Today, for the second time in the past few weeks, I went and checked out a job where a contractor had stopped showing up to finish a job. And for the second time in the past few weeks, the work that I put my eyes on, the work that had been done to date, was inexcusably horrific.
Side note: not to get into politics or religion or anything like that, and I'm not judging anybody in any way...but the first contractor, who I've met and dealt with numerous times, he definitely plays up the "I'm a Christian" angle in all his business dealings. The second contractor, who I've never met, apparently makes it very clear that he's a "veteran". This is just a word of warning...if you're dealing with a GC, a contractor, a subcontractor, or anybody in that vein...and they're leading with anything other than evidence of simply doing really good work (references, pics of past work, a website, anything)...I'd be wary. It's been my experience that sometimes those things - anything other than "here's some kind of proof that I/we do top shelf work" - are used to get in the good graces of a potential customer because the work quality alone wouldn't be anywhere near enough.
Anyhow...I always feel pretty bad for the people that this stuff happens to. The person I met with today, they're out 5 figures on what was going to be (and hopefully will be at some point) a fully enclosed sunroom, and what's been done to this point...it basically either needs to be completely torn out due to aesthetic or structural reasons.
The first thing that jumped out at me when I saw the work was the concrete. The homeowner asked me how often I'd seen concrete stairs where one of them was a totally different height than the others, and I immediately asked (pretty much knowing what the answer was going to be) if a permit had been pulled for the work. And of course, there had been no permit.
What I think happened is, aside from maybe somebody struggling at math, somebody did the figuring on the stairs and omitted or forget about factoring in the little sidewalk running between the stairs and the driveway. If you take that out, which is about a 4" thick slab, all the stairs would be the same height. Unfortunately, there's supposed to be a concrete walkway between the stairs and the driveway and I guess that instead of redoing the stairs to account for the sidewalk, it was easier to just proceed and act like nothing was wrong.
Additionally, although you can't see it in the pic, the level sitting there on the top step...those stairs are out of level by over 1/2" across the span of that 4' level. If you figure the stairs are more like 6' wide, those things are somewhere around 1" out of level, sloping left to right. That's not good. The bottom step, the little midget step, that's a trip hazard. The fact that all of them slope 1" left to right, all it's going to take is a little snow or ice - anything to make them slippery - and all of a sudden a wrong step and somebody's going to go down. Hard.
Then there's that sidewalk...what a train wreck. That's not stamped concrete; it looks like the concrete got poured, received no finish (it wasn't screeded or floated or even given a broom finish), and then somebody used the corner of a trowel or their finger or something equally ridiculous and etched those lines in there.
I really don't even have words for how bad that concrete work is. The floor of the sunroom is equally bad (not to mention the interior flatwork got splattered all over the house).
I don't like bad work. No decent contractor or carpenter or tradesperson does. But for as bad as the aesthetics of something can be, what really gets under my skin is bad structural work; maybe it's my educational background in civil engineering, or maybe it's the time I spent in construction management on some monster, legit projects, or maybe it's just simply knowing that a fair amount of crappy work is the result of somebody being off the charts lazy.
The concrete was bad, but the structure...the framing...also not good. At all. I think the worst part was the framing that is supposed to support the roof.
There's supposed to be a big set of sliding glass doors right here in this opening (the sunroom runs maybe 5' on each side of this opening) and basically 1/3 - if not more - of the roof's weight is being carried by a single 2x4, laid on its side. There are 19,000 reasons why that's wrong, and even to the naked eye it's pretty obvious that that chunk of roof is already sagging. Over time, or with a little weight (like snow), that'd be bad news. Really, bad, news.
The windows were framed in pretty half-assed as well. Some of them were OK, but really...each one of them could have been done better. For example, there's zero reason - with new construction - a window needs to be shimmed with 3/4" material.
This is supposed to be a fully enclosed, insulated, conditioned space, and leaving huge voids like that lessens the R-value (the capacity of a material to prevent air from flowing through it) of the walls, even if it eventually gets filled with spray foam or something like that. I'm all for leaving a little wiggle room when framing in doors and windows...but 3/4" on either side of an opening...that's a little much. If it's new construction, a simple job, everybody knows what size windows are going in (and even have them on site)...no reason to leave opening that big.
Anybody that's ever dealt with vinyl windows knows that they'll really flex if you want them to, and whoever installed these things - due to poor framing/shimming - got these things kinds of wonky; they're not level, or square, or plumb, and some of it is due to somebody burying screws in the things and severely contorting the windows.
I could go on and on and one...but I've probably made my point. :) Nothing was lagged into the house anywhere, the bolts connecting the framing to the concrete are chintzy, the concrete floor of the thing is cracking in multiple spots...it's sort of like everything about it is bad.
I'll end it on this pic...I guess there was some kind of finish work the sides of the concrete foundation/floor needed (I have no idea how the concrete was formed, wither it was with metal forms or plywood or hopes and prayers), and rather than perform or apply said finish with any kind of legit tool...somebody gave it the ol' finger trowel job.
See all the finger marks? That's how every side of this thing got "finished". This kind of sums up just about all the work that was done on this particular project.
My recommendation to the homeowner was to have a city inspector come out, give them the honest story - the contractor didn't get a permit then stopped showing up (after getting paid a ton of money, of course) - and get some information from them in terms of what needs to go and what, if any of it, can stay. 10 different people like me can come out and probably give 10 different opinions; might as well just go straight to the governing body, see what they say, then go from there.
My recommendation to everybody else...if you're getting work done...remember: proof of good work first, all the other stuff second.
Oh, and get a permit, or make sure the contractor is working with a permit. Always get a permit. :) Sometimes what might look OK from a distance...upon further inspection...isn't good at all, and the permit/inspection process typically prevents the really bad stuff from happening in the first place, or at least catches it before it's crazy difficult (aka expensive) to undo any of it.