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Tales of kitchen renovation ineptitude


Dianabanana
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Has anyone else noticed the cool herringbone pattern subway tile backsplash in FG's new kitchen? I really like it. So much so that I decided to do the same thing in my kitchen. It's not coming out anywhere near as nice as his, though, due to the utter ineptitude of my tile guy. So, I'm pretending that I'm renovating a farmhouse in rural Greece and this is just the latest in a string of amusing anecdotes involving the local characters. Like when he discovers 3/4 of the way through the job that the yogurt container of plastic spacers he's been using contains not all 1/8" spacers but somehow a random mixture of 1/8" and 3/16". That explains why nothing is in a straight line! A ha ha ha.

I'm sure I would feel better if I could hear a few tales of your kitchen renovation debacles.

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We measured and ordered our countertop ourselves and had a union carpenter come install it....nothing fancy just new Formica. We were replacing a piece of furniture with a dishwasher and a base cabinet forming a new corner with the dishwasher. I'll be damned if a dishwasher installed in a corner needs a few inches of clearance for the door to open. Not included in our measurements of course, so our new counter top is 1/2 inch shorter than the base cabinet instead of having a 2 inch overhang.

But it is cleaner and prettier than the old one...and the seam is not under the cutting board so it doesn't fill with crumbs.

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Sadly, using subcontractors that normally performed beautifully for me in commercial highrise renovations, I was treated to the following in my own kitchen:

- The pull out sink nozzle died with an episode of shooting water everywhere. I went to the home improvement mega store and purchased a quality new assembly so the guy would just have to do a quick switch out. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the kitchen and the faucet was fixed in the center and would only swivel to the right in my double sink. The best part was when he told me I got the wrong faucet and that was just how it was- "you have to pull out the sprayer to get water on the left". When he scurried home I pushed on the faucet and noticed that it wanted to go to the right and through the backsplash - it was installed 45 degrees off.... He returned that evening without complaint and just a quiet "sorry".

- The instant hot water heater from my recently renovated old kitchen was uninstalled by a union contractor and then I had another guy attempt to re-install it in my new kitchen. Hhmmm - no water coming out. The soft copper tubing under the sink literally looked like a Medusa's head. I just let that one go as I was not in love with the device. I did ask him to demo it so that the tubing was not taking up half the real estate in the base cabinet.

- My union painting contractor finished my gorgeous new maple kitchen cabinets with a semi matte finish as requested. I thought it looked awfully "thin". Within a few months I could see raw wood. They had the gall to tell me I must not be drying my hands sufficiently before touching the cabinets. I let them paint offices after that, but never let them touch kitchen cabinets again.

- I also seem to recall exhaust ducting that never made it to the outside of the house - just dead ended with an open piece of flex in the attic space...

I know these are minor compared to many tales. My Japanese neighbor who was about 4'-10" had new cabinets installed - they mounted them at ceiling height so she had to get on a step stool just to get dishes from the lowest shelf. They told her it was a standard installation - right!

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Tell him to rip out all the tile (it's easy) and do it ALL with the same spacing. You'd never get that kind of slipshod work in rural Greece. Go there and look at the tile yourself. It's certainly not amateur-hour on the Aegean.

That's just incompetence. If the contractor balks, fire him, withhold the "end of job" money and find someone else. Find a Greek. Or even better, a Moroccan. THERE is a culture that knows a whole lot about tile. But no matter what you decide to do, there is no end of tradesmen who are out of work. Most will jump at the chance for a job, no matter how small -- good references drive their business.

Or do it yourself. Tiling is NOT hard. My wife and I did 2,000 sqft of it when we bought our house. We'd never done it before. It came out great. Nobody does a better job on a house than the homeowners. You can learn everything you need to know in a couple hours on YouTube.

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Scoop - I think the problem is that in most homeowner situations the majority of the money has been laid out and the end bit will not give you enough to hire a new guy. Plus many contractors are hesitant to finish other people's work. I do understand where you are coming from, I just speak from my own experience in Los Angeles.

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Well, using different-sized spacers is simply unacceptable. He (I assume he) should make it right. No "ha ha what a silly mistake" excuses. My stance would be, "Make it right or get out of the house. And then deal with the feedback I'm going to leave on Angieslist, and every remodeling forum I can find."

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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Or do it yourself. Tiling is NOT hard. My wife and I did 2,000 sqft of it when we bought our house. We'd never done it before. It came out great. Nobody does a better job on a house than the homeowners. You can learn everything you need to know in a couple hours on YouTube.

I just re-tiled my bathroom with help from a friend who does professional tile work. You're right, sticking the tile on is not the hard part - prepping the wall is, but there is definitely a learning curve with cutting and spacing and making sure you don't end up with impossible little pieces in weird corners. I'd recommend Diana get a laser level and set it up in the kitchen. No question about what a straight line looks like then!

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Well, using different-sized spacers is simply unacceptable. He (I assume he) should make it right. No "ha ha what a silly mistake" excuses. My stance would be, "Make it right or get out of the house. And then deal with the feedback I'm going to leave on Angieslist, and every remodeling forum I can find."

I agree. This is not craftsman work, it sounds like an amateur and the effect will only become more visible with time.

Insist that he remove all the misaligned tile immediately and do it over on his time. You are paying for an expert job and should not allow slip-shod work.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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Or do it yourself. Tiling is NOT hard. My wife and I did 2,000 sqft of it when we bought our house. We'd never done it before. It came out great. Nobody does a better job on a house than the homeowners. You can learn everything you need to know in a couple hours on YouTube.

