Our renovations curse – can they build it? Apparently not…

I am asked quite often how our renovations are going. Plenty of the questioners are confused as to why they are taking so long to get off the ground and frankly, I don’t blame them.

The architect was a big part of the problem, but I’m not going to go into that fiasco here (let’s just say that after two and a half years, you’d think something would have been achieved, wouldn’t you? Apparently he didn’t feel the same way…). No, this post is about how we seemed to have somehow managed to get into contact with every useless builder in Melbourne. I was curious to see how many of them there actually were, so I decided to list them all, and their ridiculous excuses, here.

This is not a comprehensive list. At least a dozen builders just never returned my calls, or told me straight-up that they were too flat-out to even quote for new jobs at the moment. One was about to retire. Another, on hearing that we’d fired our architect, said we couldn’t do the job without hiring another one: “Builders just do the building, you know.” Given that every other builder on the entire planet hates architects and would love to not have to deal with them, I decided he was a freak and we didn’t want him anyway.

Anyway, here are all the builders who just didn’t quite manage to renovate our house, in case you wanted to share my sad, bitter disappointment.

Builder 1: Recommended by a colleague. We called him several times but never answered his phone and had no voice mail (WHAT SORT OF TRADIE HAS NO VOICE MAIL?). As it turned out, he was busy doing Shane Warne’s house so he probably wouldn’t have been into our job anyway, nor could we have afforded him.

I know I said that I wasn’t going to list the ones that never got back to us, but I was so outraged by his lack of voice mail, I couldn’t help myself.

Builder 2: Recommended by our plumber. While he came to the house and went over the plans with us, and then assured me multiple times on the phone that he had worked out the quote for us and just needed to write it up, we never did receive it: “My daughter’s just had a baby, you see.”

Of course I see!

I see that you’re hopeless.

Builder 3: Recommended by the daughter of one of my mum’s friends. This one panicked when we fired the architect and wouldn’t touch the job after that for fear of being sued. Over what, I’m not sure.

We decided we didn’t want a stupid builder anyway.

Builder 4: The partner of a colleague. Things were already going south with the architect by this point, however, and while we would have loved to have used Builder 4, we had decided that we were never, ever again hiring someone that it would be socially awkward to fire.

Builder 5: This builder came with the architect. We couldn’t use him once we fired the guy. Shame. He was nice, quoted well within our budget, and didn’t do that thing all builders seem to do of scratching their chins and looking around, drawling “oh, yeah, there’s a lot of work that’s going to have to go into that basic job you want me to do. Boy, that bog-standard job’s going to be hard.” Which is a bonus in my book.

Pity.

Builder 6: By this point, my mother had taken to pulling over on the side of the road any time she saw a builder’s sign up anywhere and jotting down the number. Not one of these builders were worth the bother; most of them never even called me back. Builder 6 turned out to be the rudest man I’ve ever had the pleasure not to do business with. He cut me off while I was telling him who I was and what I wanted, to ask me “yeah, is it a big job? Only big jobs are worth my while.” He also wouldn’t even come to see the existing house: “just email me the plans and I’ll do the quote from them.”

He actually did get a quote to us in a reasonable timeframe, but we decided we weren’t having him.

Builders 7, 8 and 9: At this point, I put up a job request on the Master Builders’ website, explaining what we needed. I had three builders call me in response to it – a grand total of three, even though all the industry can do is moan about how there isn’t enough work and builders are getting laid off.

Anyway, Builder 7 left a message on our voicemail so slurred and incomprehensible, I can only assume he was drunk, stoned or deeply uninterested in being understood. The message went something along the lines of “I’m Mumble Mumble from Mumble Slur Constructions, mumble cough Master Builders gibberish call me on 04 mumble mumble”. Even if I had been able to work out his number, I decided we weren’t having a builder who didn’t even have the good sense to make himself clear in a voice message. Not after all the fuss we’d had to endure already (you may recognise this story from my other blog, btw).

Builder 8 turned out to be some company from the complete other side of town that did office refurbishments. I did not call them back (because WTF), and nor did they follow up.

Builder 9 is one of my favourites. He would not meet outside of business hours (what the hell sort of builder won’t meet outside of business hours? Shouldn’t he have been, you know, BUILDING in normal hours?) and so I had to leave work early one day to show him around our house. He was late.

When he did eventually turn up, he looked scarily like the lovechild of a leprechaun and a goblin, and, it transpired, could not read plans. Or count. He also called me every few days after he had given me the quote, to see if we were going to use him. I had told him that we were waiting for a few more quotes to compare his to, but after three or four of these phone calls, I just told him that we were going with someone else. We didn’t want a leprechaun who couldn’t count or read plans anyway.

Builder 10: By this point, I was so desperate, I did something I was trying not to do; contacted someone I knew, a husband and wife team with their own renovation company. I knew them purely through work, not in any sort of social context, so I thought it might be ok.

And everything seemed to go ok, at first, until the quote never arrived. It was December, I figured they were busy finishing things up, then it was Christmas and I couldn’t call them. I contacted them in January and they said they’d definitely sent it before Christmas and blamed their computer, which they’d allegedly had problems with. The wife promised to get it to us — “and I’ll even print it out and drop it off to your place on the weekend, I don’t trust email any more”.

That weekend came and went — no quote. I get a call on Tuesday saying that neither the email from December or the paperwork for our quote could be found anywhere on their new server and they’d make it up for us again.

Several weeks go by — not a word. I call, I email, I call again. I leave multiple voice messages; nothing. A month later, one of my calls is actually answered, by the wife, sounding completely spaced out. She tells me that her husband has left her, that she’s been in Sydney staying with her mum and she just hasn’t been up for work, but she’ll get that quote to me when she gets back to Melbourne.

This was months ago. You will understand when I say that I am no longer awaiting this quote.

Builder 11: This one is one of the largest builders in our area. I tried calling them a year earlier, when we fired the architect, but they never called us back. Getting desperate, I tried again a month or two ago. First they were going to get back to me in a few days, then when I call to find out why I haven’t heard from them, they said sorry, but they had had staff resignations and that the quote is going to take another couple of weeks.

Honestly, at this point, I felt like apologising — I had clearly spread our renovations curse to them over the phone, the first time I called. But I didn’t, I just said I’d look forward to hearing from them.

But I didn’t hear from them, and nor have I, over a month later. And I really don’t care, because since then, our plumber told us that he used to work for them and had to quit because they do a crap job, they lie to all their clients, they constantly decide that certain things weren’t included in the contract and if you want them, you’ll have to pay more, and that I would basically be desperately unhappy with them. A friend’s friend also used them and was miserable.

So, looks like we dodged a bullet there.

Builder 12: Also a large-ish builder in our area. Would not come to the house, but asked to just be emailed the plans to do the quote (always sets off alarm bells to me). Got back to us quickly enough; with a quote $50,000 more than every other we’ve received.

We won’t be using him.

Builder 13: After hearing that his first recommendation got us nowhere, our plumber recommended Builder 13, and I hope he will turn out to be lucky 13. Not that he’s really 13, since, as I said, plenty just never got back to us, but still. He turned up ON TIME to discuss the plans AND didn’t rub his chin and go “ooh, this is going to be hard, oh, yes, lots of work there” but rather went “Good. Yep, that all looks good. Nothing too hard there. I can do that.”

He hasn’t written up the quote yet, but he called us today to let us know the final figure and it looks like it will be in our budget; we just have to make sure he’s included everything.

Keep your fingers crossed for me. Surely, we can’t HELP but have found a decent builder this time around…

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