out of me and want me to bad-mouth you wherever I can." Include a required date of written response so that you can move abead with new workers without much further delay. In good faith, X should be a bit more than you think he's owed, and you should make that very clear when you present the offer. He sounds like he's got a decnt sized operation; I'd be shocked if he didn't just write this one off even if he genuinely feels he's owed the money. Of course any hope of warranty work probably goes flying out the door so you have to decide if you're comfortable with that.

I once sent a certified letter to a contractor telling him to stay the F out of my house and I'd finish the job myself and don't you dare come looking for money. I never heard back from him save for a corporate holiday card, which I found quite amusing. Much smaller job in my case, I figure I ended up about $1500 ahead because I was capable of completing it on my own

This post was edited by foodonastump on Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 20:26


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Whoa, I've really got to learn to refresh before I post something that I started writing before getting a lengthy phone call and cooking dinner.

Good advice, SaltLife; I've been printing out emails, texts etc. He already told me that the builder had had no idea the floors were going in and showed up with a crew--which is totally ridiculous and I have the texts to prove that. Presumably that's at least a few hours of the billing. The limit here for small claims is $5,000, so that would be OK with me.

I will also need to take some photos, which speak louder than Donald Trump.

I can't agree that electricians aren't lighting consultants--while they may not do a sophisticated plan, a competent electrical contractor who's used to working on new houses should understand how 'the cone of light' works and how far from counters can lights should be. I'm pretty sure 5 feet is too far.

If he is supposed to put a light over the stove and a light over the window and has a tape measure and a plan in his hand, he should also be able to get that done pretty accurately. Ditto the supervising GC, who confidently told me that the electrician was good at placing things.

I'm not at all a picky person but this was pretty egregious.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

P.S. I should have said "they are not lighting designers". They don't get into all the detail and technical stuff that a trained lighting designer does. I agree, that they know basic lighting plans, if only through experience, and should know the basics of how to place them.

I don't think you owe him a penny more at this point and don't see why you should give him half of the extra charges. He can't justify them and all the original work wasn't even done. He did a lousy job and his charges for some things are outrageous. He doesn't deserve a bonus.

This post was edited by snookums2 on Sun, Sep 15, 13 at 23:57


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Any updates?


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Bump ... curious as to whether or not a resolution was reached.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Another bump. Please update us!


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Whoopsie--sorry; I've been snowed under and haven't visited for a while. But no resolution yet anyway.

The giant hole (OK, inch-wide gap) under the window has been filled and covered with trim. The electrician came back last week to change the kitchen lights around so that I can actually see now, and the resulting holes in my new ceiling will be patched tomorrow. It's amazing the way everyone totally blew me off until I balked at the bill!

The contractor had said he didn't want to go over his revised billing until everything was finished up--presumably so that he'd have extra time for MSU. I'll report back when he gets back to me.

The moral of the story is, to me, that I should be more of a rhymes-with-witch when people are working. If you're friendly and easy-going (which I think I mostly am when I'm not being a total cow) then people just walk all over you. It's very discouraging.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

I am glad that some of your issues are being remedied. One important thing to note is that you are not responsible for funding the extra time spent on rectifying items that were done incorrectly by the general contractor or subcontractors.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Yeah-got that in writing! I wasn't taking any chances there!

They originally told me that if I wanted the lighting corrected I would have to pay for it as 'the lights work' --i.e. they switch on and off. The drywall repair guy took one look at the holes and said "how did they they ever think those would work?"


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Well, they got the lighting fixed and replaced the dishwasher. The GC had said he'd sit down and go over the bills once this stuff was done.

He didn't. He just re-sent the bill. So I filed a complaint via online dispute resolution and had it sent by certified mail. Haven't heard a dickey bird back.

If I had had any thoughts of letting it go, those completely vanished when I discovered that Yin and Yang the genius electricians had disconnected my freaking heating. Even the guy from the power company (it's an ETS heater) was floored by that one. He fixed it and I added the bill to my tale of woe; now I've discovered that they've likely also disconnected the baseboard heaters in another room. I am going to have to have an electrician come out and go over everything. It was inspected, but apparently not for idiot blunders.

Also, thanks to JellyToast for mentioning that $750 (actually $768, not including materials) was OTT for the rough counter. I'm so naive I hadn't even questioned that. I asked the tile contractor how much he'd have charged and he said "$100--and by the way, this isn't a very good job." When I told him how much they'd charged he was in hysterics--said either they're seriously incompetent or they're crooks.

In my complaint I offered to pay $2000 over the expected costs, plus $300 for countertop (3 x tile contractor's bid is pretty generous IMO) and asked for cost of electrical repair. I'm prepared to compromise; I'm just not prepared to bend over.

I am still in shock over the whole thing; I NEVER would have expected this to happen. It still doesn't square with my perception of these guys. But I've come to terms with the fact that if I have to go to court, that's what I'll have to do. I really don't care at this point.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Ashe42, thanks so much for the update, though I sure wish it were better news. I am just blown away that this still isn't resolved after all this time.

Good for you for taking a stand and refusing to just open your wallet to those ridiculous charges. I'm thinking it's likely he didn't "go over the bills" when he was done because he knew he couldn't justify the charges.

Hoping for a quick compromise for you so that you can move on and put that nightmare behind you. Please do let us know how it all pans out in the end.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

Ashe,
have you looked up the licenses of every person this GC brought to your jobsite to make sure they are all licensed?

you can file complaints on the electrician's license to your state, and file the same complaint to the GC license because he hired the incompetent electrician.

you can send copies of all of your issues to your municipality where the permits were pulled as well and let them know there is an ongoing dispute. this may prevent them from getting permits to do work in your municipality.

also, post complaints on yelp.


 o
RE: HUGE general contractor overrun

@ detroit: Pretty sure the electrical contractor is licensed, but the people who did the actual work--no idea! Everything was inspected and passed but I'm nervous about what else they might have unhooked. Don't think the inspector went up in the attic where there's a lot of wiring work.


 o Post a Follow-Up

Please Note: Only registered members are able to post messages to this forum.

    If you are a member, please log in.

    If you aren't yet a member, join now!


Return to the Kitchens Forum

Information about Posting

  • You must be logged in to post a message. Once you are logged in, a posting window will appear at the bottom of the messages. If you are not a member, please register for an account.
  • Posting is a two-step process. Once you have composed your message, you will be taken to the preview page. You will then have a chance to review your post, make changes and upload photos.
  • After posting your message, you may need to refresh the forum page in order to see it.
  • Before posting copyrighted material, please read about Copyright and Fair Use.
  • We have a strict no-advertising policy!
  • If you would like to practice posting or uploading photos, please visit our Test forum.
  • If you need assistance, please Contact Us and we will be happy to help.


Learn more about in-text links on this page here