Let's Talk with Lois Winston

March 17, 2022

Given a Choice About Murder and a New Bathroom

If you had asked me two months ago which I’d prefer, dealing with murder or getting a new bathroom, my answer would have been a no-brainer. Now, having endured the renovation from Hades, I’m not so sure. Murphy’s Law states that if something can go wrong, it will go wrong. And it certainly did!

First, it took several months to nail down a contractor. Many never returned phone calls. Of those who did, most never showed up to give us a quote. Or they showed up but never followed through with a quote. Or they all won the lottery.

We finally received three quotes and chose the contractor recommended by the tile store. We liked his attitude, and we didn’t have to worry about him taking our money, then not showing up, because he didn’t ask for a first payment until the job was nearly finished. Most contractors want 1/3-1/2 payment upfront.

Unfortunately, as conscientious as he was, some of his workers weren’t. One of them dropped a sander on the ledge of the brand-new bathtub, creating a one-inch dent. However, the contractor took responsibility and told us he’d pay for the repair.

The tub manufacturer recommended a repairman, who said, “When I’m finished, it will look like new.” He proceeded to make the damage worse. He came back a second time and worsened the damage further. He came back a third time with his boss, who increased the damage even more, then said, “This is as good as it’s going to get. Live with it.”

Excuse me? That one-inch ding in my tub had grown to a twelve-inch area that didn’t match the finish on the rest of the tub. So much for, “When I’m finished, it will look like new.”

The contractor gave me two choices. He could try to find someone else to repair the damage, or he could rip out the tub, the tile, and the pony wall and replace everything. He was visibly relieved when I suggested we start with the less drastic solution. He found someone who agreed to come out that afternoon. Turns out this second repairman knew the first repairman and his boss and had nothing good to say about them. He spent half an hour working on the tub, and now it really does look as good as new.

No more problems, right? Not exactly. The marble backsplash for the vanity arrived broken in half, the mirrors arrived scratched, and the shower fixture was missing the installation hardware. It took a week for the replacement parts to arrive. The next morning, after the fixture was finally installed, I stepped into my brand-new shower to discover I HAD NO HOT WATER. Turns out the cartridge that regulates the water temperature was faulty! Murphy was having a heyday with me.

And finally, there was the painter, one of the most incompetent, sloppy men on the planet. He kept getting wall paint on the woodwork and woodwork paint on the walls. Every time he came back to fix one of his mistakes, he created another. Worst of all was when he spilled paint on the newly tiled bathroom floor and tracked paint footprints on the hardwood floors in the bedroom and hall!

But aside from still waiting for the replacement mirrors, which are on backorder, everything is now finished. I’ve taken my first hot shower in my new bathroom and touched up the paint myself. All is right with the world—for now. We still need to hire a painter to paint the rest of the interior of the house, which hasn’t been painted since it was built eighteen years ago. I’m dreading this, but at least I know which painter I won’t be hiring!

And now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going back to the calming Zen of murdering people (on paper, of course!) If nothing else, my reno experience has given me lots of ideas for future victims, starting with a sloppy painter!

Do you have a home repair horror story? I’d love to hear it. After all, misery loves company!

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15 thoughts on “Given a Choice About Murder and a New Bathroom

  1. My mom was having a new sink and countertop put in her kitchen. They’d taken everything out and left for they night. About two o’clock in the morning I get a call from her that there’s hot water spraying everywhere. I lived about twenty minutes away so I had to drive over there shut the hot water off at the hot water heater and mop everything up. The shutoff valve under the sink had failed. The remodel company did fix everything though.

    1. Sandy, it’s always a good idea for everyone to know where the main water shutoff is located. You mom could have prevented a lot of the damage if she knew how to turn the water off. I hope you’ve since shown her. The house we’re in now had the hot water heater on the second floor. The first thing we did when we took possession, even before moving in, was to install a tankless system. We’d lived through two hot water heater fails in our previous house, but luckily they were in the basement.

