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Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.

Slide background

Learn from the first-hand experiences of others.


people found Nigel's experience helpful.

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The Situation

The master bathroom was 25 years old. It still functioned, but my wife yearned for a soaking tub. The laminate countertop was marked, the cupboard doors were stained, the shower was a plastic/fiberglass one-piece, and the floor was an unattractive pink tile. And let's not forget the huge mirror and the 1980s dressing-room lights.

Initially, my thinking was to replace just the tub, a job I thought I could do myself, but it snowballed, and knowing my limits, I went to a specialist bathroom designer. She did a great job, but when her contractor quoted a lot more than I'd expected, I got a second quote from a contractor I’d worked with before. He was cheaper, but I'm not sure the savings compensated for the upheaval and disruption.

Problems and Issues Encountered

I'll start by saying the project turned out great. We are delighted with the new bathroom, but getting there was painful.

Before signing the paperwork, I asked how long the job would take. I thought our contractor’s estimate of four weeks sounded ambitious, so I doubled it. The final inspection took place five and a half months after the demo started — 20 weeks later than promised. And for the first two months, we were camping out in the spare bedroom.

What went wrong? The problems fall into three areas: the shower, electrical work, and permits.

The Shower

We had picked out a Euro-style, frameless glass door. To avoid leaks, these have to be cut to size precisely and matched to the one-piece shower pan we wanted. That means waiting to measure up until the pan has been fitted and the shower tiled. On top of that, we were told that the delivery would take four weeks. Logically then, the tile guy would start with the shower, but no, he left that until last.

When the shower specialist came to measure up, he told me the wrong pan had been fitted and that he couldn't install a door because it would leak. Horrified at the thought of having to rip out the pan and tiles and adamant that he'd specified the correct one, our contractor called in the manufacturer.

A week went by before someone came to look at the pan. He announced it had been wrongly manufactured, but the good news was they could repair it — a week later. However the result wasn't satisfactory, so another visit was needed to make the pan like new. Only then could the shower specialist measure up and order the door.

Electrical Problems

Knowing the contractor would be doing some wiring in the attic, I asked if he could install some additional lights. He put them in, but they didn't work. He called in an electrician who fixed them, but then the kitchen lights stopped working, necessitating a second visit.

I also asked for a ceiling fan in the master bedroom. That went in, but it would only turn on or off some of the time, and it never responded to the remote control. Eventually the contractor discovered that he had wired it wrong, but he burnt out two switches before figuring it out.

Permit Problems

With the bathroom functionally complete, my contractor called the city for a final inspection. They insisted on additional smoke detectors to bring the house up to code. The contractor added one on the first floor and invited the inspector back. He said that wouldn't do and explained that every bedroom needed a smoke detector, so the contractor came back again to fit more. Only after this would the inspector sign off on the work, at which point I could finally declare the project complete.

What I Would Do Differently

I'd grill my contractor on his previous experience with bathroom remodels. Had I done this, I may well have gone with the contractor the designer had recommended. Although that designer's bid was higher, this person had completed many bathroom projects. This would probably address the permit issues too.

Second, having discovered the lead-time on the shower door, I'd push the contractor to get to the point of ordering as quickly as possible.

My Advice For Others

1. Ask the contractor if he or she has completed or managed this type of work before. Be specific about the individual trades involved (electrical, plumbing, tiling) and ask for references.

2. Make sure your contractor listens, as opposed to just nodding while not paying attention. I raised the issues regarding the shower pan, the door fit, and lead-time several times and was assured there were no problems.

3. Investigate the permit process and find out what else might be necessary to bring the project up to code. By all means ask the contractor, but consider going straight to the city.

4. With regards to project planning, find out which elements involve long lead-times and what has to be done to get them ordered early, then push the contractor to schedule the work accordingly.

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