And what can’t go wrong? Nothing. Literally everything can go sideways during a remodel. This is one of the biggest reasons that it’s important to be on-site during a remodel — whether it’s you personally, or someone you’ve hired to manage the project. And if you’ve hired someone to manage it for you, then they need to be proactively communicating project updates to you.

The more hands-off you are — the higher the chance of things going wrong….whether it’s workers making the wrong decisions without someone there to guide them, or schedule delays because workers couldn’t get an answer, so they left your job site to go work on another job.

This nearly happened several times during this job, but crises were averted because I was there. Every. Day. Since I put myself in charge of the entire project, I had no one to blame but myself if the schedule slipped, or something disastrous happened.

We ran into a few hiccups in the kitchen. The cabinet installer was installing the upper kitchen cabinets, with room for moulding to be inserted between the cabinets and the ceiling. Seems fairly straightforward, right? Wrong.

When I arrived to review the work, the installer told me that the cabinets had to be installed in an unlevel position, because the room wasn’t level. The 2” gap between the cabinets and the ceiling was supposed to have moulding. But because he continued to install the cabinets, with the gap increasing with every new cabinet, he told me this was no longer possible. Because the room wasn’t level. Excuse me?

We had a few words about the problem. He told me there was nothing he could do….after he installed all the upper cabinets incorrectly, and that he wouldn’t reinstall them. I told him that I wasn’t happy, and that he needed to fix it (and he also wouldn’t get paid if he didn’t install it correctly, with the moulding).

It’s because of situations like this, that it’s actually illegal in California for contractors to ask for (or accept) a down payment on a project for greater than 10%, or $1K (whichever is less). These laws are there to protect you. If a contractor asks you for more than this as a down payment, you can remind them about the law (they might not be aware), and offer them the 10% instead.

After going head-to-head with the contractor, I returned a few hours later to find out that he magically fixed the problem! That the ceiling “unlevelness” was no longer an issue, and that he wanted to make sure I was “happy.” He was able to adjust the cabinets so they are now level to the ceiling, and installed the moulding at the top without a problem. After completing the moulding installation, would you believe that contractor actually asked me for an unscheduled payment towards the project cost?

Of course, I said no. Our upfront agreement, in writing, was that he would be paid the sum of the project upon completion. He said ok, and he left.

One problem down, how many more to go?

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