Tuesday, April 5, 2011

On Blogging...and Honesty

[This is a long, text heavy post. Don't say I didn't warn you!]

I promised in yesterday's post that there would be some upcoming musings on the basement renovation, and while some of them were just for fun, some were not. This is where we talk about...


The act of blogging, of putting yourself out there in a community of like minded people is really quite incredible. It is hard, but holy jeez it can be rewarding. I started this blog in 2009 after my husband and I bought our house as a way to document a big change in our lives. I had been obsessing over other blogs for a while as I researched where to buy couches and what paint colours work best in dark houses, and I figured it was only fair to start contributing.

There are so many things I love about blogging. Talking about my house and my experiences, asking questions, getting advice from the awesome people who read the blog, learning different ways to DIY and save money, gathering inspiration from fellow bloggers/renovators and most of all (of course), becoming friends with other bloggers and readers. That part is really cool (and was totally unexpected). There are days I will spend hours emailing back and forth with a reader friend who wanted to give me some advice or comment and we end up discussing their kitchen reno or their experience with a certain brand of paint. You can't get this from just reading books and magazines.

My house, my blog and my design ideas are all a product of this awesome collaborative community and I honestly couldn't be more grateful. So thank you!

Of course, with the good comes the bad. No, I'm not going to talk about snarky comments (which I've never received - I think that means I haven't *made* it in blog-land) or the blogger cliques that I've heard about (but never experienced). The real downside to being a blogger that I've experienced is the pressure to be perfect. To have a before and after that wows everyone and results in lots and lots of comments. To create something unique and polished and exciting that inspires someone else.

I'm not sure if other people experience this, but I know that I have. I truly believe that it is that pressure (self imposed, of course) that has caused me to be unable to make a decision without himming and hawing for days/weeks/months (i.e. the bathtub, the fabric, the paint colours etc).

And it is this pressure that has stopped me from revealing our almost complete basement bathroom.


Because it isn't perfect. It isn't the BIG REVEAL that I pictured, where everyone would ooh and ahhh and validate my design decisions.

I know. I'm such a baby.

When I realized that there was a problem with the bathroom (actually, there was more than one), one of my first thoughts was "how am I going to blog about this now?"

But a 'design blogger' I am not. I know that you guys don't expect perfection so I shouldn't keep up the image that things are perfect. It is too easy to perfectly place each item, give each pillow that special "I look perfect and loved all at the same time" hug and stack each book that was probably purchased just for its complimentarly coloured spine. I'm guilty of (trying to do) that so that I can keep up with the bloggers and designers that inspire me.

So here goes. Here is the honest truth about our reno.

I had to tell our contractor that the tiler he hired SUCKED THE BIG ONE and that I want it fixed

Um yeah - that wasn't fun.

In a nutshell, here is how the story went. The floor was tiled while we were in Jamaica. I was probably lying on the beach with a daiquiri in hand while an experienced tiler was on his knees in our new bathroom, probably cursing the day he accepted our job because we bought these tiles:

That's right. Gloss round penny tiles. Purchased at Saltillo Tile here in Toronto (for a GREAT price, I might add). It can be tricky to install and it takes a LOT of grout.

When we returned from our trip, the floor was covered with paper to protect it, but the bit we could see looked AWESOME.  Seriously - I was in love.

Of course, after the paper came up and the sink and toilet were installed, I noticed a little something. One or two spots where it seemed like the grout was thicker than in other areas. I started getting annoyed. I talked to the contractor who blamed it on our slightly uneven floors.

Okay - our contractor mostly leveled our floors. Sure there were a few spots that weren't perfect, but the bathroom was mostly new concrete so that didn't make sense to me. However, I did know that our floors weren't perfect so I kind of gave up.

The next day, my husband showed me a picture of the floor that he took on his phone. For some reason, the photo highlited what the actual problem was.

You ready?


"Babe" he said. "You can see the squares of the tile sheets". Uhh..what?! I immediately went down to the basement to inspect. He was right. The issues with the tiles were from the tiler SUCKING THE BIG ONE. He didn't lay them correctly, so in a number of spots, two tiles are laid in a horizontal row instead of on the diagonal like they are supposed to be.

I did a little googling, and found this:

The sheets are keyed so they fit together perfectly. Ugh. Should have been relatively simple.

So I raged. I raged for days. Every time I thought about it, I felt sick. My nice bathroom was NOT NICE anymore. Everytime I looked at it, all I could see were big squares on the floor.

Now, I know there are bigger issues in the world, so I'm not looking for comments like "you think bad tiling is a problem?" or judgement about my inability to see the big picture. I know I'm happy, healthy and lucky to have what I do. For me the issue wasn't just about the error - for me it was about now having to a) complain about it and b) ask someone to fix it. Fixing it wouldn't be a small job. It will probably involve all new tile (chipping all of that grout out to save the cheap porcelain tiles doesn't make sense) and the sink and probably the toilet will have to be uninstalled and reinstalled.

Honestly, I just wish that the contractor had noted the problem and had it fixed right at the start.

