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Dianne Salerni : Writer of Teen and Middle Grade Fiction | The Contractor Story

The Contractor Story

In July we hired a contractor to paint our stairwell and upstairs hallway, strip the wallpaper from our upstairs bathroom and paint it, too. (I want to note right here that his business card said: Painting and Wallpaper Removal.) He was supposed to start the Monday after we returned from St. Croix, and he knew we had a deadline of August 19th, the day our German exchange student was due to arrive. The guy expressed some concern about the time needed to strip the wallpaper, and so my husband said he would work on it beforehand. A contract was signed.


My husband stripped half (HALF!) the wallpaper before we left for St. Croix.

The guy showed up at the appointed time, met with my husband, and started setting up for the job. He was upstairs a couple hours. In the meantime, my husband finished packing for a business trip and left the house for the airport. The contractor waited for about 15 minutes after he was gone, then came downstairs and announced to me that he would not do the wallpaper job. “It’s not coming off easily. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen. There’s no way I can strip it, primer, and paint it in the week I have allotted for this job.”

Remember, my husband had already removed half of it.

I said, “Okay, but can you work on it this week — during the time you’ve promised us — and we’ll finish whatever you don’t get done?”

His reply: “Let me rephrase. I will not do the bathroom job. I can do the painting in the stairwell and hallway, or if you prefer, I can pack up and leave.”

I was sorely tempted to tell him to leave. But it flashed through my head that I could strip the wallpaper myself (Theoretically. I’d never done it before.), but there was no way for me to paint the stairwell without scaffolding, and there was no time to hire anyone else. Reluctantly, I told the guy to do the paint job.

Bob says I made the right decision, the logical decision. But he also says that if he had been there, he would have been so mad he would have thrown the guy out. Believe me, I was mad too. I couldn’t stand the sight of him for the rest of the week. It was all I could do to be civil. But at least the stairwell got painted.

And every day, after the painter worked his measly 3 hours or so, I scraped wallpaper — starting from the minute he left until I went to bed. It was hard to remove, but I don’t have any experience to compare it to, so I can’t judge his claim that it was the worst wallpaper known to man. Two days in, I posted something on Facebook about hating wallpaper, and a former teaching colleague offered to loan me a steamer.  It came off a lot easier with the steamer. (Why didn’t the professional guy have one?)

My husband joined in when he came home from his business trip. And we got the bathroom finished three hours before we had to pick up our exchange student at the airport. Finished version below.

Bathroom Remodel

Have you ever had a contractor up and quit on you?

19 Responses to The Contractor Story

  1. Like your husband, I would’ve fired the guy on the spot. There’s a reason that show Catch a Contractor exists.
    However, the bathroom looks awesome. Dig the toilet seat.

  2. Sorry you had a bad experience. If it’s any comfort, I used to hear of many more terrible stories of contractor messes and screw ups when I was an attorney handling those kind of cases. It’s hard to find good ones. Luckily, the guy I am dating is a good one.

  3. Love the bathroom…the colors and squid are great. Sorry, it was such a pain to get it there. I would have fired the guy on the spot, but then I’ve also had my share of bad hand workers (horror stories, really). It’s been enough to turn me into a do-it-yourself girl. As to the wall paper–there are tricks like the steamer which the guy should have definitely known. Anyway, enjoy that exchange student!!!

  4. Tiana Smith says:

    Ugh! I would have been furious! I hate when contractors pull stuff like this. I’ve removed wallpaper before, and I agree, a steamer definitely helps. Love the finished look!

  5. Jemi Fraser says:

    How frustrating!!! I’m so thankful I have a hubby and a son who are very, very handy with projects.
    Although, we’ve decided that no new wallpaper will ever appear in our house. That stuff is completely evil – both to take off and put up! Never again!!

  6. ChemistKen says:

    My wife seems to have a knack for finding good contractors, or at least ones who are willing to go back in and fix something they didn’t do correctly without charging us more money.

    Man I hat removing wall paper. It’s the worse.

  7. J E Oneil says:

    Ugh, what a jerk. He probably waited for your husband to leave because he figured you’d be easier to deal with. The fact that he wouldn’t even look for a steamer does not speak well for him. He definitely deserves a bad Yelp review.

