We are done.
The job is complete.
It’s exactly what the contract stated we would do.
Who’s heard this before from a contractor?
Over the past 16 years, I’ve worked with hundreds of contractors, male and female on residential and commercial design/build outdoor and indoor construction projects.
As a petite 5’2” woman, who has worked in male dominated industries all her life, I’m very aware of the common assumption that women don’t have a clue when it comes to repair work.
I know my way around auto mechanics, I’ve purchased (and use) 98% of the tools in my household and I have a broad knowledge of construction from learning on the job, construction and repairs on my own home or taking classes.
I’ve been called demanding when asking for what a man would ask for:
A well constructed, properly finished final product, done on time and on budget.
Recently I asked other women what their biggest frustration with contractors and renovations have been:
“Having the carpenter working on our porch tell me that it wasn’t possible to do something with his new tools and technology that my great grandparents were able to do in 1893! Oh and then the same guy telling me it was normal for the pre-cut stringers (he was supposed to custom cut them) to miss meeting the sidewalk by 4 inches. Seriously! I’ve got a million of them!!” – Jeanne McNeil
In response to Jeanne’s comments, I’d say that trying to convince the client that you did it right when you clearly didn’t, is pure laziness and absolute BS!
“Not paying attention to the details that I asked them to pay attention to up front, when they were writing the quote. This seems to happen to me every time. Even when I don’t pick the lowest bid. –Nikki Lussier
Nikki isn’t the first woman I’ve heard this complaint from. I hear this complaint from 80% of the women I speak to about contractors.
Details that matter to my clients, matter to me.
“Contracts talking exclusively to my husband and/or being condescending because they think I don’t know what I’m talking about. Every damn time!” – Nancy Belvin – Trim Carpenter
This is another huge common theme that I hear from many women. In Nancy’s case she is a trim and finish carpenter and very clearly knows her way around construction and building.
“So many of these subcontractors don’t listen and think they always know best. They need to be held accountable and to fix what they wouldn’t have had to fix if they had paid attention to us women and did it right in the first place.” – Susan Cary
I’ve had this experience also. As Mike Holmes would say “Build it right, the first time.” I couldn’t agree more.
And here is one of my stories:
I bought a 100 year old cast iron clawfoot tub for my historic home. The plumbing lines run on the outside of the tub and need to be just so to be correct.
I let the plumber know that the riser pipes that bring hot and cold water to the faucet in the tub needed to be 3 1/2” on centre so that chrome riser pipes are plumb (straight up and down) from the floor to the faucet. I gave him the old faucet so he could use it as a really easy reference.
This is what I go the first time:
3” on centre, meaning that the riser pipes would need to be on an angle to go from the floor to the faucet. Nor was it square to the wall. Not correct. Not acceptable. Not what I asked for.
He also completely marred up the chrome and had to order a whole new set.
The last time he tried to fix it was with 6 of us standing around him and the carpenter had to assist him with measuring.
During the ordeal with the first plumber, I was told repeatedly that it couldn’t be done the way I wanted. When I had multiple plumbers come in and do an estimate for the remaining work, they said what I wanted (to move the drain over to position the clawfoot tub properly and to have the riser pipes perfectly plumb) couldn’t be done.
All of these plumbers also told me that it was impossible to have my toilet moved from a 10” rough in to a 12” rough in. Sometimes this isn’t possible because of the placement of the floor joists.
A 12” rough in is the standard. A typical toilet with a 12” rough in costs $165 at the big box stores. A 10” rough in is typically a special order item and costs nearly $500 plus.
Long story short, I finally found a new plumber. The chrome is in perfect shape, the riser pipes are plumb and the drain was able to be moved over so the actual clawfoot fits where it was always designed to. Plus that 10” rough in, was actually able to be a moved to 12” rough in!
Surprise, surprise, it could be done the way I had designed.
The fact that all of us women have a “Million of [these stories]” tells a story in itself.
If I didn’t have the construction knowledge to know the details I was asking for in my bathroom was possible, I would have done what many other homeowners do; give up and settle for work that doesn’t quite meet the standards of great!
