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Need advice on carpenter complaint

masseyharris74's picture

I am new to the forum.  We are building a house with architect designed plans we purchased.  we are 3 mo. into the project.  i felt like i researched and chose my very reputable builders and supplier wisely as they are both highly regarded.  i interviewed three different builders, all good choices, i chose the ones i felt would do the best job.  i have had some serious blunders so far...  i am a reasonable guy and realize mistakes happen, but these are pretty darn big mistakes. 

-Our capenters and lumber supply yard both read the plan wrong and spec'd the first floor a foot taller than the plan.  nobody noticed (or tell me) until the second floor was up and framed....   yes, i'm telling the truth.  my bid had this in the cost already, but i did not think to look at the length of studs on the order estimate...   i realize you do not fix this, you tear it back down and start over.  our plan has 8' ceilings with dropped  living room and office at 9' ceiling.  instead, they built 9' with a 10 ft. dropped living room.  upstairs were built correct.  this presents many hurdles to change--  stairs being a major one, proportions of room size, kitchen cabinet proportions...

-they also did not notice that another room was dropped down.  so, the foundation had to be cut and changed before framing...   basically, they are not paying attention to the details of the plan.  this is a simple square house, except for dropped down section in ground floor.

-communication is also a major weak point of these guys as well.  you have to pry information out of them.  after asking for explanation of why they are not showing up, they say there is "not much left to do", and "we are too booked up".  they are working on someone else's home....  if they would just inform me of what's goin on or what's next....

-in the past three months, they have been there 21 days total.  only 3 days in november.  (which has been great weather btw)  exterior could have been easily finished if they had shown up in november.   they say they will show up, but no show time after time.  so far, no money has exchanged hands, but i am still wishing they were here.  plumbing and hvac start going in this week.

-knowing what i know now, of course i would have chosen a different builder and lumber yard, but hindsight is 20/20...  i do not believe in screaming and yelling at someone either, but i let them know my concerns and disappointments.  how do i place a value to these screw ups? 

-so what should 1 extra foot of height on a 2100 sq. ft (1st and 2nd total) house cost in materials, let alone the headache.  because the lumberyard screwed, they credited me $1000 in materials.  is that fair?  lumber, siding, plaster, etc..?  in the end, the builder is at fault for not noticing this. 

-i have been thru 5 homes from the builders, i know they can build a great home and i know they can finish the job, but not on the greatest circumstances for me. i would love to give a glowing recomendation to my awesome builders, but this has not been ideal.

we are currently dried in now,  tyvek on, windows in.    i feel like i am being taken advantage of this past month of broken promises.  i could say "don't come back", but that would not make my life any easier.  any advice on how to resolve this in a civil way?  all in all, i still like the house, but i want progress.

thank you for your time

If you don't have a lawyer (post #207138, reply #1 of 25)

If you don't have a lawyer yet, get one.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

I'd say it's time for a (post #207138, reply #2 of 25)

I'd say it's time for a face-to-face meeting with the guy. No phone calls or emails.  Find him, look him in the eye, tell him you're unhappy, and see what he says. Then decide where to go from there based on how he responds.

ya face to face (post #207138, reply #3 of 25)



the face to face thing is a great thing to do ,do you have a schedule for your house ,a written one ,

maybe you should have more site meetings .i gurantee you know more about the plans then your contractor ,

remind them they are building your house,in the meeting 



thank you for the (post #207138, reply #4 of 25)

thank you for the replies.


when the builders told me about the ceiling height screw up, i was very clear face to face that we were "not happy"  being that was their second big screw up.  i did not get a schedule in writing.  that was stupid for sure, they gave me a verbal finish date of 6 months.  I would like to be fully compensated for the extra materials and time for an extra foot of height at least.  They are not fly by night swindlers by any means, but i am not having the same great building experience as other clients and friends have had with them..   nobody would know anything was wrong with the ceiling unless i told them, some may think it adds a "grand" feeling to the first floor.  i'd rather it be correct, but you can not fix the mistake now.  I will ask my attorney his opinion this week. 

So far, my face to face conversations have not resulted in any monetary resolutions about the issues.  No apologies from them, no offers yet.   when it comes time for the first draw, i would like to be prepared of what to ask for in return.  i just have not had time to tally up such an offer.

They're not going to really (post #207138, reply #5 of 25)

They're not going to really negotiate until you lawyer up.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

lawyer up (post #207138, reply #6 of 25)

DanH, i'm afraid you are correct.  of course i will consult my lawyer this week, but do you think i should "lawyer up" now or at the end before the last payment?   i'd hate to jeapordize the project in process.  i'll post back what i hear from my attorney.

