Am I a pushover?

We’ve been getting our kitchen and bathroom replaced. We’ve been in the same house, with the same bathroom and kitchen, for a loong time – been chugging along with the same old fittings n fixtures, getting them repaired when desperate, until we inherited a bit of money at about the same time as our tumble dryer exploded and we discovered the dishwasher had been quietly leaking its waste behind and under the kitchen cupboards for months.

We decided to go mental and spend a big chunk of the inheritance on a new kitchen and bathroom.

And then we discovered that getting a new kitchen and bathroom is EXPENSIVE! We spent months and months trailing around various suppliers and fitters – getting ideas, realizing we’d have to up our original budget in order to get what we wanted.

And I didn’t think that “what we wanted” was too extravagant. We wanted a kitchen and bathroom that, once complete, was easy to keep clean and maintain. That was easy to use and that was going to last us a good long while. We wanted good quality without going overboard – basically we wanted something that was not going to start to peel, delaminate, crack, fall off, come apart, leak or anything similar for a decent length of time.

Personally, I thought that was what everyone looked for. Perhaps I’m wrong. Or perhaps people prefer to spend less, but more often. I’m lazy .. I’d prefer to go through the hassle of it as little as possible.

Once we’d realised that, in order to get a decent quality, we’d have to up our budget (by doubling it!), it was just a matter of picking someone. We tried our best to balance price against the quality each trade claimed to provide – and at the end of the day, we could only go on what we were told. We had to assume that, if someone said they’d do something, if they quoted for it, they would actually do it. Properly.

Now, I realise I’m kinda building this up to the point where you’re expecting me to say that everything ended very badly – that the job was a complete nightmare and the end result was awful. It wasn’t. It was an eye-opener though. It was simply the birth of the realisation that, just because a tradesman SAYS something, it doesn’t make it true.

For example …

We decided to push the boat out on the kitchen worktop.  It was going to be there for a long time, we’d researched all of the alternatives, and the best top that we could afford, that ticked all the boxes of being easy to maintain, resistant to stains, marks and scratches, together with being hygienic too, was a Silestone worktop.   We were looking forward to it arriving – we had a fairly tight schedule as the entire project was due to take approximately 10 working days .. leaving only a couple of days spare before we were due to go off on holiday.  The worktop was due to be one of the last big things to be installed prior to the finishing touches.

On the day of installation, the kitchen guys arrives with the big slabs of worktop – started fitting them and, as I was so excited to see it in, I was there as they were putting it into position.  Virtually straight away, before they’d even fixed it in place, I pointed out a scratch on the longest piece of top.   It was many inches in length and semi-circular in shape, at the edge of the surface.  Yet despite me pointing this out to them, they continued to fit.  The main guy then apparently rang the manufacturer to ask if there was any way to buff this scratch out.  Apparently they gave him the affirmative and told him to use a green scourer with some Cif (cream cleanser).  He did this, which did indeed reduce the impact of the scratch, although it was still visible if you knew where to look, but in the process he had damaged the area around the scratch.  As we were due to be going on holiday Friday of that week, we discussed the problem and he agreed to get the worktop repaired or, if that wasn’t feasible, replaced.

We left on holiday, secure in the knowledge that, by the time we got back, it would have been sorted and we’d just need to let some workmen in to get it fixed, one way or the other.  Unfortunately it didn’t happen like that.  After several seperate visits from the worktop guys, each telling us a “definite fact” which contradicted the previous “fact”, and the kitchen guy getting more and more frustrated because, basically, he just wanted his money and get onto his next project, I had dug my heels in.  We were paying a lot of money for something billed as “the perfect worktop” and it was very far from that – and they were wanting to pay us off and have us just accept the worktop damaged.

In the end, they decided they would have to replace the worktop – but it took weeks to get sorted.  I felt I shouldn’t have to get involved, as the worktop guys were supposed to be dealt with direct by the kitchen guys, yet in the end I had to force them both to be in the same room at the same time, so that I could get some sense out of them without complaining it was “the other persons” fault.  On the up side, the worktop guys fitted it themselves, and did a much better job than the kitchen fitters had (the first time), however, there were still flaws in the surface that they were obviously not planning on doing anything about, they made me sign a “waiver” stating that I was accepting the quality of the surface, and they refused to give any discount.