I just re-tiled my bathroom with help from a friend who does professional tile work. You're right, sticking the tile on is not the hard part - prepping the wall is, but there is definitely a learning curve with cutting and spacing and making sure you don't end up with impossible little pieces in weird corners. I'd recommend Diana get a laser level and set it up in the kitchen. No question about what a straight line looks like then!

We bought a top-of-the-line Felker tile saw on Craigslist. Used it for the job. I was going to sell it, but my wife nixed that. She wants a wet-saw for her tile mosaic projects. No tricky corners and jigsaw puzzle pieces are a match for the saw. And the tile saw is easily the safest tool I own. We can touch the spinning blade, because it's not sharp. No kickback, nothing to it at all. Anyone can use one. Tile is nowhere NEAR as hard as laying down a hardwood floor or building furniture. (Those are my hobbies.)

Who cares how time advances? I am drinking ale today. -- Edgar Allan Poe

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I know tiling isn't that hard. I tiled our bathroom floor and shower surround myself in a quite complicated pattern and it came out great. Unfortunately health issues prevent me from doing this project. Also, I live in a very rural area, and the only guy who could have done a better job has had a double knee replacement and can't work. There is no Angieslist here. This guy is retired and only does it for spending money, and for various social reasons (it's a small town) I don't feel I can ask him to redo it. It's ridiculous.

And I didn't mean to impugn Greek tilers! Just trying to conjure up a romantic vision, wasn't thinking about all the gorgeous mosaics, etc. . . .

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I know tiling isn't that hard. I tiled our bathroom floor and shower surround myself in a quite complicated pattern and it came out great. Unfortunately health issues prevent me from doing this project. Also, I live in a very rural area, and the only guy who could have done a better job has had a double knee replacement and can't work. There is no Angieslist here. This guy is retired and only does it for spending money, and for various social reasons (it's a small town) I don't feel I can ask him to redo it. It's ridiculous.

And I didn't mean to impugn Greek tilers! Just trying to conjure up a romantic vision, wasn't thinking about all the gorgeous mosaics, etc. . . .

That's terrible. Might as well stick with the romantic visions then :sad:

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We are about to start our kitchen renovation( day after Thanksgiving, yikes). The last kitchen I did in 2007 was great, except when I came home after a day away I saw that they installed the wrong floor. I got the floor of someone with the same last name. The cabinets were going in the next day, so the correct flooring had to go over the wrong floor and around the cabinets. We picked a vinyl flooring.

This time we're going with tile. I'm acting as the general contractor whereas last time, we had one who picked the subs( we also put an addition on the house at the same time). I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything goes as planned because I start my class for the bar exam on Dec 10th. Its all supposed to be finished by then. We shall see.

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Well, he grouted today and I have to say, I'm amazed at how much better it looks. No, it is not a professional job, and I think I could have done better myself, but I don't think I'm going to be glaring at it in irritation the whole rest of my life. I just keep telling myself I can always tile over it if I hate it that much.

Randi, you've got stronger nerves than I have. If I'd tried to do my kitchen renovation while studying for my bar exam, I'd be writing this from prison. Good luck on both!

Oh, and Jeanne, I did have his wife over yesterday! She thinks it looks terrific. She's a very supportive wife. :)

Edited by Dianabanana (log)
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When building our last house (one that I mourn leaving, it was my dream home with a killer kitchen and a HUGE pantry) we put in an outdoor wood pizza/bread oven. I got a full set of detailed plans from Alan Scott, who literally wrote the book (The Bread Builders) on this type of oven. Key thing for the internal lining of the oven - firebricks abut one another. No grout. At 800F+, grout falls out. I made a point of telling the masons about this, and told them to read the plans carefully because this is not the same as building a fireplace. They proudly finish the oven - 1/4" of grout between each brick. Had to pay a guy who worked for Alan Scott in the past to drive up (around 300 miles round trip) to "inspect" the oven because the masons told me it was fine. Of course it was not, confirmed by the expert, and they had to rip out the guts of the oven and initially wanted to be paid to do so and rebuild it correctly. Um, no.

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Alan Scott died a while ago. :sad: Good man and we hung out together for a few days when he came to Maine a long time ago. He lived in Marin near an old friend of mine and used to trade his bread for my friend's eggs. Well, my friend's chickens' eggs...

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Yea, I knew he had died. It was a couple of years after we built the house. I emailed him with pictures of the messed up oven and he gave me the name and contact info of the guy who eventually came out and inspected the oven and told the builders how to fix it. I never met him in person, but he was very helpful. We are now in another house, and I need to buy some new plans, since the builder promptly threw them away after "using them".

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When we redid our kitchen 15 years ago, I shoulda fired the cabinet guy in the design stage. I got the proposed drawings and quickly figured out he had WAY more cabinets in the design than would actually fit in the space! :blink: He redid that part and it turned out okay. I love my big, deep drawers on both sides of the cook-top. They hold a LOT of pots/pans, etc.

The design also showed double wall ovens with a microwave above them. Well, that might work for the Jolly Green Giant, but I'm barely 5'3", 110 lbs and no spring chicken! I couldn't have even seen into the microwave and the lower oven would've been on the floor! I made him redo that part and move the microwave to a different place. Fine. Got what I wanted. NOT! When the cabinets arrived, we had the double-oven +microwave from his original design. I made him redo it. So, now I have this weird little "slot" with a pull-down door above my ovens. It's kinda strange, but works great to hold my broiler pan and baking stones!

I won't even mention the mess he made of the bathroom we added on at the same time as the kitchen redo. What a MESS!

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