It seems to me that if you (post #207138, reply #7 of 25)

It seems to me that if you really haven't paid them anything, then you are in a pretty good position. There has been a substantial amount of work done on the house that seems to have come out of their pocket. Odd for a builder to have done this and for a supplier to go along. 

The one foot extra in height is something else. If you let the work carry on after being notified of the error that was sort of a implicit OK. Maybe. I'm no lawyer. This one foot error might be visualy subdued by installing a lowered ceiling... something coffered or ??? The stair issue is another matter. Give the problem to your architect to resolve. His fee will be more than $1000 though. Make sure you structure the negotiation with the contractor to cover this design fee. Don't let the contractor do the design for you.

You need to talk to your attorney now to know what to say to the builder. Don't get into a deeper predicament. If you haven't paid anything and you can get out from under this contractor without penalty, then I'd say let him walk. Or better, kick him out the door. But you better be on good legal footing before you do this. 

Good luck. I'm sorry you are living this nightmare.

What kind of "monetary (post #207138, reply #8 of 25)

What kind of "monetary resolution" are you looking for?  If you said it was O.K. to leave the walls the height they are, IMHO they don't owe you a thing.

Lawyer up... NOW! (post #207138, reply #23 of 25)

Your guys can't read, apparently don't listen and nobody seems accountable. If I were in your shoes, I would be looking for a strong, take no krap type of attorney. As others have said, no negotiation will take place until you lawyer up.

General George Patton was fond of the phrase, "If you grab by the short hairs and pull, their hearts and minds will follow."

You need an attorney for this type of reach.

Good luck.


If I screwed up myself like (post #207138, reply #9 of 25)

If I screwed up myself like that, I'd simply drop the ceiling and reformat the stairs.   Better yet, I'd leave the ceiling height as is and add a valence cabinet if you are worried about cabinet height.

In the pix, proportions look OK to me, even better when the corn is up?

One foot LOWER would have been a BIG problem, I'd simply go with the increased height and consider it a bonus with a rebate.


BTW, good thread in support of DIY <G>

One foot of height means (post #207138, reply #10 of 25)

One foot of height means close to 2 feet of additional stair run, which can really screw up the layout.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

simple landing turn at the (post #207138, reply #11 of 25)

simple landing turn at the bottom, keep an open mind when fixing screwups.

Ya know the old saying - make lemonade out of lemons?

The landing itself takes (post #207138, reply #12 of 25)

The landing itself takes about 4 feet.  Then the bottom stairlet is going to run several feet sideways, eating into space downstairs.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

Sounds like a major screwup (post #207138, reply #13 of 25)

Sounds like a major screwup but if you have a firm price none of the problems would be at your expense anyway would they?

Florida Licensed Building Contractor, 50 years experience in commercial remodeling, new homes, home remodeling and repairs and all types building maintenance.

thanks for all the (post #207138, reply #14 of 25)

thanks for all the advice,

i realize that things could be a much much much worse,  i fortunately do still like the house and layout.  i know mistakes are all part of the process, and hopefully these will be the last.  but, i also have been very discouraged with them showing up only 3 days in the past month when there is still much that could have been easily finished in the recent mild weather.  they kept saying they "will be there", but did not show.  a simple explanation or heads up would have kept me a lot more satisfied, but communication is not their strongest skill set, i'm trying, trust me.  they are working other jobs, but you gotta give me more time than that.  we could have had the plumber, hvac, or electrician in there..  they are coming this week.  hopefully the builders will be there tomorrow as well, it is always a guess.  

they shortened the treads and risers to fit the extra two steps in, it is not perfect, but i can deal.  ( i don't have much choice)   there was no easy way to extend out into the floorplan.

foundation was dug aug. 1st,   builders showed up to start framing sept. 20th.  november came and went. 


by the time we move in, hopefully  i'll have forgotten the negative parts of the process... 

Question:  After they (post #207138, reply #15 of 25)

Question:  After they reworked the stair does it still meet code?

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

massey (post #207138, reply #16 of 25)

Make sure you follow the proper procedures regarding lien wavers of all the parts of this puzzle. 

One sign of a construction business in trouble is trying to cover many bases at one time.  The lack of work on your project might lend some to think this as a hint of potential problems.

There's a whole lot of stories out there similar to yours and usually the homowner is left holding the bag.


Best of luck in your construction.

A Great Place for Information, Comraderie, and a Sucker Punch.

Remodeling Contractor just outside the Glass City.


