Dave The Contractor

A never-ending saga of home improvement

After a hurricane, we had to have our sunroom rebuilt because a tree fell on it. Fortunately (or unfortunately) for us, we happened to have Dave the Contractor working on our bathroom at the time. Dave was a relative of a friend, and while he does good work, he also has a number of personality issues that make working with him difficult at times.

The Bathroom

Dave got off to a bad start on the very first day of working on the bathroom when, while cutting the bathroom vanity in half with a Sawzall, he nicked a hole in the cold water pipe inside the wall. This would have been bad enough had he realized he did it, but he did not. Water started spraying inside the wall, through the wall into the next room, gushing down through the ceiling of the kitchen below, and further into the basement. When he realized what had happened, he shut off the water and cleaned up, but by then our daughter's fairly new laptop was destroyed along with many of her books, the ceiling of the kitchen had a 6" hole in it and a long, ugly gash where the tape had come apart, some hardwood flooring was warped, and there were gallons of water in the basement.

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Dave felt terrible about the mistake, cleaned up the water in the basement, and apologized profusely. He said his insurance would cover the damage, and he would fix the kitchen ceiling, which he did, and after he fixed it, it wasn't possible to tell where the damage had been. He did good work in the bathroom, and while it didn't turn out exactly as we had planned, it looked great. After the 1974-era bathroom we inherited with the house, we were pleased to have a modern, updated one.

Then in October, a major hurricane hit the east coast with unprecedented fury, dropping an historic amount of rain and packing high winds. It caused several trees to fall in our yard, one of which landed on our sunroom. This room was essentially a concrete patio with a room built on top of it. The walls were almost entirely windows, and at the time, they weren't in great shape, with some of the panes loose. When the tree fell on the room, we heard an enormous "boom" and looked out to see nothing but branches out the windows. While the damage wasn't visible from the inside, it had buckled the roof, popped out two of the window panes, and the force of the wind had actually moved the wall on the other side out about 4 inches at the bottom (this was probably because the walls weren't actually attached to the floor). The door no longer closed, and had the wall moved any farther, the whole room would probably have collapsed. You can see this in the photo below... the bottom of the door sticks out farther than the top because of how the wall shifted.

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Dave happened to be at our house working when the homeowner's insurance adjuster came to look at the damage to the roof. He had a lot of experience working with insurance people, so he jumped right in and advocated for us. He told them he would be doing the work on the sunroom, which was news to us. He also talked to the adjuster about how much it would cost to get the work done, how the room would need to be completely rebuilt, and asking for more money than they initially wanted to give us. While he might not have been our first pick, despite the initial flood, we liked the work he did on the bathroom, and we were happy to have him help with the insurance.

The Sunroom

After much planning, permits, blueprints, and picking out things, in March of 2013, he began tearing out the old sunroom. He tore out all the walls and propped up the roof with poles. Because of new construction codes, he had to pour concrete below the existing floor in order to support it, which he told us after he was done that he had "learned how to do it from a YouTube video."

The floor of the sunroom had been sloped because it was originally an outdoor patio, and it was something that made putting a table on it somewhat difficult. Dave was going to level it for us, and said that someone in his family had recently had a bunch of imitation hardwood flooring ripped out of a kitchen that he was redoing for them, and he offered to give those to us. It was very nice, and we were really happy that he found a creative solution that would save us a lot of money.

He did level the floor, but when he finished with it, it wasn't smooth; it had a lot of ridges running through the concrete. Eventually, when the flooring was placed on top of this, you could feel all the ridges running through the floor. We asked him if there was anything to do to smooth it out, but he got angry and defensive and said that he couldn't fix it, so we had to live with it. Anytime we found any kind of problem with his work, he would get really defensive, but generally he would fix it. Overall, though, we were pleased with his work. He started work in mid-March, and it was mid-May by the time he finished building the walls and installing the windows and sliding door, but there was one key element which we still needed...

