This is part 2 of a story examining the process of choosing a contractor. At the end of part 1, David and Sarah were deciding between working with 2 contractors. Let’s look at the results of one decision below.

David and Sarah choose the less expensive contractor (we’ll call him Jim). They meet with Jim at their home, read the contract that includes the same generic project description and sign it. They provide a check for the $1000 down payment and the contractor says he’ll have the basement designed in a week. However, after meeting with the other contractor and thinking about the questions he asked, they’ve decided they’d like to implement some of his suggestions. They mention to Jim they have a few things they’d like to change- Sarah wants built-in bookshelves along one wall to store books, games and kids toys, and David wants to add a fireplace below the television location. Jim says that’s no problem and he’ll include them in his design.

A week later Jim visits David and Sarah to show them his design. It’s a floor plan that’s drawn roughly to scale on grid paper. It shows each of the room shapes, where doors are, and where the bathroom fixtures are located. Jim says his design services stop at the floor plan and he doesn’t have an eye for colors. He reminds them that his design services are free, which they acknowledge. While the general idea is what they want, David struggles with visualization and isn’t sure the rooms are big enough, especially the family room where the tv will go. The bookshelves are drawn on the plan but there aren’t any details that illustrate them.

Sarah has also started looking for paint colors and flooring options. She’s overwhelmed by the number of options and can’t make a decision. They decide to ask friends for help picking things out and proceed with Jim’s design. Jim tells them the additions they wanted to add will cost another $11,000. They’re pretty sure he understands what they want so they agree and write another check.

After the walls are built, David measures the bedroom and discovers the queen bed and dresser they plan to use won’t fit in the room. He asks Jim what can be done and he says everything is the way his drawing shows it will be, so changing those walls will be an extra charge. They agree to another $1,500 change order.

Jim’s sub-contractors begin installing the electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems and things seem to go pretty well. There aren’t as many light fixtures as Sarah thought there would be though. Jim says it will cost another $2000 to add the extra lighting. The contract didn’t specify anything about lighting so Sarah expected there to be enough lights. They meet with Jim and discuss the lighting. Jim becomes defensive and accuses them of expecting him to work for free. They say that’s not the case but they thought he was including more and don’t want to spend extra money. The contractor eventually concedes and adds the extra lighting at no additional charge.

These types of small miscommunications and difficulties continue throughout the project. The basement was originally supposed to be completed within 6 weeks according to Jim, but with changes and additions the project took 11 weeks. David and Sarah ended up spending $64,000 once all of the changes were made and while things look alright, they’re mostly just relieved to be done. They make the final payment to Jim and part ways.

Three weeks later, one of the cabinet doors on the built-in shelves cracks. David decides to look over things before calling Jim and discovers two light switches aren’t working correctly, the bedroom closet doors are rubbing the carpet, the paint around the shower is starting to peel, the grout in the bathroom tile floor is cracking and there’s a wrinkle in the family room carpet, among other things. David calls Jim and doesn’t get a response for over a week. When Jim calls back he says he’ll come over as soon as he can, but it won’t be for several weeks. David is frustrated and leaves an angry review for Jim on Facebook, which Jim contests. They never hear from Jim again and hire another contractor to fix the problems for $3,600.

Sarah seems to find something that’s falling apart a couple times a year, but life is busy. They can’t keep spending money hiring people so David spends his weekends on Youtube, trying to figure out how to fix everything.

In true choose-your-own-adventure style, read part 3 to see how a different decision might change David and Sarah’s remodeling destiny!

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