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Old 08-03-2015, 01:11 PM
Location: Carolinas
18 posts, read 15,638 times
Reputation: 18


As a contractor who takes extreme pride in his work, I am at wits end. There is such thing as a homeowner who can not be satisfied. I have worked on walls and repainting now for 4 weeks. They could have moved in three weeks ago had I not been jumping through hoops. I'll tell a story that this situation reminds me of. I once built a deck for a friend. I went to several of my suppliers and happened across a good run of premium decking boards. They were prettier than I had ever came across. No knots to be found. This was very unusual. They never look this good. So I purchased from this supplier because this particular "run" looked best. I built the deck. It was as perfect as you have ever seen. I predried the boards for 3 weeks so that there would be no shrinking or warping. But this homeowner found one knot, the only knot, not even a indention, just a dime size dark spot from a knot. This was unacceptable. He made such a big deal out of it as if I did inferior work. All because of the one knot that he wanted replaced. Moral of the story, It was so close to perfect. Too close. With my present homeowner, they spend hours in the house just looking to find something wrong. Using a flashlight going around shinning parallel to the walls. Like an easter egg hunt. They get out their glasses to try to identify the "ghost" places. One says they see something, the other does not. I have repainted 5 times now. The majority of the house has 7 coats on it. I can't continue this. Another issue that they have is a 5 inch crack in the concrete at the end of a 100 feet driveway. I have shown them hundreds of documents showing that shrinkage cracks can not be controlled. 20 that show no concrete company warrants concrete. 20 documents from different states, including NC that show each states "Residential building guidelines". 10 documents from major concrete companies. Misc other. Apparently he thought that these fault lines/control joints were for looks. Not knowing that they are there because we know concrete will crack and we are trying to make it crack in a straight line rather than a crooked unappealing line. But concrete has a mind of it's own. And one of the cracks jumped out of it's intended path. Should I really have to replace this hair line shrinkage crack. Any product that goes down wet, once the water is removed, shrinks. Rule of thumb is 1/16 per 10ft. So, what protection do I have from the "never satisfied homeowner". They have my check, my final draw, my profit, and they intend to make me jump through every hoop as if it were a circus. The State approved guidlines as to acceptable work are of no importance to these people. This job is perfect. They keep saying that as the consumer they have to be 100 % satisfied before they pay. Some people you can't satisfy. What do I do?
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:24 PM
Location: Concord, NC
1,210 posts, read 1,935,112 times
Reputation: 804
I would try to work the homeowner. If that doesn't work then take pictures and take them to small claims court.
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:37 PM
Location: Tega Cay, SC
537 posts, read 547,764 times
Reputation: 894
Set expectations during your initial presentation to the homeowner and then have them sign off on any agreement on an acceptable number of knots or size of shrinkage cracks or what the finished painted surface should look like etc. if you sell them on how great everything will be then anything less than great is a disappointment. Anything better than what you agreed on exceeds their expectations.

Do the above and if future customers don't pay take them to court with your agreements and pictures and put a lien on the property if necessary.

Last edited by Proud Father; 08-03-2015 at 01:47 PM..
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:38 PM
Location: Charlotte, NC
106 posts, read 104,559 times
Reputation: 86
My father-in-law is a contractor, and he has had the same horror stories. He has had to sometimes either walk away and double his losses, or take a pay-cut by "admitting" he did shoddy work.

The above post is correct: Treat the estimate meeting like a "setting expectations" meeting. Show your self-confidence, but prepare them for the outcomes. Like a server at a restaurant that warns their table that the kitchen is backed up already, and it'll take time for their food to come out. But it's also kind of like products that have all the stupid "Warning" labels that only idiots would do: just covering all your bases. But often times, going through all the possible outcomes just makes you sound more knowledgeable, and they'll trust you more.

The simple explanation is American entitlement, mixed with the DIY "Home Depot" mind-set. The complicated explanation... is far more complex than that.

I'm sorry for what you're going through.
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Old 08-03-2015, 01:41 PM
Location: charlotte
74 posts, read 50,906 times
Reputation: 99
Yeah, tough situation all around. I would try and get a final punch list in writing from the client, with some clients, verbal punch lists can go on forever. Once you get a written punch list, do the items that they listed, do a walk through on that list and that's the end, hopefully.
If nothing else, you have a document trail here that can be used in court if required.
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Old 08-03-2015, 02:24 PM
1,585 posts, read 1,414,902 times
Reputation: 4934
What does your attorney say? I assume as a small business owner you have an attorney. If you have not checked with him or her contact them, pay the couple hundred $ consultation fee, and determine the best way to legally get your money. They have no interest in paying you, once you walk away it will be amazing how they can live with and brag about your inferior work to their friends. This is all under the assumption you are into this project thousands and thousands and not just a couple of hundred.
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Old 08-03-2015, 02:31 PM
Location: NC
6,032 posts, read 7,530,799 times
Reputation: 6350
Bottom line is that there is no satisfying this couple!! Time to get firm. Either pay up or deny them occupancy.
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Old 08-03-2015, 03:34 PM
Location: Charlotte Metro Area
2,155 posts, read 3,370,387 times
Reputation: 1657
When I had my driveway done, the contractor said, "the only thing that you can guarantee with concrete is that it WILL crack".

Tell them to wait 10 or 15 years and see how many cracks they have.
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Old 08-03-2015, 05:13 PM
Location: Carolinas
18 posts, read 15,638 times
Reputation: 18
Thanks for the responses. I have not once, ever had a homeowner who even mentioned one flaw. People who know me know that I am extremely particular. This quality that I require is beyond the industry standard. Meaning that my subs would quit working for me if I required them to do what I want done. So I "take it from here" after they have given it their best job. I can't ask that of them. So, I do it. I will never be the same again. I have had great customers... up till now. I love... or did, love what I do. I feed off the homeowners excitement. Not that I am insecure or anything, in need affirmation, but I love to impress them with quality they could not have foreseen. I hate this situation. I will never have that excitement again. I will always be fearful of getting screwed. My contracts will look like a book rather than have any faith in humanity. Never again will I do change orders without taking payment. No more just doing it, allowing cost to default to me that I may never see again. I do not have a lawyer. What I actually need is to consult with a construction specific attorney. My contract is to build within 6 months. It is now 4. I was finished in 3 but have spent the last month jumping through hoops. Anyway, I may leverage the house sitting for two months. No Certificate of Occupancy until we come to a reasonable agreement. Surely there is something in place to protect me. The idea that a homeowner has to be 100 % satisfied opens the door for them to get out of paying. If they keep moving the goal post, eventually you tire of running.
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Old 08-03-2015, 05:25 PM
Location: Carolinas
18 posts, read 15,638 times
Reputation: 18
I should clarify something, the thought that I can finish a house in 3 months sounds like a track builder. This is not the case. I have been on the job everyday since day one. I do 60% of the work. Drawing the plans, footings, framing, boxing, wood floors trim, point up, decks, grading, forming concrete, etc. This allows me to plan a schedule. In most cases the house sits while it waits on the next sub. And if you don't know when he is coming, you can't schedule the sub after him. So everything creeps along in increments. But with me doing most the work, I can schedule electrician, masons, plumbers, etc.... when I need them, because I know when that will be. So, LOL, I just don't want anyone to think I am a track builder, LOL, no offense
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