Thursday, June 16, 2016

Making it right

Here's the "sump installation" we were left with from the previous builder.

The city inspector just shook his head and said "it's really too bad".

Here's the sump pit after 48 hours of the new builder on the job:

Notice the concrete was cut and repaired as well. 

Also done at the same time, the footing for one of the primary supporting posts.

This was the washer box installation which the city inspector made us rip out: 

The new builder cut it out and replaced it with a new one. 

The porch has to be mostly rebuilt - the inspector wouldn't pass it:

Our patio was destroyed too. This one we'll have to fix by ourselves.

The cabinets that were supposed to be saved for the basement were
found scattered around in the garbage or tossed in the dirt.

It turns out that in addition to some very serious deficiencies and breach of trust issues, materials left by subcontractors for the completion of their work were reported missing. So we will have to pay for new paint and some electrical and  HVAC components. The tile prep work has to be redone as well. We learned that the professional tiler who we were told was doing the work, actually had nothing to do with it. Once brought on site, he was quite taken aback that we thought he'd done it.

But what a difference to see a foreman and full crew on site daily at 7am, going full force to complete our renovation and doing authentically professional work. 

 The trucks are there every day, things getting done before you knew they were started. These guys don't mess around. We're so impressed and thankful. It's been less than a week so it's a bit too early to say how things are going but they've certainly gotten off to a good start.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

A new chapter

The last month has been a real roller coaster but today we signed a contract with a new builder to complete our renovation. It is a large commercial builder yet a family run business. In addition to building schools and large commercial buildings they also specialize in restoration and maintenance of historic houses and in the renovation of rental properties for high end property management firms. Our project to them is small. Why would they even bother? Well, some friends of ours who own an historic house and who have worked with this company made a personal appeal on our behalf. They came to see the house and agreed to help. It took a couple of weeks to finalize, but they gathered all the original trades on site and had a massive meeting, confirmed everyone's prices to complete the work and spent dozens of hours estimating and meeting with the city inspector and engineer. The effort they put into their contract proposal alone was impressive. Even though we've been shaken to the core by a nightmare of a building experience from before, we had confidence to proceed with this new builder on the recommendation of our friends and the strong effort they put forward in good faith to make a proposal that would work for us.

At this point our worries go from being a million different things - dozens of deficiencies, months of delays, dishonest billing, contract violations, breach of trust with bank funds, bullying and extortion, and even a break and enter where materials were stolen - to being really just one thing to worry about, which is the financing side of it, since the costs to finish are now about double what they were supposed to be.

The new builder didn't waste a minute getting into the job either. They were on site today and already cut the basement slab for footings if the structural supports. I imagine our neighbors will be hugely relieved to see work finally happening on the house, with a full crew on site in a daily basis. Finally, a real builder.

No time wasted getting started: concrete work for structural supports started immediately. Shoring up the beam with proper equipment as well. What a difference already.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Getting back on our feet

On this cloudy and cool June day we met with the new builder to review costs and scope of work. The builder met with all our original trades to firm up prices and gave us a revised proposal. The cost was higher than their original estimate and there were also a few TBD items and some details about the retaining wall and porch that need firming up. It far exceeds our original budget even after cutting the carport and greatly reducing the back porch. The stairway that was supposed to be a central feature of the house will end up being a typical, rather nondescript affair. Cheaper materials are likely to be used in several places. There is a lot of remediation work needed. But we have to move forward, and we are at least thankful that this company can get the work done in a two month time frame with a full time dedicated crew on site. 

Once the work begins, we can hopefully start to sleep again.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

An update, but still in limbo

It's been nearly four weeks since our previous builder walked off the job and left us with a half-finished house, large cost over-runs, and major deficiencies. It's been a very stressful time trying to get the project restarted and a brief update for friends and family who're following this story is probably due.

We contacted the subtrades and ensured that they had been paid. We were also given a staggering invoice from the builder, and according to the contract budget and the work done, I calculated that the invoice was four times higher than it should have been. There are many deficiencies and problems that hadn't been corrected. A lot of work was so poorly done that it has to be redone.

Significant structural work was left uncompleted. This is very disappointing as the City Inspector, the engineering firm we hired, and the architect's office, were all ostensibly monitoring progress and keeping things on track. However, the builder had made several unauthorized deviations from the plan, removing a critical part of the foundation and leaving out required steel supporting parts.  And although we had been invoiced and paid for the carport excavation, footings and structural work, no carport was actually built at all or even started.

So, this means we have jack posts with concrete pads to install in the basement, and we have to open the exterior walls and weld in some steel hangers, install and LVL beam, and add a Simpson strap and tie-down to a post that was supposed to be metal and for some reason was instead replaced with a stack of 2x6's by the builder.

In any case, after clearing up the trades we retained a lawyer to draw up a release letter to close things off cleanly with the contractor, and negotiated a settlement to pay half of what they wanted, which was still double what it should have been and leaves way more than that amount worth of deficiencies that will have to be fixed.

Then it turned out that the builders crew damaged the Hydro One power lines last fall during demolition and didn't want to pay for it.  Our lawyer said in no uncertain terms that this is completely the builder's responsibility, as is fulfilling all of his debts and obligations to his suppliers up to the time of the termination of the contract.

Evidently materials that were left by some of the subcontractors to come back and finish their work had also disappeared from the site as well. We know the builder's crew illegally broke into the property to retrieve a ladder, taking some private property as well.

We spoke to some potential builders and through some friends were put into contact with a company that is now working on firming up a contract to complete the work. Needless to say it will cost a lot more than we planned for and will take away most of our equity in the house that we had built up.  It has to be done, though.  And I guess it's necessary to take this time to get properly restarted with a new builder.  Hopefully next week I'll be able to write about the plan going forward.

The Top of the Slope

After a year-long hiatus I've been wanting to get back to this blog because a lot has happened in the meantime, and a lot of interesting...