Yeah, and you can guess (post #207138, reply #17 of 25)

Yeah, and you can guess what's in the bag.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

reply (post #207138, reply #18 of 25)

-not sure yet if this will meet code.  framing inspection has not happened yet. 

-i don't think these guys are in trouble, i'm guessing they are getting prepared for a long winter of inside work, which i totally understand, just fill me in every now and then....

-in the end, i do think (and hope) this will be handled without any legal assistance, i'm not asking for a free lunch. (actually, i'm not sure what to ask for)   just feeling like i'm getting the short end of the stick currently.

Will the contractor pay ... (post #207138, reply #21 of 25)

Will the contractor eat the added costs of sheathing, siding, paint, drywall, etc. associated with the added height?  If so why would you ask for anything?  Unless of course you hate the added height and the added cost to heat and cool the house (minimal I would guess).



don't wait, take action NOW (post #207138, reply #19 of 25)

masseyharris74 wrote:
i realize you do not fix this, you tear it back down and start over. 


You answered your own question - tear it down to the first floor, correct the height, rebuild, all on the contractor's nickel.  It's really the only solution that will work - the higher ceiling will create a "colder" feel to the room, like a public building rather than a home.

The longer you let this go, the more of a problem it will be to resolve.  Don't pay them anything and don't let the bank pay them anything until this is fixed right.  Send them a certified letter advising that they have 10 days to correct this, and that they are required to work a minimum of 20 hours per week on the project per the contract.  Also tell them the contract will be voided if they do not comply.

It would be better to get an attorney and have the attorney send the letter, though.

Rebuilding the stairs.. (post #207138, reply #20 of 25)

Just a bit of advice..take a minute to educate yourself on the code requirements for stairs - the are not that complicated and can be easily found on the 'net.  Depending on the inspector as your only plan is a bad idea - especially since you know it could be a problem. 

By not showing up, not following the plans, not letting you know their schedule, etc. - they are letting you know where you are on their 'list'.  You should not tolerate this a minute longer.  Communication is going to get even more important as the job moves forward with the addition of many more subcontractors and suppliers.  If you don't address this now, normal delays that come along on projects are going to be magnified greatly as 'here we go again' moments.  I would demand a couple of things...a project schedule with all of the work outlined to completion and a weekly meetings at the jobsite to go over the project progress and, more importantly, what is coming up next that needs to be addressed (keep meeting notes and give copies to the contractor).

Regarding the money issue. I have been an Architect for almost 40 years and I will tell you the best way is to handle all issues  is to deal with them as they come up, get it out of the way, and move on....not try to shove anything in a gunny sack and then bring it up at the end - this never has a good outcome.  I have had clients surprise even me on a project close out with demands that, it turned out, they had been fuming in silence over for months that everyone else thought was resolved.  I have also had them use it like some sort of grading scale - 'if they do a good job the rest of the way, maybe we'll just drop it' - believe me, it never gets dropped.

Good luck!

The one thing I haven't seen (post #207138, reply #22 of 25)

The one thing I haven't seen mentioned yet is what this will do to this house for every day of its existence.  Your builder has added an additional 1 cubic foot of conditioned space to the entire first floor.  You (or subsquent owners) will pay indefintely to condition this additional volume.  Has your hvac contrcator been told of the change?  Has he recalced anything? Are you just going to let him go ahead and put in what he specified for an 8 ceiling now that its 9 foot?

Putting a dropped ceiling on the first floor will still require adjustment to the stairs and if you have an open stairway, its going to look pretty goofy (IMO) to see what would appear to be a 24" floor.

give the builder a chance to make right (post #207138, reply #24 of 25)

its always interesting from a building contractors perspective how quick people are to throw the builder out the door before giving him a chance to make things right

9ft cielings are generally regarded as an upgrade, except when they are not in the plan. several things are going to need be corrected. your kitchen cabinets will need to be reconfigured, perhaps order taller uppers or add a soffit above them. personally I would opt for the taller uppers. thats going to cost somebody more money. that should not be you

before you get too much further I would get a scaled drawing of the front of the house to be sure things like window placement and general proportions are satisfactory. 1 foot is a big difference

"I'm outta here!" Wait... I work here, you can't fire me! (post #207138, reply #25 of 25)

I think the builder has thrown himself out the door. According to what we've been told, the builder seems disinclined to show up and do anything on the house. 

Wouldn't it be interesting if this fourm had a designated reporter who would contact this contractor for his version of the story? I have a feeling that opinions would change a bit were that the case. At least it would be a fun read.