My husband and I are in the process of renovating our beach condos. We have two on the same landing; one we rent, and one we use for us personally, and also share with our family and friends. These condos have undergone (required) extensive exterior renovation by the condominium association, and we just moved back into them at the end of May. Mike and I decided that it was time to do some interior renovation, including bathrooms, floors, and kitchen cabinets and countertop in our personal condo. We began this interior renovation hoping that we would be able to get the rental condo finished quickly, and made this known to all involved. It was an aggressive time frame, but all involved knew that, and assumed that we could finish the work in the timeframe desirable. As is often the case, things haven’t gone according to plan. Some of this is unavoidable, and some is quite avoidable. Sharing some lessons learned from this experience may help others experiencing similar events. These lessons can help navigate what can be frustrating experience.
- Assume that you must be the expert, and serve as your own GC. This means that you need to know the questions that need to be answered. In our case, this included knowing to mention that the repair line needed to be replaced, not just the toilet, cabinet and countertop. Why would we replace everything else and not replace that piece that was rusted? But the person who sold the bathroom fixtures to us as well as the plumbers who replaced the items never mentioned that pipe, nor asked us if we wanted that pipe replaced. We only noticed it after the plumbers had finished the work and left. When they returned to check a couple of toilets that weren’t working as expected, I asked about that pipe, and was told, “We weren’t told to replace it; we just do what we are told.” This answer resulted in my customer service sermon on doing more than you are told, and thinking for the customer. At least ask the questions.
- Expect problems, and allow time for those to be fixed. In our case that included tub fittings not being available for a more than 30 year old tub, a faucet being installed on a stainless sink that isn’t strong enough for it so it wobbles, and the living area of the rental condo being painted the wrong color. The solution for the tub fitting was found, but it was chrome, and the rest of the fittings that were already installed are brushed nickel. We chose to live with the difference instead of replacing the fixtures and having the subsequent cost of replacing the brushed nickel fittings with chrome. The same was the decision for the painting that was wrong. We are still dealing with the sink and new faucet that wobbles; we haven’t settled on the best solution for that yet.
- Be nice, in spite of it all, but stay firm in what is your responsibility, and what is the responsibility of others involved, such as the GC, the suppliers, and (in our case) the plumbers. This isn’t always easy to figure out. Who should be responsible for the costs and the delays in the case of the sink which won’t accommodate the new faucet which is so heavy that it wobbles? Should the customer know that is a potential problem? I don’t think so. What about the supplier who sold the faucet to the customer? Was there due diligence that wasn’t done? And the plumber who installed the faucet and left it without mentioning the problem to the customer? Not good customer service. But what about the cost? Any solution to the problem will cost more to correct the problem, and who should be responsible for that? That isn’t an easy question to answer. But it is a given that that this will be costly.
- Expect and be willing to accept less than perfection, or you will go crazy! Chrome may have to coexist with brushed nickel, and yes, it costs more for less than desirable, but so be it. Stuff happens.
- It is true that things will take longer than expected and cost twice as much, so plan for that. I have already mentioned some examples of this. Also, in our case this means that our rental condo will not be available for rental as quickly as desirable and expected, and even when it is, it will not be finished to my satisfaction. Costly unanticipated problems have occurred, and have resulted in a less than desirable final product. But what we have is far better than what we had, and we should not forget that.
This renovation project is a lot like life, I think.