NYC Renovation Chronicles

Famous oh-sh*t moments and what to do when they happen to you

By Clare Donohue | September 10, 2009 - 8:00AM

The Situation:

A typical emergency email from a client arrives: They've come home from a long day and discover a dead mini fridge (the one parked in their foyer to sustain them through the renovation) with all the food inside spoiled. Also out of commission is the outlet for their hotplate, and the phone is dead. "What the ......???" the message goes.

I'd love to say such an email would be a shock to me, but the truth is, there's usually one S.O.S. per project. However unintentional, and however highly experienced the contractor may be, certain emergencies like the ones below seem to come up over and over.

Here's the Deal:

• Hidden and inexplicable wires probably run through your apartment, and the contractor won't know a line has been cut until you tell him. This is never intentional, and once discovered, can usually be remedied quickly.  Don't lose your cool.

• You come home from work and your doorman tells you no one showed up today. There are two possible explanations: Your contractor's crew or subs bailed on him and he is only now hearing about it, or your contractor assumed it was unimportant to tell you that the plumber rescheduled for tomorrow.

In either case, this is lame, lame, lame. There's no excuse for such poor communication. Remind your contractor that you expect him to be on top of things, and to keep you informed.

•  The electrician came back to put in a missing switchplate and as he turned a corner his tool belt chipped a newly-lacquered wall. Unfortunately, on any renovation, humans are involved and mistakes will happen. Annoying as it is, something like this will be corrected without expense to you. The contractor will have to eat this one, and believe me, it hurts him more than you. 

A final tip: In any emergency, stop and take a moment to ask yourself, "How important is it?" Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and never assign blame. The sign of a truly good contractor is not that no mistakes happen, it's how well the problems get resolved. 

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