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A Canadian Remodeling Nightmare

illustration of exterior door installation in frame wall

This crude illustration shows how the exterior door should have been installed. Copyright 2023 Tim Carter ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

A Canadian Remodeling Nightmare - Betrayal of Trust

I’d like to share a story with you. This saga transpired over the past six weeks and I feel it contains a valuable teaching moment that is guaranteed to save you thousands of dollars, allow you to sleep at night, and go to dinner with your remodeling contractor at the end of the job.

This is a tale about trust, honor, and betrayal. Perhaps you’ve been betrayed in the past by a friend, a lover, or a contractor. No matter who it is, it’s always painful.

Weeks ago a woman who lives in Ontario, Canada purchased one of my short consult phone calls. She was upset about a new exterior door that was installed in the basement of her home. The purpose of the call was to get my opinion as to whether it looked okay and if she was just being too persnickety.

As I always do, I asked for her to send me as many photographs as possible so I could get a handle on the situation. Fortunately, she sent great ones that allowed me to see every aspect of the job.

This job was very complex. The homeowner had decided to build a new patio beneath a deck. The basement of the house was only partially below grade and the door was installed in the exterior wall in the basement under the outdoor deck.

To install the door, the contractor had to excavate the ground beneath the deck to be able to install the patio. This patio extended to the outer deck support columns. The contractor may or may not have known but the footing piers under these columns would have to be sunk lower into the ground as they no longer would have enough soil cover to protect against frost heave.

I immediately saw a grave error in one of the photographs. The contractor had cut a notch in the foundation to accommodate the new door. But the top of the notch was 6 inches above the basement floor!

Other photos indicated that he had already installed the new patio outside and it was also above the basement floor. I couldn’t tell if the patio was sloped away from the house so as to direct water away from the basement.

The notch in the foundation was not wide enough. This meant it was impossible to position the door far enough back in the wall in line with the wall framing that sat on top of the foundation wall.

But it gets worse. The contractor had not created a slope on the horizontal part of the notch in the foundation. This slope was necessary to shed water away from the underside of the door threshold. Without this slope, there was a very good chance water would leak into the basement under the threshold.

I told the distraught woman that I could make a simple color drawing showing exactly where the door frame should be in relation to the exterior of the concrete foundation and the existing wood-frame exterior wall. I also sent her several links to great illustrations and cross-sections that I found on the websites of top exterior door manufacturers.

Furthermore, I sent her links to several YouTube videos, including one of mine, that showed how to install a new exterior door in an existing wall. I believe she watched them, but it’s possible she didn’t comprehend all the information.

Money Equals Power

The good news is she was still in possession of well over $30,000. I had told her under NO circumstances to release another dollar to the contractor until such time as the door was installed correctly. She followed this advice.

But just a week ago she texted me sharing that the contractor was putting all sorts of pressure on her to pay him a large sum of money even though nothing had been done to correct the door installation.

This woman also got a call from the contractor’s family divorce lawyer demanding money from her. Can you believe that? You might now understand why the contractor was trying to get his hands on money.

The bad news is the woman told me she was about to hire an attorney to sue the contractor. I told her in no uncertain terms, DO NOT HIRE A LAWYER. I wrote a column about why not to do this about two years ago. That column is on my www.AsktheBuilder.com website.

The simple reason is you have better odds of winning money playing blackjack in Las Vegas than suing a contractor. First and foremost we already know this contractor has no money!

Avoiding Nightmares

How could all of this be avoided? The woman should have had superb drawings showing exactly how everything was to be installed. There should have been fantastic written specifications. She should have then talked to the general manager(GM) of the best traditional lumberyard in her city to find out the names of the contractors the GM would use to remodel his house!

How to Find the BEST Contractor

I recorded four videos showing you exactly how to find the BEST contractor in your city or town. GO HERE to watch all of them.

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