My new apartment is tiny: 1bedroom, 580sq.ft., n 1930′ building that RE agents call “full of character”. The bathroom and kitchen haven’t been updated since 1970s, the floors are carpeted in something greyish with horrible stink (even in the bathroom), and the closets are randomly spread. [The photo evidence will be presented at a later date]. But overall, the amount of work to be done is minimal: no major structural change, no new plumbing lines, no new rooms to construct. I have been interviewing general contractors for a month and a half – in a meanwhile making housing payments in two places, in my current rental and the new digs. The time, literally, cost me money.
I am a busy man, a businessman, I have 3 crews and at any time work simultaneously on 4 projects. Here’s my IPad with samples of renovations I’ve done. [all impersonal, mid-of-the-road/granite countertops/maple cabs/Chinese tile interiors]. You want this closet here in the corner? Will not work. You want your own tile? I don’t do customers’ materials, only what I select myself. You want leveled floor in the kitchen? Will not do: I can only send a crew to your apartment for 3 weeks and I don’t like them spending more time. All fixtures and appliances, like oven and bathtub, should be ready for my crew to install, or I am sending them to other jobsite. Don’t bother writing down complete scope of work as you want it: I can tell you right away the minimum to do here will be 50K.
You want to scrape old layers and repaint existing molding? That’s too much work! It’s not renovation, it’s restoration! Full scope will take 5 weeks and 54K. Labor only.
[brought his sub with him. Both commenting while I am explaining the scope] GC3: you want sliding barn door? Yes. Sub: oh no, this is too complicated! Where would I find the track and other hardware?! GC3: you want new tub installed? OK. Sub: your building elevator is too small! GC3: You want wall mounted counter instead of vanity cab? Will do. Sub: What do you mean, no drawers underneath? And how you will support it? GC3: You want separate estimate for changing electric wiring? Call me I will bring electrician. Sub: no, we don’t have licensed electrician.
Called him on recommendation of an acquaintance (he is her school friend). He is too busy till August, normally he works on large commercial projects; if I want him to do this tiny job I have to wait 2 months.
Called him on a recommendation of an acquaintance (another one). He flat out refused to come over to see the apartment before I describe the full scope to him on the phone. Every item I read was met with incredulity and cries of outrage: “What, you want 2 counters in the kitchen?! And the closets reconfigured?! And the swing door exchanged for a barn door?! It’s all impossible to do in a small apartment – you have no space for me to send a crew! You are a woman, what can you know about construction! How dare you ask me for a proposed timeframe? It’ll take what it takes! 4 weeks? Ahahahahaha, you’re crazy! Besides, I work for MTA and can not be personally at your job site, but I will send some guys I know. ”
Supposedly a GC who used to build houses in Florida; just moved to NY due to lack of construction work there. I was shown his apartment that he is finishing to remodel before his family joins him: relatively accurate work if not a design or taste marvel. That’s fine – as long as he follows directions…I invited him for an estimate. ” No, I will not do electrical work – I know how to do it, it means to open the walls, too much work. No, I will not do multiple tile-backsplash: I have been laying tile for 24 years, and never heard of such idea; never mind you still want it -I will not do it it’s too much work. No, I will not install glass panel on a bathtub instead of sliding doors – I know them, they are only attached by silicone, if it fall on you I will not be responsible . You said installation instructions from manufacturer say it should be attached with special screws? Nobody who is in the trade ever heard of such a thing, that’s bull.” Etc, etc, etc. His final words: I will not work for you, you are too detailed and know exactly what you want.
Impressed me as an knowledgeable person (compared to GC##2-6) , able to listen and reply intelligently. Knows professional terms and methods of construction. A bit on a bragging side and full of anecdotes of “bad clients”. Sent me a fairly accurate break-down for an estimate. Asks for a ~~ half of what others demand and in 4 weeks time. I correct and comment on omitted items in his estimate, he confirms; I say I agree on his terms and tell him that after he reads and signs Coop requirements paper we can sign the contract and start demolition. He sends me his licensing and insurance copies, reads the Coop’s form but forgets to sign it (I sign for him, with his permission) I apply and receive Coop’ approval to start work. On Thursday we meet in the apartment, he brings electrician. I brought first draft of Contract, gave him to read. He says the payment fee is not to his liking: he wants me to pay his electrician a deposit upfront, “for the supplies”, and then to divide my payments into 4 equal – that’s more convenient. I explain that i only pay for the work and services provided, nothing upfront – exactly how I myself am being paid at work – and that a serious professional will have necessary $400-500 for supplies – which is part of his fee. I also agree to his requirement of 4-parts payments saying I will add this change to the Contract: paying 1/4 after completion of each stage of scope (demolition, construction, finishes and final punch list). They are not exactly happy with my reply (the GC7 says, half-jokingly, “Oh I see who am I dealing with here” – “Who?” -“You!”) but agree to terms after some negotiation; we walk around marking where to put additional outlets and discuss logistics. I give GC#7 the keys to the apartment, he is supposed to start on Friday. On Saturday I step in. Nothing has been touched. I call him.
-Why there is no tools, nothing is started here?
-My electrician will do his part first. On Monday.
But before that, on Sunday, I receive an email from GC#7. “You have unreasonable demands, we don’t work w/o deposit, you are unprofessional and not serious (!), good bye”.
Sooooo… for a week now I lie at night, eyes wide-open, and contemplate my own idiocy at getting involved into this American Dream of my own home, the way I want it , the way I like it…