Thursday, February 26, 2015

Kitchen remodel (be your own contractor, or don't hire Millholl Custom)

After living in our house for a handful of years, it was time to update the kitchen. This began a nearly 2 year planing process that started as a minor face lift with new cabinets (Ikea) to ending up deciding to basically tear out everything, change the footprint and start over.

Once we decided this was going to go beyond a simple face lift and would require plumbers, electricians, drywallers, etc - we made the decision (mistake) to get a general contractor.

We visited the Home and Garden show, twice. We talked to a handful of contractors and designers. We did our due diligence and got a number of bids. At the end of all this, Millholl Custom, LLC appeared to be the clear winner. John, the owner, did a very thorough job of walking us through what the project would look like. The bid was the most detailed (a problem later on) and we were left with the confidence that he knew his business.

The day finally came where demo would begin. It was scheduled out weeks in advance. We had plenty of time to get ready and the timeline from Millholl was clear.  The morning of the demo we woke up early - ready to get going on what we knew would be a 5 week project.

We waited... And Waited... The doorbell never rang... Neither did the phone.   Finally, at noon, we called Millholl.  "Where are you?"  "Oh, we are not going to start today.  We'll be there tomorrow morning. Something came up."

The next morning, we repeated our excitement.  And the next morning, Millholl repeated their no show.  Again, we called the office - this time around 11am.  Something had come up again on another job and they rescheduled for the following day.  The would become a trend.

The next day, demo began and completed. Things were finally moving forward!  And then it stopped, for almost a week.  Nothing. We sat with a dust filled room for 4 more weekdays (plus a weekend) with no work at all.  "This is normal" we were told.  However, the very detailed schedule we were given at the start now had us clearly a week behind. The schedule called for plumbers, drywall, electrical all to be happening.  We were removing a window and that had not started despite the very unseasonably warm weather.  Finally, when it hit 7 degrees outside and snowing, that was the day "Lenny", our new GC, decided to replace the window.  We had been given the old bait and switch move.  John, the owner, gives us a great pitch.  Lenny, the over worked employee, does the job.

Lenny, we would come to find out, has a serious time management problem.  So bad, he had a few of his subs chew him out after he shows up hours late to an appointment.  In fact, I never once saw Lenny show up on time.  Well, let me take that back. One day when we were "required" to write a check for work to continue, he was at our door bright and early to pick up the check.  He then left immediately. He missed both inspections by the city inspector.  Luckily, I'm not a moron and was able to deal with the inspector.

The time management issues and the fact we started the project one week behind schedule eventually required his subs to work on weekends and late into the night to catch up.  For the next 5 weeks, Erica and I were under house arrest every day of the week since contractors came and went with no notice to us. At this point, there was no way I trusted Millholl Custom, LLC to have access to our home when we were not there.

For five weeks, we ended up having nearly daily arguments about what work was not done yet, the timeline, who was going to pay for what and do what work...  I had countless trips to Home Depot to buy supplies to do work myself just to keep things moving.

The Millholl Custom, LLC electrician nearly electrocuted the appliance guy.  He wired a 110v line to a 220v breaker and then labeled it all wrong.  What we thought was a dead outlet was hot and not wired properly. This was one of many electrical issues. Outlets across the back splash did not match (they were totally different shapes) nor did they all line up in row. Kind of a problem with horizontal tile lines.  We replaced ceiling lights three times. I ended up buying the correct light switches myself after I got so tired of arguing over who supplies light switches. The "detailed" contract was detailed where it supported Millholl, it was very vague where it supported us.  Why would a homeowner be responsible for light switches?

At the end of all of this, I learned that all Millholl Custom, LLC did was charge us a ton of money to schedule sub-contractors and remove a window. I did all the scheduling with the subs since Lenny was never around. I made all the decisions on site since Lenny was never around. I made sure the inspections happened since Lenny was never around.  Lots of money spent so a company could call a few friends they have used in the past and hire them to work on our house.

Near the end of the project, I could tell Lenny was doing the very same thing to a new customer (or two). Over hearing phone conversations when he was around made it clear other customers were having the same frustrations we were in Millholl Custom, LLC.  Buyer beware.

At the end of the day, we love the new kitchen. Millholl had very little to do with that. In the future, I will coordinate my own construction project. It's not hard, it just takes attention to detail - something Lenny and Millholl Custom do not have.

Here is a time lapse of the project.  We either did ourselves or contracted the flooring, tile back splash, paint, cabinets and appliances. All of those were on time and on budget.

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