Ages ago, I talked about trying to decide which color coral to paint the house at Berrybrier. The windows when I bought the house were aluminum clad exterior / wood interior windows. The aluminum exterior was a dark forest green with slight blue undertone which dictated my color choices on the rest of the house. In the end I decided on coral and dove in whole-heartedly with no looking back! I was attempting to schedule the exterior painting around the same time as the bathroom demo, new plumbing, electrical work, and roof replacement. So I was a little busy and things were a little crazy!
I was stressed and stretched thin; but my mom was in town and she volunteered to interview painters while I was at work. It was a huge load off my chest! Unfortunately it turned out that painters are extremely difficult to find and extremely flakey. My mom finally found some people after a few weeks: a married couple with their own painting business. The lady called me about 4 times to schedule a time to meet to sign the contract. This should have been the first weird sign. But the house looked terrible, my mom thought these people seemed good, and I was ready to paint it pink!
The woman came over one night last October – a hot October – to sign the contract. It was the very end of painting season in Portland and she wanted to get started ASAP. I was all for it; I couldn’t wait to see the house all in coral. We walked around the house and discussed various things that night: exactly what I wanted painted the white trim color and what I wanted pink, some trim repairs on the back of the house, prep work needed, and payment. We also discussed timing, since the dormer was still being built, the roofers were still at the house, and the electrical was just beginning to get started. I had bought the paint – Sherwin Williams Emerald – during a big yearly sale, so that had been taken care of. The painters were charging about $4500 for the labor for the job which felt like a great deal. They asked for 50% upfront, which was pretty standard with how I was paying most of the various workers on their projects at Berrybrier. The painters were going to start the following week. I ponied up.
The first day of that week, the electricians shut off all the power at the house to do their extensive work. I probably should have guessed that that would happen, but I wasn’t expecting it since they hadn’t told me specifically to expect this. I found out later they didn’t think I was actually living at the house during these renovations! I had to call the painter and let them know that if they needed power to do their work (they did) they’d be delayed three days. This was an issue because the days were getting colder and wetter quickly. We pushed three days which brought us to a Thursday am start.
The plumber started his work in the bathroom that Wednesday. It was supposed to be a half-day job, the water was off at the main line to the house. Of course, with Berrybrier, nothing goes as planned. The plumbing needed another half-day’s work and the plumber wasn’t available again until that Saturday. This meant no water for the painters’ sprayers. I called the painters again, I asked if they could use water pulled from a hose from the neighbor’s house. They refused, saying they needed too much water for that and would rather push their work. That was a little annoying since access to water is access to water, but they were understandably annoyed at the situation. And I was too. This was convenient for no one! However, they were able to work on the house as soon as the water was turned back on. They planned to start work that Sunday and complete as much as they could on the house in the week of sun that stretched out. I was called out of town that weekend, last minute. I was excited to get back and see the progress on the house!
I returned home the following week, mid-week. Nothing had changed at the house. It did not look like anything had been touched on the painting. I called the painters confused. They told me they had found out they were having twins and were in a state of shock. I had not realized the woman was pregnant when she had come over to sign the contract, so this surprised me. It also frustrated me since we’d been discussing our tight timeline to paint the house. I’m all for mom and pop businesses, but it’s also important for these small businesses to be professional. The real bummer? This no-show thing soon happened again and again.
Several times they promised to paint, several times they didn’t come. I was majorly stressed as my insurance company demanded the house be painted by the end of November. Finally, they got it to the stage where the house was primed and the painters agreed to write my insurance company a letter assuring them the house was painted and water-tight. Thankfully, the insurance company agreed that this was sufficient and extended my painting timeline to October 2018 (a full year extension)! But we were still pushing to paint on the sunny days that fall. Unfortunately the painter still rarely showed and his team of painters were non-existent. One person was trying to paint the entire house in a couple of days. This person also decided to spray all the trim and then brush all of the siding. And then he never showed up.
The painters then refused to fix the window trim on the back of the house and refused to remove the silly little old alarm speaker on the front of the house. They refused to clean up the excess cable wires that were all over everywhere. They weren’t doing basic things like filling the holes from the old stair railing (dime sized holes!).And they continued to not show up when they promised to.
Other brand new things like the smooth, new electrical pole on the side of the house were painted, but covered in drips. It looked terrible and definitely not like it had been done by a professional!
On December 9th, after the painter again did not show up. I took a hard look at the house. It looked terrible and it was increasingly clear in the areas that were “complete” that the prep work was insufficient. Some of the areas that had been primed had sticky oversaturated spray in places. I was extremely stressed, upset, and felt helpless. I talked to my neighbor Erik, he walked around the house and agreed the painters weren’t doing a good job. I sent them a text and told them not to bother coming back to the house, but I’d like to settle up a return of some of my payment. Of course, they fired back that I owed them an additional $600.
I had some painters Erik worked with come look at my house that week. They were shocked by the condition and pointed out a lot of things I hadn’t even noticed before. They said the house would now be more work to properly paint than before. That blow added anger to the stress and exhaustion and unhappiness with this project. Combined with a non-functional bathroom, ripped up kitchen, and way too many other projects to count I was a pretty big mess.
I had another painter, this one referred by my Uncle Scott’s Uncle Dan (a local contractor) over to take a look. He concurred, the house would now be more difficult to paint than before the other guys had started their work and created this mess. Cue the tears and feelings of loneliness and utter despondence. Daniel’s post on the renovation of the side of his house sums up these renovation feelings oh too well! It was a very low point and the house looked horrific.
Winter was already here; my house was covered with papered windows and oversprayed trim. It was an extremely obvious and embarrassing way to leave the house for the winter, but there really wasn’t an alternative. So gutters covered in plastic and patchy front paint and overspray it was!
Even the snow did not make the house look any more charming! Passersby would jokingly ask if I’d changed my mind on which color I wanted. I’d taken a house badly needing painting and made it into a roadside
attraction horror. It was mid January before I took all the plastic wrap off the windows. I didn’t have a ladder tall enough to get to the plastic wrap on the gutters… so that got to stay through August the following year!
My sister moved into Berrybrier in January 2018 and that March helped me patch the trim over the window and back door where ripping off the porch roof exposed cut up mouldings. This was a small improvement, but every little bit of progress counts!
Meanwhile I submitted a complaint to the Oregon Certified Contractors Board against the painters I’d hired and tried to focus on the hefty list of other things I needed to work on. The painting would have to wait until summer 2018 and there was nothing I could do about it. This was a HUGE life lesson and a really unfortunate loss of a significant amount of money. But overtime, the stress reduced, the anger faded, and I’ve accepted it and moved on. Because there really isn’t an alternative is there? Have you ever had huge issues with professionals you’d hired? What did you do?