  8. UGH….. DO I have a story for you!!!!! Let’s just say, my LOFT IS STILL NOT DONE, and I am doing the rest of the carpentry work myself. If you recall I bought this loft last August. A year later, I am still working on it. My carpenter quite midstream. I hired a so called reputable “Handyman” surface and this guy did barely anything three days of drywall and plastering.

    The bath tile took over a week, when it should have taken three days. I paid this jerk 25 per cent less because of his negligence. He wouldn’t DARE try and sue me. I am in the business (interior designer) and he knows I can ruin him if he pushed me. I wouldn’t do that to anyone, BUT, as long as he thought so, so be it.

    I had another issue with my shower door install, but thankfully the installer came back the next day and fixed my issue.

    For the past month I’ve hung glass doors, plastered, painted, installed barn door hardware, etc. It all came out beautifully. THANKFULLY I am a perfectionist and I have a knack for it.

    SO I can totally sympathize with you. AND, SMART call on the painting. I would’ve been angry too, but I don’t have the proper scaffolding for that type of job. Having enough issues with my 11 ft. Ceilings. STRETCHING to my limit. LOL.

    You bath looks GREAT nice job!

  9. Hilary says:

    Hi Dianne – yes I can empathise … I hate jobs not done properly. What a fool and so unfair – typical man?! A steamer is a logical way to go – not that I know – I’ve only put up one room of wall paper … it worked out ok!

    Thank goodness you got it done before you had to pick up your student – and I love the shower curtain and the loo seat – fun …

    Cheers and enjoy the last remnants of summer – Hilary

  10. Sherry Ellis says:

    We’ve never had problems with contractors. We always pick them from Angie’s List or by word of mouth recommendations. Sorry you had such a frustrating experience!

  11. Anna says:

    No professional contractor would if he liked staying in business. Sorry you had so much trouble.

    The bathroom looks awesome. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  12. My contractor for our addition was a nightmare. We lost our entire house because of his incompetence. My house was literally down to the studs. We let him keep working because his insurance company had to replace all the damage he caused, but once we got to the point where we could finish on our own, we kicked him off the job.

  13. Lexa Cain says:

    In Egypt, you buy apartments unfinished – just brick walls and dirt floor. No plumbing, electricity, or anything. Even if you hire a construction manager, half the time his workers don’t show or do a bad job. Then the managers always get a third of the way through and say they didn’t expect such and such and now need more money. If you don’t pay, they leave – and keep the deposit which was for half. They have a saying here that if you ever hire workmen, expect to wake up one morning to find yourself running down the street naked and screaming. (Egyptian humor.) But see? You finished and no one got naked or screamed. Good work!

  14. mshatch says:

    Leave a review on Angie’s list or something. At least someone else might be forewarned. I used to paint houses ages ago and we often had to strip wall paper and never once did my boss say, “Wah, this is too hard, I can’t do it.” You should’ve asked the guy if he wanted you to call a wambulance for him. Big Baby.

  15. And that is why you were so proud of the bathroom on facebook! It totally makes sense now. =) Way to go! I’ve worked with some “professionals” in my day who left my jaw dangling. Just because they get paid to do things doesn’t mean they’ve invested the time to become the best.

  16. Julia Tomiak says:

    I’ve never had one quit, but I’ve had several do less than stellar jobs. It’s very hard to find a reliable contractor. And wallpaper is a bear to take off – if he’s got wallpaper printed on his card, he should have been prepared to expect the worst.
    I’m glad you got the job done anyway – new bathroom looks great!

  17. Sorry you “handy man” turned out to be not so handy with wallpaper. (Sounds like false advertising to me.) My hubby and I have always done the work ourselves, so we can’t blame anyone else for any screw-ups. I’ve done enough painting, wallpapering, and UN-wallpapering to know my feelings won’t be hurt if I never EVER have to do it again.

    You guys did a super job with that bathroom. I hope all is going well with you exchange student.

  18. …I’ve known about wallpaper steamers since I was a kid, when we had to use one at my parents’ new house. How did a guy who does this for a living not know to use one? O_o But your bathroom looks great now, love the nautical theme. The octopus on the toilet is a nice touch.

  19. Wow, I love, love, LOVE the new bathroom. The colour, the octopi, the shower curtain! It’s awesome.

    I’ve been really lucky with contractors so far, mostly because I only use personal recommendations. The one time I used the yellow pages, I got a plumber who showed up, said “Nope, can’t help you,” and charged me $80 for his five-minute assessment.