I’ve made it part of my mission to advocate for my clients to make sure their voices are heard and the details that matter to them, happen.
I’m passionate about easing the renovation and construction process specifically for my female clients because the home renovation industry is well past due for a change!
If you are looking to renovate your historic home in Richmond, VA, I’d love to hear from you. Contact me here.
If you’ve gone through a renovation, what would have made the biggest difference in making your experience a less stressful and pleasant experience? Tell me below in the comments.
Don’t even get me started on “typical contractors”. They are horrible. I’d much rather work with a contractor who actually wants to do a good job.
Yes, Stacie I agree. Unfortunately, sometimes those are hard to find. Thank you for the comment.
We’ve been wanting to hire a contractor for a pretty big project in the future and this makes me a little nervous because I don’t want a bad experience! I’d hire you if you lived in Iowa!
And I would love to work with you, if I lived in Iowa. Do your research and be sure to ask questions. You are the home owner and your opinion matters, make sure you are assertive when need be.
My mom has been taken advantage of many times after my father died by contractors! A total of 3 different ones tried to rip her off.
That is horrible. I feel for your mom and your family. No one should ever be taken advantage of, especially after a tragedy.
I always work with recommended people.
Contractors are a bit tricky 🙁
That they can be. Glad you have found good people to work with. Thank you for the comment.
This is brilliant. First of all, I love the tub and it looks just perfect. But moreover, yeah I really wish men would stop assuming we don’t understand construction basics. Anything I don’t know, I can learn but don’t take me for a fool! I love that you offer this service!
Thank you Viktoria. The tub is one of my favourite parts of the remodel and I was not about to let it go. I completely agree with you, just because we may not know something does not mean we should be treated with disrespect.
I would like to echo your sentiments. I also believe that “Details that matter to my clients, matter to me.” as I also practice it. It’s important to be perfect in getting the job done.
Agreed! Nice to see that others have my same values. All the best to you in you business ventures.
I guess it would be listening to me and my needs to the dot. Many contractors we get for the job never listen. They always assume to know what my needs are!
YES! Listening is a key factor in a great design. Being an advocate for your ideas is sometimes hard but necessary. Be choosy in who you work with, it should be a partnership.
I have heard a lot of stories like this, not just from women but also men. I always have my Dad with me if it’s a rare instance he can’t do what I need done for this reason.
It is nice to have someone in your corner when these things arise. Happy your Dad is able to lend a helping hand.
So hard to find a good contractor! I often wish I´d knew my way around auto mechanics and was good at repair works lol especially when dealing with those typical contractors telling you things are impossible
That is one of the reasons I have learned to do certain things myself. It is a shame that this is the case. General Contractors should make a project easier not harder.
I’ve been there! I’m 5 foot on the dot and have worked with my dad doing plumbing, electrical, you name it. Guys would always make comments at every job. Annoying.
Way to get into the mix! I love it. Being in the middle of a project is where I feel most at home. The stereotypes are unfortunate, but proud of you for lending a helping hand. Thanks for the comment.
So many times it is assumed the women can be slighted for lack of knowledge. In my case it’s true so I take one of my grown sons who always do a great job of representing. C
It has come in handy more than once and I am grateful.
Great that you have someone who can help you along the way. Thank you for the comment.
This post is right on time. We are meeting with contractors for some work on our home before we go to sell, and it’s been so frustrating and disheartening. I’ve shared this post with my husband in hopes of alleviating some of the beating ourselves up.
I am sorry your experience has been a negative one. Hoping the right contractor comes your way soon. Best of luck.
Appreciate the info on your personal experiences in the business. Always good to know you have an option like this.
Options are key. If you are not happy, there are other contractors out there to explore. Thanks for your comment.
Great read. It’s important to be selective about who you’re working with for sure!
Yes! I completely agree. You have to find the contractor that best suits your needs and wants. It is a partnership after all.
I have several contractor nightmare stories I could share with you. I just want to pay someone what they deserve to do the job right and in the timeframe we established!
I completely agree. Unfortunately, that seems to not be the norm. Hope for great working relationships for you in future.