Renovating with the Wrong Expectations

There always seems to be a common complaint from homeowners after completing an extensive construction project.  The words, “I love the bathroom, but the job took three weeks longer than my contractor said it would,” spread at the family barbecue as if the completion of the bathroom was a by-product of a month and a half of misery.  A large renovation can be emotionally and physically draining on a contractor and a homeowner equally.

In the beginning, everything is so exciting.  The homeowner finds and hires the contractor they are most comfortable with and writes the deposit check with extreme excitement.  It is not uncommon, at this point, to think that the project will be smooth sailing from demolition to the final paint touch ups. 

But then it happens…  The honeymoon phase is over and demolition has begun.  Before you know it, the real problems that are quite common to a contractor, begin to show their ugly faces.  The plumber doesn’t show up because he had a service call early that morning. Then the supplier forgets to tell you that the faucet that matches your light fixture, medicine cabinet, tile and drapes (*sarcasm*), is on back order and won’t be available for another month. 

These are common issues that come up on every job and it is understandable that one may want to jump all over the contractor and start yelling at him/her for poor management.  After all, the contractor is the gate keeper to your holy grail of construction, right?  Maybe so, maybe not.  Before one passes blame, it is important to understand the circumstances that arise from any endeavor, whether it be construction, a family vacation, or a wedding.

Most contractors have employees who work for them directly, but all contractors, at least in the states of Florida and Alabama, must use subcontractors.  Although a good contractor will have good, flexible subcontractors, even the best subcontractors run into scheduling and personnel issues.  The question comes up often, “Do you have your own employees or do you use subs?”  Well, the answer is: both.  By law, a contractor must hold separate licenses for building (there are three different building licenses in Florida for residential), roofing, electrical, plumbing, and mechanical (HVAC).

What does this mean for the building contractor?  After all, the electrical is in our construction contract.  Well, what is the contractor to do if the electrician doesn’t show up?  By law, the contractor cannot install a light fixture, a range hood, or an outlet, even if he/she is not moving a wire.  The contractor’s hands are tied.  If the electrician is fired, the job will be postponed even further, while the contractor tries to find another electrician to “fit it in” to their schedule.

The situation described, is the ultimate builder catch-22.  To the homeowner, the contractor is failing, but the actions by the suppliers and subcontractors are completely out of his/her control.  In no way would any contractor try to deliberately postpone a job completion.  How would he/she ever get paid and move on to the next project?

All in all, home renovation and construction in general is a great experience.  But many times the experience is in the eyes of the beholder.  If the client or the contractor are viewing their project with disgust, then the project is and will be a failure, no matter if the project ends a week early or not.  If I could leave one thought with a client who is about to embark on a journey of watching a caterpillar become a butterfly, it would be to remember that one needs to remain flexible and constantly communicate.  We are all human, which means that we do not know what the other is thinking unless we are told.  The homeowner and contractor are about to be married for a particular amount of time.  Enjoy the ride.


Jon Pruitt is the founder and President of Addison Riley, LLC: Design-Build-Renovate.  He is a State Certified Building Contractor, Real Estate Agent, Parade of Homes winner, and Past President of the West Florida Home Builders Association. He attended Pensacola State College and the University of Florida for business. He has always had a strong community background and continues be involved with many charitable organizations. On top of his organizational duties, Jon sits on the boards, or was previously involved with, the West Florida Home Builders Association, Five Flags Rotary, Mobile Better Business Bureau, Florida Gator Alumni Association, Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Membership Committee, Leadership Pensacola Class of 2014, Leadership Pensacola Call to Action, Skills USA, as well as many other organizations. Jon is a martial artist in the arts of Hapkido and Kyukido. He stays active with weight training, boating, diving/spearfishing, and spending time with his two young daughters.

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