  2. Hi Lois, I feel your pain. We just barely survived the installation of closet doors in our new condo apartment. It took three tries to get doors that fit. This is from the most famous ‘closet’ provider — the one with all the ads. I have to say, however, the murphy bed work was flawless. Enjoy!

    1. Cheryl, we had a similar experience years ago with a “famous” waterproofing company when we wanted to finish our basement (not the same house where the water heaters failed.) I’ve grown very suspicious of the companies that advertise the most on TV. If they’re that good, you’d think they’d have plenty of business and wouldn’t have to bombard us with their commercials every time we turn on the TV.

  3. Thank you, Lindsey. I did include a picture of the new bathroom. I had taken photos of the damaged tub, but they didn’t come out well enough to post.

  4. Hi Lois. Eek, I cringed as I read your account. I could see those paint footprints on the hardwood floors…surprised you didn’t commit murder right then! We did a full kitchen remodel last year. Took forever but most of the contractors were pretty good (except for the first incompetent plumber, whose work was fixed by an actual pro…and the tile guy rocked!). But the cabinet folks were something else. One drawer front ended up with two extra holes where apparently the installer drilled in the wrong spot for one of the drawer handles, re-drilled in the right place, and then said, eh, good enough and left it that way. It took 3 different shipments of a replacement drawer front to get one that wasn’t dinged up, mis-stained, or all around wonky. But now I love my kitchen!

    1. Glad to hear you’re finally happy with the kitchen Diane. I have a sinking feeling our mirrors will again arrive with scratches when they finally ship.

  5. Hey Lois,
    We did a bathroom remodel about three years ago. While it was far from smooth, it was nothing like your experience! Holy cow. We do know a great painter here in SoCal. Unfortunately, I don’t think they’d want to do the commute! Best of luck with the last of the job.

  6. We remodeled a kitchen in our first house and the entire procedure was a dream (nothing damaged; cleaned up each day after work; showed up on time – you name it). I was spoiled. In our next house, my punch out and re-do list was as long as my extras added list. You can imagine how that went over with me – especially when someone dropped a light fixture and chipped out the marble sink (replacement time) or when there was a hole left under the laundry sink (was it to have been a drain or what? and it was capped with a metal cap that didn’t fit … come on back guys. Then they sent a painter to touch up an area they’d had trouble with when I wasn’t home – hubby let them in instead of telling them they needed to call me to set up a time. the painter not only must have dropped his brush, (it was only a tiny spot), but he managed to pour part of a can of paint on a chair a few yards away on which I’d unfortunately left a suit on (good cleaners; paint came out; another painter came in and cleaned up everything else. I am convinced Murphy’s law has a way of raising its head with anything to do with a house.

    1. Debra, sounds like your horror story was even worse than mine. Yesterday the replacement mirrors arrived, and wouldn’t you know it, one of them has a small chip in the corner of the paint. I’ve had it. We called the manufacturer, and they’re sending us a jar of touch-up paint. It’s just not worth the aggravation of ordering another replacement, which may or may not arrive in pristine condition. I’m convinced quality control has gone the way of the dodo.

  7. This is why I wrote STYLED FOR MURDER about Marla’s mother doing a bathroom remodel and finding the project manager dead in the shower. Our job foreman when we renovated our bathroom was terrible at his job and had very poor communication skills. The bathroom looked great when done but the process was highly stressful.

  8. I have not had any home renovation horror stories, though I hesitate to put that out there in the universe. One of the things I noticed a few moves ago when we were getting a basement finished was that contractors called the shots. If it was a good day for hunting, fishing, or golfing, then they wouldn’t show up. And from their rates, they were making very good money without having to master Organic Chemistry or Calculus first. I was envious if you want to know the truth!

    1. Maggie, judging from how difficult it was for us to acquire quotes, I have to assume there aren’t enough contractors for all the work people want done. Maybe we need more kids going to trade school.

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