Conclusions from the Bathroom Remodel

Well, the bathroom remodeling is just about complete. All we’re waiting for is the shower door, which should be in next week. That’s being done by a local vendor, Tampa Glass, who we used ages ago at our previous house when we had a shower door just shatter on us. Their bid came in reasonable (just under $1400), and was much lower than the bids from our contractor’s vendors ($2100 and $2800). I’ll note we did get some other quotes of our own from another local vendor (Reseda Glass) as well as an internet vendor, and both were closer to Tampa Glass.

So, on to the pictures. This is what it looked like before: white and blue everywhere, and a tub that wasn’t designed for the type of mount that was used, resulting in leaks through the wall. The jacuzzi power was jury-rigged under the house (normal non-waterproofer outlet, with no GFI). We could find no record that it was done to code, although the records may have been part of the ones that were lost in the earthquake. These pictures were taken before we moved into the house in June 2005, so they reflect the previous owner’s decorating.


Now for the after pictures. As you can see, we brought almost everything down to the walls, and built a new stall shower. The contractor built a new vanity with a Caesarstone top. We did the painting ourselves, and I built the shelves over the toilet. You can find the specifics of what we used in this post.


The last two pictures show the details of the paint job that we did, and the unique handles we chose (who can resist a bit of whimsy).

Now for the $25,000 questions. Who was our contractor, and would we use them again? Would we recommend them to someone else in the Southern California area? Note that the following are my comments, gf_guruilla may have some additional comments — if she does, I’ll link to them here.

Our contractor was 21st Century Construction and Remodeling. Here is their contact information:

21st Century Construction and Remodeling
21000 Osborne St. #3
Canoga Park CA 91304
(818) 727-7704
Lic# 775958
POC: Aaron Ziv

Would we use them again? Possibly, but with some changes in how the contract was written, based on our experience. It should be noted that they did a very nice job, and were one of the few contractors that appeared to listen to us, and (more importantly) were willing to pull a permit, and undergo city inspections. We also had no incidents resulting from the fact that their foreman had a key. We were generally able to contact them, and they did respond to our input.

So what would we change? What lessons did we learn regarding this contractor?

  • Write time penalties into the contract. When they started, this job was estimated at 3-5 weeks. We started the first week of April, and ended effectively on May 31. That’s about 8 weeks. Next time we use these folks, we’ll add contractual penalties for unapproved delays in completion.
  • Write specific working hours into the contract. We had days where the contractor was working until 800pm. As the workers didn’t have a key (the foreman wasn’t present), we had to stay, which delayed us getting to other responsibilities. Next time, I would write that work outside specific hours requires approval.
  • Require a minimum foreman presence. During this period, the foreman was hosting his father-in-law, and our contact at the contractor was dealing with some family business. This resulted in some rework having to be redone when the workers didn’t know the full plans; it also added to delays. I would require the foreman to be present for some portion of each working day; perhaps daily coordination with us regarding the plans for that day.
  • Have all material supply responsibilities be explicit. One significant problem was some misunderstanding about who supplied what. There was a list of what we were to provide in the contract, but the contract was effectively silent regarding things not on that list. They thought the additional stuff was our responsibility; we thought some of it was theirs. Next time, I would have an explicit clause in the contract that all materials not explicitly listed as customer-provided are to be provided by the contractor as part of the contract.
  • Capture all understandings in writing. When we did the initial arrangements, I was left with the impression that they would take care of the necessary repairs if we found mold when we opened up the wall. We opened it up, and although we didn’t find mold in the wood, although there was a small patch (about 10”x10”) on the back of the wall of the adjacent room (meaning some drywall had to be replaced). I asked them to repair, and ended up having to pay for that repair separately. Next time I would explicitly put it in the contract.

    Similarly, they had indicated they would supply a security system (which we really didn’t need) that we could subsequently sell. However, they didn’t include the replacement window (although we had discussed it with them) explicitly as an item we were to supply in the contract. We thought they were providing it; they thought we were providing and paying for it. They believe that we verbally traded the security system for their supplying the window. We don’t remember that. Next time, I would have both understandings explicitly in the contract.

  • Be specific about fit and finish of all surfaces. As noted above, they constructed the vanity. This ended up being veneer over either plywood or MDF (acceptable, as we didn’t specify). However, they didn’t finish the top of the wall mounted cabinet with veneer, just exterior grade plywood. Next time, I would be explicit about the materials to be used for the cabinets and how non-front-facing surfaces are to be finished.
  • Be specific about who supplies cleaning materials and how debris is disposed. The contractor didn’t seal the bathroom door while working, and thus I was regularly cleaning up dust. They did sweep daily, although they used our broom and dustpan (which got trashed). They also used our trash can for disposal, meaning that some weeks we had to scrounge space in neighbor’s cans. None of this was covered in the contractor, and some was due to the foreman not being present (see above). We’ve provided suggestions on sealing the door. Still, I think it should be explicit that they provide their own cleaning materials, and are responsible for disposal of construction debris.
  • Double check material quantities before ordering. After we selected the tile, the contractor provided the supplier with the quantities and sizes. We ended up with 8 extra boxes of the 6½×6½, 1½ bundles of the 12×12; about 7 extra pieces of the bullnose (we had to order 1 box extra during the job), and 1½ boxes of the accent tile. We appear to have been able to return the full boxes (although we kept one of the 6½×6½), but we couldn’t return the extra full bundle of the large tiles. This represents significant added supply cost, and was based on a mis-estimate by the contractor. Next time, I would have those numbers double-checked before placing the order.

A non-contractual thing: We did use their supplier for the tile. This did provide us with a discount, but I do have a gut feeling that we might have been able to do better on the tile elsewhere, even with the discount. If you are doing tile, I might suggest shopping around a bit more if you are looking for a tile bargain.

So, would we use this contractor again? Yes, but I would write the contract differently. I guess this comes from the fact that we don’t do remodelling all that frequently, and thus don’t have experience with remodeling contracts.