October 14, 2014 at 9:35 am #183656
After two years of planning and months of actual work on my flat, I have come to the conclusion that it is far better to buy a new flat or one that doesn’t need work than to suffer the total incompetence I’ve seen in my remodel project.
Saying this another way – if I had the opportunity to start fresh, I would NEVER ever attempt a full remodel.
Nothing worked the first, second or third time and many things remain non-functional. I am seriously considering turning the master bathroom into a storage area because I doubt that the skills exist in Spain to actually turn it into a functioning bathroom. The beautiful Italian marble counter-top was ruined because they didn’t measure correctly – the faucet doesn’t align with the sink and the sink is off-center by 3cm (of course, I’m refusing to pay). This is probably OK because they’ve never been able to stop the new pipes from leaking when the toilet is flushed, so it’s not like we can actually use the bathroom.
It isn’t just the architect or the workers. Even buying small items becomes a chore. For example, one would expect a somewhat high-end store that only sells lamps and light bulbs to be able to match the proper light bulbs to the lamps that they sell. We are hoping on visit number 7 that they will have it right. Or just yesterday, the store that cancelled our washing-machine order because they didn’t have it in stock tried to deliver it – but after the cancellation we purchased another washing-machine at another store that will be delivered tomorrow.
I’m sure success stories exist. But I’m hardly being a perfectionist. It is mostly big stuff that has been problematic.
If you do endeavor to remodel, please note that it is an agonizingly iterative process.
October 15, 2014 at 6:02 pm #183683
Hi Garry, oh dear, that’s depressing. I’m just about to buy and remodel a flat in the Eixample. There’s no doubt in my mind it’s a good time to buy from a price perspective, and refurb costs are down too. But if the workmanship is crap, that’s another story. Is it possible you were unlucky with the people you used?
October 16, 2014 at 9:06 am #183684
Hello Mark, Unlucky – maybe. But the problems are so widespread. I won’t fill your page with all the problems – just a few and then some recommendations.
The architect is the lead person on the project. He recommended most of the specialists.
Kitchen: Working with the kitchen vendor, a higher-end vendor, we developed a great design. The execution: They omitted a 2.75m x .9m piece of the textured wood that faces the living room. They also installed the wrong oven, omitted two drawers and used a mix of woods of different colors, instead of the same wood throughout the kitchen. The architect, instead of being our advocate, tried to convince us that everything was OK. They’ve corrected most everything and now the will come to correct the corrections. Kitchen price 13k. Not luxury, but not cheap. I expected more. Glad I kept all the design documents to prove my case.
Bathrooms: Bathroom vendor substituted a different ‘accent tile’ (malla) for the shower. Architect had it installed before we saw it. We are going to live with this problem even though I have papers to prove otherwise, assuming that the vendor/architect also makes some concessions. Vendor sent wrong color cabinets. Architect gave us and the vendor instructions for cabinets and we chose accordingly, limiting our selections based upon the architect’s instructions. Because the encimera is often larger than the cabinet (something I didn’t know but the architect did know), the cabinet didn’t fit. Of course, that didn’t stop the workmen from cramming it into the smaller space, ruining the cabinet, which was fine because it wasn’t the color we selected. So then we bought a marble countertop to avoid the same problems and the result is in my previous post.
Cerramientos: Paid for top quality from a vendor just outside of Barcelona – 2 sets of ‘french doors’, 1 large sliding glass door (1.6m) and 5 windows. Installers (who are very friendly and work to please) have been here 8 times to solve problems. Big problems such as water flowing into the apartment when it rains. Like I said, these guys are nice but 8 visits? Because they always respond immediately, I would use them again. I would just adjust my expectations.
Architect: Seems to be advocate for shoddy workmanship instead of our interests. He always tries to convince us that we can live with major defects. There were/are many other problems, some serious, but I think you get the idea.
Advice: Aggressively supervise the project. Assume that everyone is incompetent and lying. Examine every delivery – compare it to the presupuesto or whatever documentation you have. If someone says that the hot water is working immediately test it while they are there (we went 4 days without). Same for everything that is ‘testable’.
My biggest mistake was not going with my ‘gut feelings’, listening to people because they are ‘experts’ and not recognizing that some of the architect’s design is in regards to some esthetic or ideal and not practicalities.
I also recommend a penalty clause in the contract, regarding the completion date – for each week beyond the date, there is a fee/discount to be paid by the project lead.
There are many good people involved with this project. Sadly, the stress from dealing with incompetents obliterates any good.
I hope this helps.
October 25, 2014 at 5:32 pm #183789
Could your architect be getting a back-hander from the suppliers that he recommended? It could be the reason he is defending their position rather than yours.
It happens a lot where an “expert” is actually taking monies from both sides and that compromises them when things don’t quite go to plan.
Still, always a shame when planned work doesn’t quite live up to expectations. We were all over our trades when we had work done but even when you turn your back for half a minute, they’ve placed a socket in completely the wrong place.
October 30, 2014 at 10:50 am #183806
Aunty Val, I do not believe that the architect is in with the vendors.
But after having a serious discussion with him, I realize that part of the problem is related to culture.
One of the things I admire about Spaniards is that they do appear to value people and relationships over “things.” Coming from the United States, this is a refreshing change.
But I think it also worked against me. After talking with the architect and asking why he isn’t going after those who did the shoddy work for a refund, he said that the relationship is important – that he will have to work with these people in the future so instead, the he (the architect) is taking the financial hit now, and he said he will more closely monitor future work.
November 1, 2014 at 9:25 am #183840
Mark, re your upcoming renovation project. I am happy to share the name and phone number of the world’s best painter, who happens to live right here in Barcelona. Alfredo is a perfectionist who exceeds all expectations, and (surprisingly) he is very economical. He also does tile work. In fact, I would trust him with any kind of remodel/repair/renovation work.
November 1, 2014 at 2:00 pm #183854
Gary’s tale of woe is most disheartening. It shows, for one thing, that despite opportunities for renovation work falling off a cliff, contractors/tradesmen are making very little effort to up their game. Clearly, those guys were still operating as if there were projects stacked up like jets over Gatwick.
With prices as they are, renovation is obviously the sensible way to go, from an investment, not to say personal point of view. Ideally, you start with a dog’s dinner costing X and end up a few months later with Cordon Bleu worth X + Y [refurb] + Z [added value]. I’ve done a few in my time – and when I say ‘I’ that does mean me, the one in the overalls wielding the pneumatic chisel and installing the bathroom – tiling, sanitary ware, pipework and all.
I had hoped that for my next – I think I have one last project in me – I could be the one walking around with the clip board and in clean clothes, not the one spattered with plaster or contorted under a sink unit connecting up the waste trap. But it looks like tradesmen in Spain can’t be trusted.
As someone who really needs to be able to buy a project to get best value for my modest capital, is Gary’s experience more common than not or has be been particularly unfortunate? I’d very much like to hear from anyone who has had experience of renovation in Valencia city or thereabouts.
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