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The Siding

When it came time to do the siding for the new room, he couldn't match the siding to the rest of the house. He petitioned for the insurance company to re-side the rest of the house too. Dave had another job lined up so he couldn't do the siding immediately, and we had to wait until late in July, with an unsided room that was covered with Tyvek, but all of the siding for the house was going to be redone thanks to Dave. Again, we probably wouldn't have picked him to do the work, but since he engineered the whole job, we didn't really have much choice. At first he said he was going to subcontract it out because it was a pretty big job for him and his assistant, but eventually he decided that they could do it, but he might hire a third worker.

Dave and his single worker started at the end of July, working on sections of the main house. Keep in mind, our backyard had been a construction site with piles of trash and dirt since Mid-March, so about 5 months, and during that time our lawn was largely dead around the sunroom, and nails were a constant hazard everywhere. Dave's trailer had been parked in front of our house for a large portion of that time, drawing complaints from neighbors as well. He had forgotten to remove the screens from our windows, many of which were damaged by falling debris, but he eventually repaired all of them.

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Things Fall Apart

Work on the siding for the whole house was eventually completed in September of 2013, and we no longer had the trailer parked in front of our house. It looked great, and we were really impressed with the job that Dave did. He also let us know that if there were any problems, he would fix them, which was great because there were problems; the only issue was how fast he would actually fix them.

Once in a while, wind would blow single pieces of siding from the house, which we found somewhat disturbing, but Dave would come and put it back up pretty quickly. This was an occasional thing in our lives: every now and then, we'd find a piece of siding on the ground or a passerby would let us know about it, we'd text Dave, and he would fix it. Then, in the middle of May, 2015, I noticed that a small piece of siding at the top of the house was loose, so I showed it to Dave. He went up on the roof and fixed it, and after looking at the siding on that part of the house, he looked concerned. He said that his assistant had done that part of the house and "didn't do a great job," so he said he was going to fix it once he was done with his current job.

Text Messages

June 3, 2015

Me: Hi Dave, Any estimate on when you can fix our siding?
(Dave called and said he was redoing a bathroom but would be able to start later in the summer)

August 14, 2015

Me: Hi Dave- the siding is separating on the side you said you were going to redo... Any timeline for getting started on that?

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Dave: I'm hoping to get to it after cool down a little bit.

September 24, 2015

Me: Hi Dave- any ETA on the siding? It looks like it's not flat against the wall in places.
(no reply)

October 14, 2015

Me: Hi Dave, any idea when you can redo our siding? It is coming away from the wall and separating in places.
Dave: I did not forget about you I am trying to get there before the cold weather comes

December 29, 2015

Dave: Hey Ken I hope you had a nice holiday I did not forget about your siding hope to take care of that soon for you
Me: Ok, sounds good.

Then, in February, the inevitable happened during a bad wind storm. The sound coming from outside made me think someone was pounding on the wall...

February 25, 2016

Me: Hi, Dave- lost some siding last night. Any way you can stop over and do something? I found the pieces that blew off.

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Dave: Hey Ken I'm gonna stop there today to look at it I will be there Monday to redo the side
Me: Awesome... thanks.

Now that the siding had started coming off, the remaining pieces were falling off every day. The 25th was a Thursday, and that meant having to wait 4 days for Dave to come and fix it, which ensured that the ground was covered with nails and pieces of siding. The remaining pieces were falling out fast because the nails apparently weren't in the studs, but were just in the wallboard. I found about 90 loose nails on the ground and on the roof by the time Dave came.

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Finally, Monday the 29th came around, and Dave rolled in around 10:00 to fix the siding. He brought a different, hopefully more competent assistant to help him. They started working, and almost immediately it started drizzling, so they stopped and left. It only rained for a few minutes, but that was enough for them to quit for the day, but it's not like he let me know that, they just didn't come back.

February 29, 2016, 1:37 PM

Me: Hi Dave, any idea what time you're coming back?
Dave: Be there tomorrow morning

Once again, redoing the siding on the side of the house took longer than expected because they had to strip all of it off and start over, but by the end of March they were done. Dave left his big extension ladder behind on our patio and told us he'd pick it up later. He has a habit of doing this... he did some work for Mary's mom and left a ladder on the side of her house for months, and now he was doing the same thing to us. Two months later, after numerous text reminders, and us tripping over it, the ladder was still in our back yard. In late May, he finally picked it up. Hopefully that's the last we'll see of him for a long time.

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