Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Police and Contractors are Never a Good Combination - Especially at 3 am

Granite countertops shouldn't be the most challenging part of a project.  But somehow, that's exactly what happened on our house.

We are big fans of granite countertops.  We've installed them in four of our own kitchens and love the functionality and low maintenance.  We wanted that again for this kitchen, but in keeping with a classic New England style, we wanted a non-shiny finish.  So we decided on a honed finish.  It has that classic satin sheen, but still lets you see the texture of the stone.

As we quickly discovered, granite is usually shipped right to the end fabricator already polished.  So they need to grind that finish off, to create the honed finish we wanted.  Many fabricators won't even attempt this - it's tricky and they don't want to deal with it.

We had used one of the big local granite places on a previous kitchen and ran into some challenges.  So for this kitchen, we wanted to find a different place.  We heard about a small place nearby and went to visit them.  The owner was very enthusiastic and showed us some examples of his work.  We agreed on the plan and set a date for templating the design.

In the course of planning the work, we discovered that the owner wouldn't be doing the work himself, he was sourcing it to his brother - 'the only other person in Maine I trust to do the work'.  Ah huh.

After waiting a couple of weeks, we heard that the brother was ready to do the install.  Oddly, they wanted to do it on a Sunday afternoon.  Since we could only get to the house on weekends anyway, that was fine with us.  We agreed on 3:30 Sunday.  It shouldn't be a big deal - usually the granite install takes 1-2 hours.

3:30 Sunday came and went and no one showed up.  After repeated phone calls, I finally got in touch with the brother's wife around 5:00.  She said they were just packing up and were heading to our place.  6:00 came....no show.  7:00 came....no show.  We kept calling his cell phone and he finally answered and said they decided to stop at Applebee's for dinner, before coming to our house.  So we waited.  And waited.  At 10:00, we decided they weren't coming and started packing up to leave (we were camped out with beach chairs, a cooler and take out Chinese food while we waited).

Just as we were headed out, they showed up.  We suggested that they reschedule, but they said no, this was the only time they could do it.  So, against our better judgement, they got started.  Big mistake.

They brought in the first piece of granite, a small rectangle to fit over a 36" cabinet.  It didn't fit.  It was short, by about 4".  Geezzz......not even close!  They would have to cut a new piece.

Next they brought in the big L shaped piece that fit along the back wall.  It was big and extremely heavy.  They had to turn their truck around and back it up to the front porch, so they could use their boom truck to move the piece in.  It was midnight now - and the truck made the big beep beep beep noise as they backed up.  Then there were all kinds of additional machine noises, as they lifted the granite with their boom.

After multiple cans of Red Bull, they tried to slide the big piece into place.  But they couldn't figure out how to get it in.  The angles were admittedly complicated, but we finally had to help them remove a cabinet, in order to get the granite in place.

And that's when we discovered they didn't pre-cut anything.  Typically, a granite installer has already cut the holes for the sink and faucets (and we had 2 sinks and lots of faucet holes).  But these clowns waited until they got on site.  So now they proceeded to get out their high speed drills and saws and make a noisy mess.

That's when the doorbell rang.  Richard was appalled, the couple across the street had just had a baby and he was sure they were coming to complain.  Instead, when he opened the door, he found a petite policewoman on the doorstep.

The policewoman said they had received a phone call that we were being robbed.  Ha, our neighbours were so polite they didn't want to complain about the noise - instead they suggested we had very noisy burglars!!   But she looked around the house, in its state of construction, at our beach chairs and the left over chinese food - and commented there wasn't anything to steal :-)  (seriously, I think only a woman cop would notice this.....true?)  She wrote down everyone's license info and asked us to keep the noise to a minimum.

And they kept on working.  With a few more trips out to the truck to drink a Red Bull and ingest who knows what else.

The installers didn't finish until 3:30 am.  And the other granite pieces didn't fit very well. For example, there was a gap ranging from 1/2 - 3/4 inch along the back wall.  (Thankfully,  I was able to use some tiling tricks to help hide the issues.)  It was obviously not quality work!

The next day, I bought a bottle of wine for each of the neighbors and delivered it with a note of apology.  It was the least I could do after disturbing their sleep!

And we still had to wait another couple of weeks for the final piece to be installed.  They got it right on the second try.  But even after all the craziness, we're still not happy with the granite.  The finish doesn't have the satin texture we were looking for.  It's blotchy in some areas and is a pain to clean.  I called to have the business owner come out and look at it - and big surprise, he never came.

Lessons learned - sometimes it's better to go with the big companies.  They have a trained crew of experts who can handle challenges.  They also have new equipment (the folks I use now have laser systems and don't even do old fashioned templating for a perfect fit), using the latest techniques.

At least we learned our lesson!

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  1. How frustrating that must have been! Who are you using now? The laser thing sounds intriguing.

    (And apropos of nothing, what make/model is that sink? I have been dreaming of a big, deep, single-bowl farmhouse style sink to replace the stainless two-bowl one that came with the place. This one looks perfect!)

  2. Ha ha - it's a Shaws porcelain sink. They are made in the UK and are on the pricey side. But I do love it! The only precaution we take is to have a grate at the bottom of the sink, so nothing can bang it too hard.

    I've been using Home Depot's folks for granite. It's a company out of Vermont and they do really nice work.

    1. Thanks for the info. I think---unless I'm lucky enough to find one in salvage---that I should probably resign myself to spending big $$ on the sink of my dreams. :-) Do the HD stone folks also do marble and slate?

    2. They used to carry a couple of marble selections, but they seem to change the options pretty frequently.

      Before you spend too much on a sink, check out the farm sink at IKEA. It looks very nice and is reasonably priced, but might be a bit tricky to find a sink cabinet that will work with it (except at IKEA of course!).

  3. It amazes me how inconsiderate people are! I was reading this just shaking my head. I hope you found some place to write a bad review...I hate to think of the other people who have also dealt with their unprofessional attitude. But YOU have a great attitude about it. I guess you've been doing this long enough to learn to let some of these things go :) Love reading your blog!

  4. In the middle of reading, the contractors were SO bad I seriously thought it was you who'd called the police, haha. You should at least write a negative review they deserve at Angie's list or some other places like that!


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