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Bathroom Renovation – Part 5: Lessons learned from hiring a ‘designer’

Remember The Gong Show? Hilariously innocuous in its innocence. Beware the reality when you take on a home renovation. I wanted my next and last post to be the final reveal, since this project started in January. But after 11 weeks I finally kicked them all out, tired of being a hostage in my house. Luckily I’m pretty handy – just call me Handy Mandy 🤓, so I’m finishing the details myself. I thought it was only fair to share what I’ve learned.

Should you hire a designer? Possibly. Here’s what you should be careful of:

1) Anyone can call themselves a designer.

Personally, I have an issue with calling myself an expert in anything, even teaching which I think I was pretty good at. Or adulting for that matter, and I have a fair amount of experience in that at this point.

But some people are happy to not only claim themselves as experts but to try to charge crazy amounts of money for their supposed expertise. Key word is try. 😏 It’s trying to figure out whether it was ignorance or straight manipulation that’s doing my head in at the moment.

CHECK REFERENCES.

Which brings me to my second point –

2) Don’t wait until you’re so desperate you hire the first person who wants the job.

I have always trusted my instincts about people and I’m usually pretty spot-on. This time, I was blinded by assurances of what a simple job it was and how they’d love to make it happen as quickly as possible. Yet, there was no planning whatsoever put into the job before it started. I didn’t listen to that little voice raising the red flag.

Then, when they start using tactics like dropping personal histories and troubles, particularly financial, blaming every one else for the problems created through lack of planning, that red flag was waving right in my face until I couldn’t take it anymore.

Eleven weeks later, I’m finishing the details myself.

3) Have a firm start date and end date.

Eleven weeks!!! And there are still problems they have to come back for that I refuse to take on. Not cool for a simple remodel. Also, see below.

4) Set clear working hours.

When you live with a chronic illness, any disruption to your routine can cause things to go haywire. Never knowing when someone might actually show up, and even more having someone decide to work 11am-7pm, is just not feasible.

I have about three hours of the day when I’m good (11am-2pm). Anytime after 4pm, I need quiet, not all sorts of power tools and someone going in and out my front door. I feel like I haven’t been able to relax in my house since January.

5) Know exactly what they’re offering for the price.

I’m too damn trusting, and I think that everyone behaves in the world with the same integrity I do. I’ve said it before, I’m a dumb ass.

Does the price include drawings of the finished space?

What specific planning have you done for the project?

The answer in this case was a Pinterest inspiration board 🤯 When I had to call the cabinet maker back because they had not installed soft-close hinges on the vanities, he actually said “I’m really sorry, there should be a list.” 🤯🤯🤯🤯 D’ja think????

Will you be on site on the days things are being installed?

What is the exact timeline? (See #3)

6) Ask to see all receipts.

The contractor gave me the receipts and said there were just a ‘few’ missing. However, when I added them up, there was almost $1100 unaccounted for. Then, I noticed that the plumbers charged us twice for installing the tub fixtures, and the electrician charged for three times as many hours than he actually worked. I almost just paid the invoices to be finished with these people but I would have spent more than $1500 in unnecessary, inflated costs.

You can’t trust people to be honest. Sad but true.

Fortunately, the tradespeople on the project did decent work (eventually, except the electrician) and because I had a clear idea of the design I wanted, the bathroom turned out beautifully. It was a steep learning curve though, and next time I will be very, very careful about who I trust as a designer. Or I’ll just trust myself.

Now there’s an idea.

Have you had a similar experience? Any other tips for future projects?

❤️ Amanda

22 thoughts on “Bathroom Renovation – Part 5: Lessons learned from hiring a ‘designer’”

  1. I wish I was handy like you…I am afraid I am better at destroying things than building them. I have definitely learned that I get what I pay for. If the price of a designer is much lower than the others, something is amiss. I try to go with the middle guy, usually. Also, if you are hiring a contractor, definitely go with someone who is licensed. Hope to see how the project turns out! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Like you, I prefer to do jobs myself, but these days it’s getting harder. Parts of my body are refusing to cooperate and I can see the day approaching when I have to ask for help… God help us all!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a friend who used a designer for her kitchen. The results were not good. My first job decades ago was with an interior contractor followed by interior construction firm then interior designer. It is very much buyer beware. I worked for top notch people. At that time, I sat at a $15,000 rosewood desk. Still, lots of thieving and games. Check, double check, question, references and take a hard look at those.
    Glad your bath is done. Totally important for psychic well being

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Suze. It makes me really sad that that’s how things are, I’m far too trusting and assume people are honest. That said, I also think people need to earn their money so I have been checking, checking, double checking, and the results are really disappointing. I don’t know how people can look at themselves in the mirror after they’ve tried to screw someone over. Sad commentary on humanity.

      Like

  4. I’m suddenly feeling very satisfied about apartment living, though to be honest, I’ve been subject to lots of reconstruction noise at odd hours since my complex was sold two months ago. You’re right. That kind of ambiguity, noise and aggravation is definitely hard to cope with when you have chronic illness. Good for you for finally saying enough is enough, I’ll do it myself. I miss the days of doing things myself so much, but I still try on occasion. Who knows. Maybe it will even be fun. So sorry you had such a rotten experience with your contractors. Hopefully it’s all good experience for your next hire. Thanks for sharing the teachable moments with us! Xx

    Liked by 1 person

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