Now, to my way of thinking, they had done a bad job the first time, they had dragged out the repair/replace process following that, and they had sent several different “professionals” out to give me duff information.  I should have been completely within my rights to expect a discount of some sort.

At the end of the day, it is now all complete (barring the finishing touches).  But the whole process has left me with a bad taste in my mouth with respect to so-called “professionals”.  The “high quality” kitchen installation was an uphill struggle and, stuff that seems obvious to me, didn’t apparently seem obvious to them.  The back of the cupboards aren’t fixed to the walls for some reason (they’re fixed to the walls, but there is an inch or so gap, I guess to allow wires, etc, to pass behind).  Which would have been fine, except they fixed them on bare plastered walls, which means now I keep getting little dustings of plaster dust dropping from behind.  The actual backs of the cupboards are plywood, which hasn’t been fitted securely on one or two of the wall cupboards, meaning they bow out when you push against them on the inside of the cupboards.  One or two (of the backs) have actually dropped a little, where their fixings have come loose.  The under-cupboard lighting strips have not been fitted the same way .. some are on their sides, some aren’t.  These type of things aren’t visible, unless you’re looking for them, but it leads me to wonder how many other things have just been “bodged”, that I can’t see.

We have just had a decorator paint the kitchen and bathroom.  His quote stated that he would fill and prepare all timberwork and plasterwork, prior to applying three coats of paint.  Now, to my mind, “prepare timberwork” means sanding down to a smooth surface, filling any gaps, etc, and cleaning off, however, it was very obvious on, for example, a window cill where the previous paintwork had risen and crazed a little bit, that this hadn’t occurred.  He simply painted right over it.  When I pointed it out to him, he just said he’d “do another coat, and you won’t see it”.  There were several bits of woodwork where he had obviously overlapped from the wall – he’d painted over it (white over green) but it still showed through.  I’m fairly sure if he’d given it three coats, you wouldn’t have seen it.  There is one bit in the bathroom where you can still see bare plaster.  Only a little bit, and its not obvious as it is just behind the edge of the tubular radiator – however, I find it highly unlikely that, if he’d given it three coats of paint, he would have missed exactly the same spot, three times.

And then there are the quotes.  Why do these people give a quote and then, when they attempt to overcharge, do the whole “how will I feed my family” type of spiel when you point it out?

The kitchen guy charged us, as an extra, for 6 spotlights.  He did actually install 6 spotlights (2 in the bathroom, 4 in the kitchen).  However, we had asked for the kitchen spotlights to be included in the original quote, meaning the “extra” was only the two in the bathroom.  When I pointed this out to him, he stated that the spotlights he had quoted for in the kitchen weren’t that good, so he’d just asked the electrician to fit the better ones in both locations.  In the end we agreed to “split the difference” (ie, pay for two of the extra lights each), however, thinking about it, that doesn’t take into account the amount he MUST have budgeted for in his quote for whatever other spotlights he originally intended to install.

The decorator gave us a quote, split between the various rooms.  We had also asked him to quote for redecorating one wall in the dining room, where the kitchen guys had damaged it.  He didn’t quote seperately for that, but said that he had included £35 for that in his quote for the kitchen.  When he had done the job, as we had found the original paint and he, as he confessed, didn’t do a particularly good job (on that one wall), he stated that the actual cost for that wall would probably only be £15.  Yet when I then suggested his bill for the kitchen would therefore be £20 cheaper he wasn’t having it.  To be honest, by this time I was so sick of all these people, that I just paid him the full amount to get rid of him.  He won’t be coming back.  The job he has done is adequate – in fact it is certainly better than I could have done, in a lot shorter space of time – but then, I would have sanded down the window cills and used decorating tape on any edges for neat lines.  I would have also known how many coats of paint I’d applied!

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