02 Nov Renovation Revolution – The Arbiter of Sanity (Unedited)
I took the project for some reasons that were clear to me and others not so clear. I’m sure a phycologist would have a field day theorizing why a person would put themselves in this position by choice. Hero complex? Superiority complex? Still trying to prove I’m better than the other guy? What better way to prove my brilliance than fixing “their” shoddy work, right? Damn that ego!
Even the call from the building inspector warning me that this was a “very problematic” project wasn’t enough to deter or scare me off, although it did raise a red flag. The fact that at least 1 other contractor told the owner in writing he wouldn’t get near it and would forbid his employees to work there on side jobs should have been enough. Or the fact that a 3rd party inspector that I respect was stunned by what he saw, and a very good friend of mine referred me because he felt too overwhelmed by the condition of the house once he visited the site. (Or is he such a good friend after all?)
Nope, none of that did it, I soldiered on and convinced myself I could save this house and get the owners back in the home they had been longing to return too for most of 3 years.
It started with a series of phone conversations with my friend about a house he had been asked to look at by a mutual friend that was tasked to investigate the problems by an attorney. Our mutual friend worked in this capacity on a regular basis so he knew or thought he knew what to expect. The already sheetrocked structure had been sitting unfinished and in an obvious state of distress for a period of months. No air-conditioning or heat for 2 ½ years, no yard drainage, unfinished walls on the exterior and a leaky roof were just the beginning of the journey as these were just the obvious things, the things that weren’t hidden inside the walls, under the shower floor, and in the attic.
I agreed to meet the owner on site.
Listening to the owner explain the situation, and being very experienced, and seasoned, I knew better than to take any side and remain skeptical when assessing the positions of the owner and his complaints about the contractor. Obviously, there are lots of emotions and tons of pressure, everybody feels justified for their positions and at this point they are both dug in like a tick. I also knew that at the end of the day my job was to solve the problems I could see, and what the client’s budget would allow for because as with all rescue projects time, money, and patience were going to be in short supply.
I normally feel a sense calm when faced with the day to day pressures of being in business, it helps bring clarity and purpose when decisions must be made, and resolutions reached. I’ve never felt intimidated by a structure and the challenges of building or repairing it, it’s been my life’s focus much like a painter and a blank canvas who loves and even craves the challenge of creating a beautiful outcome.
Little did I know the extreme extent of problems and how supremely bad this structure had been constructed and re-constructed. But mostly, I wasn’t prepared for how much reconstruction for the lives of the owners I was going to be challenged with as well, these poor people were shattered, and I felt a responsibility to guide them through this quagmire with all the empathy I could muster, but it would prove to be challenging to the extreme.
My 1st reaction when I saw the house was to turn and run, I told my friend “Good Luck” and I wasn’t interested, I already had enough work and didn’t need any new lessons. Also, I told him emphatically that unless the owner had $ 200 thousand dollars in hand, it was going to fail again. Even though this is an upscale neighborhood, experience has taught me that all clients have a limitation of both money they’re willing to part with and patience for a long drawn out remodeling process, any experienced builder/remodeler will verify that. I did however volunteer to provide my own assessment and a rough estimate of cost to repair and complete for a fee. They excepted my offer and now I was hooked like a guppy in a fish tank.
During this short period of time, maybe a 5-week span, my friend was sharing pictures with me that the owner was emailing him, 1500 of them, taken during construction. I was beginning to get intrigued as the owner had been very detailed and thorough with his photo record. Feeling as though the contractor he had hired wasn’t supervising the job properly the owner took it upon himself to make frequent visits to the site and recorded multiple pics each time. This would prove to be invaluable and I recommend this to anybody that’s remodeling or even building a house.
Slowly, as I reviewed these pictures, I developed a storyline or vision of what had been done and it only brought up more questions and confusion. Why did the roof not drain properly, why were virtually all the walls in the house, including the old ones not plumb, why was there a 1 ½ “sag in the brand-new floor, and why did so many ceilings look so damn funky? Who framed this thing and how did they get so much so wrong? The harder I looked, the angrier I got, but who or more accurately, how many people were at fault? Was this simply a project gone wrong, a stupid contractor or was there a larger picture to look at, I started seeing the beginnings of a very complex problem. It was as if two or even three different contractors were working there and no- one was in charge. Were my instincts that good or was I just lucky, because in the final analysis I was right all along.
So here I was, fully committed and hired to asses and budget this house, little did I know I would end up as the 4th contractor. And I thought I was smarter than the average bear, smh.
To be continued……………….