Monday, April 23, 2012

Renovation Issue Update and Narrative

I wanted to provide you with an update on the kitchen cabinet issue I was having between American Classic Kitchen (ACK), the distributor, and the manufacturer Wood-Mode (WM).

If you recall there were several issues I described in Another Frustration, where the distributor and manufacturer – specifically - were being difficult in supplying me with replacement cabinets covered under a warranty. The reason behind the manufacturer’s reluctance was the fact that I owed money to the distributor, not for the cabinets but for the cabinet installation. I tried to reason with WM and explain my reasoning behind holding back payment, but they insisted that they would not honor the warranty until I had paid ACK in full for any and all services. The problem I had with this was that the cabinets I purchased were – in fact – paid in full. I tried to explain to the WM salesman that I was having issues, unrelated to the cabinets, and that I was confused as to why WM felt that they should be in the middle of a dispute that was technically, none of their business or concern.

It was clear to me that WM was protecting ACK and not honoring their warranty without hearing my side of the story. I found this extremely frustrating so I contacted the CEO of WM to explain my side of the story, and stated that if they wanted to play arbitrator then they would have to hear both sides of the story. While the salesman at WM ignored me the CEO did have him reach out for side. Here are the issues I raised:

  • ACK contractors did not show up for four scheduled appointments, and of those missed we took three vacation days to accommodate them being there. In fact we were not informed that they would not be at the work site until we called late each morning to see when they would arrive. All we ever told was “sorry for the confusion”. I believe we should be compensated for our lost vacation time.

  • ACK’s kitchen installers advised us that they would not put down paper to cover the work area, floors and counters, and that it was our responsibility, which is unheard of for a contractor. We had our general contractor put down the paper and remove it for $125.00 each time. So with our missed appointments, that was four times we paid to have the coverage installed and removed.

  • There were 2 base cabinets that were damaged upon the initial delivery (in addition to doors and drawer fronts that were broken). To have the base cabinets replaced we would have had to wait several weeks, delaying completion of the installation of the kitchen, and ability to move into the apartment. The fact was, the damage would not be visible but given the premium cost of the cabinets we should receive some compensation. We discussed this with our ACK sales representative who saw the damage, took pictures. He communicated to us that he understood, believed we should be compensated, would discuss it with his boss, and go ahead and install the base cabinets. We discussed the cost of replacing the cabinets and “minimally” to refund the delivery charge of $675 as compensation. It wasn’t until we came close to completion that ACK stated that they would not provide compensation.  

  • Then there was misrepresentation of the cabinets we bought. When deciding on material we were advised of two choices, MDF, a man made composite material, or maple. The ACK salesman informed us that the main difference was there would be no splits at the joints of the cabinet doors and drawer facings for over ten years with the MDF, and five of six years for the maple. Given these facts we decided on maple. However, when the cabinets were received there was significant splitting on several doors and drawer fronts. When we raised this to WM they stated that we should never have been told that and that ACK was wrong in doing so. We should never have told us that. The WM rep. further stated that the "splits were normal" and WM would not replace the materials for this reason. Had we known this we would have chosen the MDF, rather than the maple.  

There are a few other issues, least of all the time, energy and emotion we had been spent on this kitchen, as example, ACK had made several mistakes in measurements that delayed trim work and cabinet installation. I found them to be very sloppy in many areas. One last interesting fact, the salesman at ACK, that sold me the cabinets, no longer works at ACK, a fact shared with me by the WM salesman. This only validates my case.

I shared all these details with WM’s CEO and salesman and suggested what I believed to be fair compensation. ACK offered me a pittance of what I asked for, as an example, $78.38 for the delivery charge. I declined the offer. Unfortunately WM sided with ACK and will only send me a replacement for one broken drawer. ACK does not believe I deserve anything for wasted vacation time or misrepresentation of their cabinets. I still owe money to ACK and will not pay until they take accountability and fairly compensate me for my inconveniences.

What lesson did I learn here? First, ACK is in the New York Design Center and I believed that I would be safe from poor practices going to this supposed “high end” distributor, which was obviously not the case. The other lesson is; I was correct in the statement that I have mentioned throughout the blog, always hold back some money from anyone who is doing work for you. While I had a lot of aggravation I did not have the double if paying my hard earned money for it as well. 

I just returned from business trip and will start conversations with design center to formally complain about ACK and WM. I have also received a bill from ACK's attorney seeking payment in full. I would pay if it was deserved. More fun ahead!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Renovation in Motion

Now that you have made all your difficult decisions, completed your plans, chosen your materials and hired your contractor, you can just sit back and relax, Fat Chance!

My experience tells me, that with all the planning in the world you will hit many bumps and have navy aesthetic choices to make along the way that will require you to make decision after decision. It is important that you are readily available to discuss the issues with your contractor(s) because any delay on your part will slow down the project, and it will be on you.

Some of the post start-up issues that will come up are aesthetic that you probably would not consider when you started out.

For example:

If you are installing tiles:

Tile layout

What cuts and direction would you like the tiles? This photo shows the layout of tiles that required the proper mixing of light and dark.

Wall Height(master)

What is the exact height that you would like the tiles to come up on a bathroom wall? Notice the photo to the right has the tiles coming up 50 inches.

What color grout would you like?

If you are painting:

What color do you want for the walls?

What color for the doors and trim?

Should you use a flat, eggshell or semi gloss?

