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Bathroom Reno Surprise


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January 14, 2020 by Rob Blackstien

Our 2012 article about ensuring you get paid rings timeline if the endless stream of comments that has ensued from it is any indication.

For instance, Ottawa-based Laurent recently filed the following story. Anyone have any advice about how he should proceed?

I got surprised on the last day – second last day of the job: bathroom reno (customer bought all the tiles, appliances, and fixtures), and we were installing the vanity (tub and custom shower were already installed). It came with leveling bolts. When the customer saw that we needed to level the vanity, he freaked out saying his floor should have been level (we never talked or communicated leveling of any kind – just floor repairs). It was completely unrealistic since the floor would have had to be raised a full inch at the entrance into the bathroom (ensuite from bedroom).

Then he decided that the location of the shower head was off by 1.5″ (a location his wife, the designer, chose; a location I advised against, and the one I advised would have been where the husband wanted it).

Then he complained about the bathtub not draining properly… free standing tub on a sloped floor… he didn’t want me to use the leveling legs that came with the tub because it would show a gap where it met the tiled floor, and he didn’t want me to caulk it.

Then he decided that he was due a full new subfloor, not just replacing the area where we had to effect repairs. This is ludicrous since the contract stipulates “floor repairs” and not “floor replacements.”

After kicking me off the job site, he claims the drain of the tub was leaking. He said he filled it twice and both times it leaked. I reminded him that he kicked me off the job site and that he was in breach of contract. He got his own plumber.

Then he calls me to tell me that the tub faucet (free standing variety that has water lines coming from the floor) was flooding the ceiling cavity whenever he tried to fill the tub. He was implying that the piping I installed was leaking. I informed him that since the fixture only leaked when he tried to fill the tub, that the leak couldn’t possibly be in the piping I did, otherwise it would constantly be leaking. He claimed he didn’t understand any of that, and said he was calling a plumber.

I got this email from them a week ago:

“Hello Laurent, Just to keep you in the loop, we have begun the process of hiring experts to attend to each and every detail we have had problems with. When everything is completed and our cost are tallied, we will give you the details.”

The implication is that I am somewhat responsible for any costs they have incurred.

They are preventing me from honouring my part of the contract. It is my understanding that I am not liable for any of their costs because any deficiencies in my workmanship are covered by the warranty and that the contractor has to be given a reasonable chance to rectify any defects in workmanship. They are depriving me of over $4,000 in revenue (about 25 per cent of the total contract) as a result.

What are my options?


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3 Comments » for Bathroom Reno Surprise
  1. Paul Hood says:

    The story sounds eerily similar in many respects. I didn’t have an unlevel floor but I did have the same tub and faucet configuration. The owner did some reno in their home just prior moving and the contractor then was thrown off site, not being allowed to finish. That should have been the first clue. I was vetted very carefully for their next home. The job went fine for the first 98% then it all broke loose, very similar to your story. I could not finish or correct deficiencies, was locked out, was out 25% or about 23,000 in my case. I eventually sued for 25k, received a counter suite for 25k and settled for 2k before court. They had too much evidence that I couldn’t refute without going back. I know they provided photos that 1) were not in the house, 2) prior to us finishing and said that’s the way we left it. All trades and my employees said the customer was happy when they left yet I found myself in this similar position at the last few days. I don’t have great suggestions but would love to hear others feedback. I feel there are some owners who plan to fail, and some who you just can’t satisfy, ever. Fortunately the good outweigh those by a lot. My learned experience is to vet the customer as much or more than they vet you. be willing to say no to them before you start. Also, document the project clearly with emails, photos, and daily logs throughout, especially the large one because for all those good customers, there is bound to be a bad apple coming your way that you won’t suspect and you need to be ready. In your instance, I would suggest you lick your wounds, glean some lesson from it, and don’t waste energy fighting. Put a smile on, forgive them and forget about it. You’ll be better off for it.

  2. david cousens says:

    (We’re) Assuming this contractor holds some form of professional designation? Red seal Carpenter, plumber? The school of hard knocks is tough. Having been in this game for 30 years, I have learned not to take customers at face value. It’s a sad, but a unfortunate reality in today’s world. On the residential side I’ve had to bring over the commercial change work order forms. I’ve also had to take notes and pics of before and after. With notes I’ll ask customer to sign indicating that have been made aware of the situation.

    All our work involving owner supplied box store junk, comes with notes on the quote explaining that the warranty is provided at point of purchase. Also, we’ve added time for incomplete or work required to fix owner supplied equipment. Allowing the home owner to dictate the improper installation of equipment is a automatic stop work order! If this contractor is a handy man, looks good on him!

  3. Marten Burghgraef says:

    I too have been in your shoes. Some homeowners are just plain evil or something like that. You will never make them happy. If it is the guy you have been dealing with, wonder if the wife is the one that’s not happy, ever, or hard to please, or something. You will never be able to make them happy. You will never get your money unless you want to fight for it. It wont take long to get to 4K in legal bills, whether you use small claims court or some other legal way.

    The way I read your message, it sounds like you are 100 per cent right. It just sucks that you will not be able to win this battle.

    Early on in my business I wanted all the work. I was warned not to take on the weird clients. If it didn’t feel right, walk away. I didn’t listen. Each time I thought/believed I could win them over. Each time I lost anyway. Now if I have a gut feeling that something isn’t right I say no. It’s hard to do, based in part on my personality, but had to be done. It’s happened at least four times perhaps more. I lost a boat load of money. Now I’m much older and a bit smarter, I hope. It may still happen but hopefully not.

    Live, learn, move on. There are bigger and better projects available. And there are a lot of nice people in this world.