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The Evolution of D.I.Y.

August 7, 2007

I now know firsthand why do-it-yourself came to be.

(Warning: Snarky-full rant ahead. Don’t read if you aren’t up for it. Cuz I’m ticked off. And it takes a lot to get me there.)

Frustration with inept contractors, a need for perfection – or just higher standards – and price gouging home improvement companies. All this – and much more, I’m sure – has driven us to do it ourselves. And do it better, we can.

I wasn’t going to post this stuff yesterday because I thought I could just vent to Gaylen, deal with the company through the Better Business Bureau, and get over it. Until I saw what the contractor did today. Something trivial and oh-so-stupid that it just pushed me over the edge.

Yesterday, when the contractor arrived, I’m already on edge because I’m not happy with the installation company that Home Depot uses, so I was outside waiting for him. He drove past me twice, not even looking, before I could finally flag him down.

Next – and probably I shouldn’t be so judgemental, but I have really high expectations when I’m paying for a service – I notice that his van (not a company van) is barely running and has the front license plate fastened on with blue tape.  The guy barely speaks English, and I still don’t know his name. And this is who the company sends to represent them?

I had the few tiles laid out on the floor to show him what I wanted. He said in broken English that placing tile on the diagonal wasn’t on his order. I told him that I had told the company that’s what I wanted, so he needs to install it that way. Fine. He proceeds to install the backerboard.

An hour later, I get a call from the ditzy high school dropout scheduler in her phony high-pitched voice that diagonal installation “wasn’t paid for.” HUH? I’ve paid for everything already. Well, she says, diagonal installation wasn’t on the order from Home Depot, and that diagonal tile installation is $1 a square foot extra. Too bad, I told her. She kept insisting I needed to pay the extra money. I explained that I’d mentioned it to her several times, and to Home Depot when I ordered the product. I bluntly told her she needed to take it up with them as I was not paying the additional cost.

So… that over, the installer has measured and marked the center of the room – as I asked him to do. Then he starts to show me how he’s going to set them on the diagonal. Uh… no… that’s not how it’s done.

I had to get on my hands and knees and SHOW HIM.

Instead of having the imaginary diagonal line of the tile line up with the cross lines, he had each of four tiles pointing their corners into the point where the cross lines meet. (Make sense? I can’t draw it.) Wrong, just wrong.

So, today he comes back to grout the tile. I had to have him grout it twice because the first time, he had the grout too wet and it was all uneven. In many cases the grout was shallow 1/8″ from where it should be at the top of the tile. We would have been tripping on tile edges. 

He so wanted out of there, I could tell, but I insisted that he clean the tile twice. I expected to do a little cleanup after him, but I wasn’t going to have him leave with a thick white chalk layer over the tiles.

Finally, it’s still wet, but looks acceptable, but I don’t sign the release. He leaves. I go shopping with my daughter for a couple hours. I return, and the floor has dried with a nice white chalky residue still on it. More than is acceptable to me.


But, wait, there’s more. I go to wipe off the residue and polish the tile over by where the stove goes and notice this:


The guy grouted down the gas fixture! Not only did he grout it down, but if you look at the upper left corner of the base, he grouted it into the wall. It is also supposed to be turned so that the short end aligns with the wall. There are screws that get drilled into it to hold the gas pipe in place. Now it’s all wonky and wrong. And now I have to have it fixed.

Dang my back and health issues. If I ever have to do something like this again, I’ll do it myself.

  1. August 7, 2007 7:28 pm

    oh honey….can i call home depot at yell them for you? that is totally unacceptable. i think you need to go up the home depot food chain on this one. they need to reimburse you for the aggravation.

  2. August 7, 2007 8:24 pm

    BTDT, unfortunately. The reason DIY is so popular is because when we do it ourselves, it’s at least as good as most paid contractor’s work. Yes, there are good ones but they never advertise (don’t have to), don’t contract with the big retailers (don’t have to) and don’t really *need* your business because their waiting list is months long.

