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Great Home Design: Avoiding Trouble
Comments () | Published May 1, 2009

If you’re Tom Bulger, the “nightmare renovation” survivor who tried several legal remedies, you go spiteful with techno-torture: speed-dialing the no-show contractor and jamming his office and cell-phone lines with “call me” messages. “It was the least I could do,” says Bulger, who was long past complaining to the Better Business Bureau, Angie’s List, and the neighborhood listserv.

If you’re the mother of three young kids whose kitchen renovator accidentally wrecks your heating system one summer and lets it go unfixed into winter, why not bring the kids to the company owner’s nice, warm office, make them peanut-butter sandwiches, and vow to stay put until it’s repaired? That tactic by former Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman got instant action back in the ’70s: space heaters for the weekend and a Monday visit from the repairman.

Might you be a client from hell?

Now a word from contractors and architects, who’d like you to know that the customer is not always right. You know who you are.

“The worst kind of customer is the one who wants to micromanage the project,” says David Merrick.

Tim Burch’s choice: “I hate to say this, but doctors or lawyers. They are so used to having the last word.”

“One client sued at the end of a job,” says a builder. “The lawyer found out she’d done it to seven other contractors. It was a scam she was running.”

Architect Victoria Kiechel’s pet peeve: “Someone who is always second-guessing you. They hired you but don’t want to take your advice.”

“Customers who, toward the end, deliberately try to screw you,” says a builder. “I had one who wouldn’t pay me the last draw because they’d lost a lot of money in the market and their kid’s tuition was due.”

“The person who watches you all the time,” says retired Arlington contractor Ted Mann. “We can have a few words in the morning or evening, but don’t sit there all day. It’s like the sign I saw hanging in a lumber yard: ‘Our rates are $45 an hour, $55 if you watch, and $65 if you help.’ ”

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Posted at 05:00 PM/ET, 05/01/2009 RSS | Print | Permalink | Washingtonian.com Articles