The list goes on. I promise there will be no shortage of decisions that will have to be made on a daily basis. If your contractor(s) are not asking you questions, be very concerned. They may be taking liberties and making aesthetic decisions on your behalf. In my experience when this happens and you have not been paying attention, they may not want to make a change or will convince you that “their” way is best.

If you can, make sure that you go over the details of what is being done each day. If you see something you do not like, bring it to the contractor’s attention immediately. Let them know that you are on the ball and paying attention to the details. This will serve you and your contractor well in the long run.

Monday, April 9, 2012

How To Choose A Contractor

This can be one of the most difficult decisions you will make. Choosing a contractor can be as complicated as finding a business partner or hiring a long time employee.

Let’s face it, not only will you be practically living with them, you will be spending a lot of your hard earned money on them and very precious time. If you have friends and/or people you know and trust who have done some similar renovations, you are well ahead of the game, and communicating with these parties will be as a good a place to start as any. If you don’t as I suspect many of you do not, here is my recommendation on “how to choose a contractor”: 
  • Regardless of where the contractor comes from, you should also check with your local Better Business Bureau to see if there are any negative feedback about the contractors you are considering.
  • Ask each contractor for a minimum of three references of his most recent jobs completed, including the scope of the work; time to completion; problems they came up on and their resolution.
  • If possible visit each worksite and talk directly to the contractor’s previous clients. Ask them if they would hire the contractor again; if there were any problems that were difficult to resolve.
  • Thoroughly review all your bids. Make sure that you understand what the bids include and do not include. Be wary of contractors that come in too low, they are often the ones who want the job desperately and may be dishonest oh what things will cost.
  • Make sure you have a fair and reasonable contract, which details all the work to included and work to be excluded; and time to completion. If possible see if the contractor will be willing to have a penalty clause where he will decrease his fee if he does not live up to his time frame. Depending on your time frame, you may want to also consider a bonus if they are done sooner.

There is a Consumer Report that will give you more detailed questions to ask, and things to consider. From my experience, if the contractor is desperate to start and has no current work my advice is to be very cautions and be sure to do your homework on them. Good contractors will always have work, even in a slow economy, will have to schedule you in advance and will not be the cheapest. Remember, you do get what you pay for. 

Closely Monitor Renovation Progress

By the time I completed the "5 Steps" in working towards my renovation, I was ready to go. As I mentioned, part of your contract should have detailed the time frame to complete the projects. When you start, I suggest that you schedule a weekly meeting with your contractors to discuss the following:

·      What work will be completed that week?

·      Were there any problems from the previous week that caused any delays and is there anything you could do to help?

·      Is there anything that they need from you (you don’t want to be the cause of any delays)?

The more engaged you are in the project, the better the focus and attention you will see from the contractors.

It is great when you start to see the demolition of the old kitchen and bathrooms. It means you are on your way, but please remember it can be a very interesting rollercoaster ride, especially if you have not followed my "5 Step" suggestions.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Another Frustration

I told you in my original post that I would be sharing frustrations as we went along, to detail specific situations and how they were resolved - or not resolved.

I am in the midst of a heated negotiation between the cabinetmaker and retailer - Wood-Mode (WM) and American Classic Kitchens (ACK), respectively, and myself. I have fully-paid for cabinets that were damaged, are under warranty and the cabinetmaker is playing arbitrator and siding with the retailer, AKC and refusing to replace cabinets until I pay them for contractor work that has noting to do with the cabinets, which I have paid for in full. Now I have a fight on my hand and a lot of it has to do with principal.  Read on if you are interested in the full details.

When I was researching kitchen cabinets for style and design, I went to the American Design Center (ADC) in midtown. It has nine floors of retailers selling kitchens, bathrooms, furniture - and just about anything you would need for renovating a home.

While at ADC I happened upon AKC and fell in love with the cabinets on display, exactly as they were. 
(the kitchen, prior to backsplash installation)

I worked with AKC on the specific design for my kitchen, ordered and paid for the cabinets. When they arrived there were several damaged pieces that required replacement, a couple of the pieces would have delayed the installation for up to eight weeks, which I could not afford since the apartment I was living in was now sold and I was due to move into the new apartment in two weeks. We agreed to put the two damaged cabinets required for the installation in, since you could not see the damage, and AKC agreed to some sort of compensation for the cabinets, minimally the delivery charge of $675 was discussed.

As not to bore you with the specific details, AKC had made several poor measurements, which required replacements, and I received one drawer front three times (two were damaged and one was the incorrect style), and I am now waiting for the fourth try. Due to all the problems with the kitchen measurements and damaged materials the AKC contractor, who they billed for separately, had to come back several addition times to fix the issues. This also meant that I had to take time off work to wait for them. As if that was not bad enough they did not show up for four scheduled appointments, meaning I wasted my time. As a result, I am refusing to pay the bill for the contractors until we negotiate for my vacation time lost, inconveniences for not having a kitchen, and damaged cabinet fronts. In addition they are now saying they never agreed to compensation for the damaged and installed base cabinets.

This issue remains open and I have contacted the COO of Wood-Mode and await his advice. At this point I only want Wood-Mode to stand by their warranty and replace the damaged goods. So far they are saying they will not until I pay AKC, which has nothing to do with the cabinets, which I paid for in full. They are actually taking sides.

Stay tuned, more of this one to come.