Construction Is Complete: 2014-03-23
We took out the loan through the bank on our mortgage against the future value of the house based off the finished basement. They said after the basement was done it would be worth about 50k more than it is now, so they extended our mortgage to cover that, we were then going to use the money we got from that to pay the contractor.
At first it seemed to be going well, there were lots of meetings, he had lots of guys over looking at various things. He had the lifters, the plumbers, the electricians, the engineer, surveyors. Lots of emailing and talking and meeting and I figured it was all going well, plans were made and we were almost ready to start. After about a year though still nothing was happening. I figured by then the planning would be done and we could start, but he said there were still no drawings, so the engineer came over again, then the surveyors, finally after a few months we get the survey of the land of the house, and the engineer can start his drawings, after one more visit.
He mentioned that the proximity of the neighbours houses to ours might be an issue, and they had to dig a certain way to make sure not to shift anything. This might add to the cost, but that was okay we had money in savings if it went over, we could cover up to 15k over the cost of the project. he also said the neighbours house might be an issue because their door is on the side, and it would be right next to a massive pit during construction. They might have to shore up the ground to make sure it's safe for the neighbours.
After another few months and many more e-mails we finally got the drawings, and he was going to submit them to the city for a permit, something he's been telling us the whole time wouldn't take any time and it was really simple. After a few months though it seemed like the permits weren't going through, he kept saying he's working with the city, and sometimes it feels like they weren't submitted at all the way he was talking about them.
We explored other solutions, such as expanding upwards, to make our house bigger. The engineer came and said our house doesn't have any foundation so they can't really build anymore up without risking it collapsing, or shifting horribly. After a while he says the city won't approve the permits because we are too close to the neighbours house, and they only have one door and that would be blocking access to their house. I'm still not sure on this part, because he's acting as a middle man for us between the city, and it felt like the permits were never actually denied, he just didn't submit them after talking to people about them, or after he submitted them he was advised on changes that would add to the cost and he told us they were denied.
After more e-mails and a lot of talk we agreed just to seal up the inside walls of the basement, cover up all the open soil under the rest of the basement, re-enforce the structure for the house, put in a sump pump and back flow valve to stop any more water from getting in, and various other general fix ups to get the basement in a good condition.
We went to the bank with this and they said they have to re-evaluate the house for what we are doing, at which point they said it won't be worth as much anymore, so they can't loan us as much. So we had to reduce the amount of work being done, which took away more value, and the cycle kept going until we basically lost the loan, at which point we told the bank our parents would pay for it to get the loan to stop going down, which was a lie, we just are using our savings, and the little bit of the loan we had left.
So he said he has already spent about $7000 on the engineer, the planning, the various drawings, the survey. We've paid him $12,500, as a first payment towards the whole project at the start. At this point we are done and tired of him, but he said the payment was non-refundable, so we used what remained to have a back flow valve and sump pump put in, as well as moving the hot water tank and putting in a dryer vent, and patching the cinder block wall so the massive hole is no longer there.
Plumber came and did his work starting Tuesday, and he finished Friday. Contractor came Friday, said the basement ceiling was too low compared to the ground to put in the dryer vent, he did a pretty terrible job patching the wall (said didn't want to charge us for more cinder blocks), what we wanted was him to cut new blocks and fix the wall. He ended up screwing some plywood on top of the cinder blocks, doesn't even go the full height of the wall, and that was done. All in all the total for the project was just over 15k as of course he went over budget, so we owed him a few thousand more. His website said he took MasterCard, he said he didn't, we asked if we could pay later, he said he needed the money now. My wife ran to the bank, got his money, and now we never have to deal with him again. Except we still need the invoice so the city can reimburse us for having the back flow valve and sump pump put in (they cover a percentage of the cost, they haven't said if they are doing it this year though, they've done it the previous two).
Throughout all this we've had a rough time with things. Work has been horrible, so I quit for a promotion at another property we own, then someone left so I came back, but in a managerial role now. Lot more stressful, but work is a lot better now as well. Wife had a miscarriage, then a wonderful son which is one of the only things that brightens my day anymore. The shingles blew away and water came in and damaged the ceiling and walls. Insurance covered it, they replaced everything, but we are getting a little water in again with the spring thaw. My wife is always stressed out because she is stuck as a substitute teacher, always on call never knowing if she'll work or not. She wants a full time job, but just can't find one, too many teachers now. Hard to even find sub jobs anymore. We want another child, and without the basement being expanded the house is just too small so we are looking at moving now. Don't have much money saved up anymore, but hopefully we get some back from selling the house and can find somewhere we can have a family. Life gets us down, but we stick together, and we survive.
And as I write this I'm not even going into too many details of what we've dealt with working with him. Delay after delay, him assuring us it will get done, emails not being answered for weeks, then a quick 1 sentence reply. We're both nice quiet people so it really feels like we just got walked all over. It feels like he always had an excuse, there was always a reason for another delay, engineer needed to re-schedule, engineer is taking a while with the drawings, someone passed away. It has been very frustrating, and with her not really working and money being tight we are fighting a lot now. We don't get time together anymore because our son always wants attention, but the time we do get together and we manage to not be bickering is still wonderful. Think this is all more of a rant to help just get these last few really frustrating years out.
I'm glad I'm done dealing with him, no more delays no more worries about if it'll be done. No more questions about what is getting done. That is one less thing to be stressful about now. I'm still not quite happy about it, and I really don't want to move, but we tried our very best and now that it's clear we can't can't expand if we want a bigger family we need to move. It sort of feels like we are giving up, but we aren't, we still made the house tons better since we moved in, and we put in a huge effort. I hope it's good for the next homeowner, we have done everything we can short of going into massive debt to improve this house, since the start when we moved in with the new flooring, to now with the sump pump and back flow valve.
If we were to do it again from the start I probably would have still gone with a contractor for a project this massive, however now knowing how small it ended up being it would have been a lot easier to just hire the plumber ourselves and do the rest ourselves, cut out the middle man and it would have saved us thousands of dollars. It's just the way it's played out over the years it didn't work out, and knowledge we didn't have when we started changed things. We have no regrets, it is done, I just hope we can move on with our lives finally, continue expanding our family, be happy again, stop the pointless bickering and fighting. There has been too much stress lately putting a strain on both of us and our marriage, but we will get through this period of our lives.