    Now, that said … here’s my advice in no particular order.

    1. Don’t focus on the imperfect details too much. When it’s new and there’s nothing else in the room, that’s all you’ll see. But when your kitchen is in full swing again, you probably will not notice everything you see now. I’m an OCD perfectionist and even I am now blind to the little things we goofed up. Really. Compare it to the “galloping horse” rule for sewing.

    2. The BBB can’t really do anything. They have no authority. All they can do is act on your behalf (with you doing all the letter-writing, documentation stuff). Give it a shot but don’t hold your breath. They are not an official anything even though they often make themselves out to be.

    3. Go to Home Depot *in person, during the day* when the most senior manager is on duty. Find out who it is beforehand, of course, and his/her schedule. Telephone calls won’t cut it because they’ll just keep passing you off. Get their card. Get everything in writing. Get the name & contact info for his/her superior(s).

    4. Decide what you want for compensation and stick to it. A gift card for $xxx is probably something they can do. And someone else to come fix the gas hook-up problem. Geez, what a PITB that is. That’s the thing I would be most livid about, I think.

    5. The haze on the tile is normal, and really can’t be prevented unless you make the contractor wait around until the grout is completely dry. It just needs a damp mop a few times. As in mop, let dry, rinse mop, mop again. It’s the nature of grouting.

    6. Did you use a major credit card to pay for this? Contact them to see what protection you may have.

    7. Have a glass of wine. Or two. All remodeling jobs are like this. Even the “good” ones. Now you know why people move OUT during the process. 😀

    8. Snuggle up with the poochies for some sweet doggy kisses.

  3. August 8, 2007 7:00 am

    It’s difficult to let someone else work on your baby, especially when they don’t have the attention to detail that we have. And you’re a North Seattle Nitpicker, I know thee well. Plus, you’ve seen my house.

    To give you some more background/information: HD contracts out their installation services; I know, Mark used to sell their kitchen cabinets for them, but he worked for another company that was contracted by HD to do all the work, HD just provided the name and took a big cut of the $$. I remember seeing a local news report earlier this year about this (botched siding and roofing jobs), maybe try searching for that. I’ll ask Mark how he thinks you have the best bet for any recourse. Also, see #3 & #4 from Debbie.

  4. August 8, 2007 9:09 am

    Thank you, Ladies. I will follow your advice.

    I paid cash. No credit card. But I do have the number and business card of the regional installation services guy from Home Depot. He had stopped at my house when the first phase of flooring was done. I plan to call him at lunch and have him stop by to look at it. They need to fix that gas thing pronto. I had scheduled an independent handyman to move my stove back into place tonight. Ugh.

    More later… Work (that I get paid for) is demanding my attention!

    Puppy kisses always make the day go better. I wish I had my Lily-in-a-bag with me here at work today. =)

  5. August 8, 2007 7:11 pm

    Want to see some real pain? This is what I’m working on now:

    My advice from years of working with stuff like this: do NOT hire from Home Depot or Lowe’s. Ask for referrals from local Realtors. Ask for referrals from local builders. Ask for referrals. Hope to get a wonderful and reliable general contractor. Relax and don’t stress about the small stuff. Don’t pay until the job is complete. Enjoy the finished project.

  6. Jessica permalink
    August 9, 2007 3:55 am

    Just had an issue with Home Depot, and the store manager REFUSED to meet with us. So, in case you have that issue, i will save you a phone call, and here is the address for your letter of complaint, which by the way, i would write NO MATTER WHAT!
    The Home Depot
    ATTN: Customer Complaint
    2455 Paces Ferry Rd
    Atlanta GA 30339

    Make sure you write a letter..not a phone call, not an email. Hard copy letters get MUCH more attention.

    Wow, what a freaking nightmare!! Maybe send them the link to your blog, too!

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