Finally, I talked to J and told him I wanted it fixed. I called the contractor, told him, said he might think I'm nuts but that I wanted it fixed. It was installed incorrectly and that wasn't good enough for me.

And - he agreed.

Now - this hasn't been fixed yet - our contractor is going out of town for a few weeks and it will be dealt with upon his return, but at least he has agreed to have it fixed. I still worry about when he arrives with the tiler and the tiler justifying the issue - but I know I will just have to stay firm and insist he do it properly.

Can you tell I hate confrontation?

So there it is. The wart on our basement reno. The hangnail of our new bathroom. I didn't want to tell you guys because it wasn't perfect, but you know what? I'd want to know. As a reader, I want to know when things don't go right, because that is normal. From what I understand, most renovations have 'oops' moments and 'I didn't know that would be behind that wall' issues. Contractors screw up and don't show up and underquote and over promise. Luckily, we didn't have those issues. We had a contractor that we trusted and a reno that went smoothly (and quickly) with this one cosmetic exception.

So now tell me - have you had a reno-mishap? Is this normal? How about dealing with the 'Making it Right*" part (a la Mike Holmes)?


Your non-designer, DIY wannabe, flying by the seat of my (untrained) pants, blog loving, rageaholic friend,

PS - In the spirit of sharing, NK over at Style-ing with Children posted her own "Perfectly Imperfect Reno" - check it out!


Grace @ Sense and Simplicity said...

I love the tiles you chose, but I saw that they weren't correctly aligned the instant I looked at the photo you posted. I'm no expert, but I can see how they are supposed to nest together and the tiler hasn't done that. That being said, I totally feel your pain about having to be confrontational. I would be exactly the same. If it weren't such an expensive job, I would be tempted to buy a floor mat and call it a day, but it would always bug me that I had paid for such inferior work. Thank heavens your contractor is going to fix it.

Michelle said...

Um hell yes, it's totally noticeable and SHOULD be fixed. Don't be a wimp about it or avoid confrontation, I'm shocked that he left it that way!

Shadi said...

We had a very similar bad experience with our kitchen backsplash installation! We chose glass tile from the tile store that our contractor recommended, a bog one. We love the tiles and how it fits in the overall kitchen design BUT, BUT, you can see the mesh behind the tiles! I also tried to ignore it but then I said, NO, I can't stand it, it is not good enough for me! after 5 weeks of renovation, I wanted it to be perfect. So I told the contractor and he agreed to have his tile man come back and reinstall new ones BUT it has been 4 months and we are still waiting! Last week, he called and said that actually there is sty wrong with the tiles and that he will send me to another tile store but we are still waiting!!!!! I understand....it is very frustrating!

DomesticJenny said...

I'd be seriously livid and definitely expect it to be fixed. I love that you decided to share the bad and not just the good. That's one of the great things about a blog, it's real people doing real home design and renovation not the picture perfect stuff in magazines!

Designwali said...

I totally know your pain...I have had plenty of dodgy contractors. I have had to pick my battles on the mess ups...but if I were you..yes, ask for a redo. We pay money for their service & expertise and expect a quality job. I had a contractor stain my fireplace in my basement and when I saw it for the first time I think I literally blurted out it was ugly....i told him he had to fix it...and he did. It is always worth the ask. Good luck!

Hopeless Chest said...

:( Sorry there's about the wart on your reno. But good for you for sticking up for yourself and speaking to the contractor. It's a lot of your hard-earned money, you DESERVE a job done well.

And I totally hear ya about blogging. I look forward to moving because we'll have big projects, tons of "before" and "after" and I hope to wow everyone. But then I feel the pressure and the weight of all that work and I wish I could just move in, through a couch here and there and not worry about the blog.

For the most part we get in to it because we're inspired to share, and then there's that little devil on our shoulder wanting to impress instead.

ejmessner said...

THANK YOU for sharing the good and the bad! And GOOD FOR YOU for standing up for what you want and deserve out of your contractor! It's hard to confront anyone, but so-called experts are the hardest for sure. Good luck with getting it fxed, and trust me, it will be PERFECT for you... and all of us in blog land will love to see the finished product! :)

AM Dolce Vita said...

It's a hard decision and for me I would be constantly debating between to play a blind eye and try to live with it or to go through the hassle to have everything ripped out and retiled. Good for you for going through with it! And hell yeah, this is such a noticeable flaw and it'd be hard to pretend it's not there. Years ago when we were at our last house I went through something similar except it's for landscaping pavers. The contractor finished our entire backyard only for me to point it out to them that the line was totally crooked when I got home. They had to dig up every single piece (hundreds of them) and re-pave it. So no, I never have any problem telling my contractor when I am not happy with the outcome.

Roncy Vic said...

I've dealt with more than my share of bad trades people. Truth is the good ones are actually very rare. In my opinion, the whole point of dealing with a contractor, is that he is supposed to vet and manage his subs, so don't feel bad for asking him to make it right. It was his tiler that messed up, not yours.

Michelle said...

Good on you for telling them it wasnt done properly, there is nothing worse than paying someone to do a job and then thinking you could've done it better yourself! As for the blogging, I dont want to see perfect! I want to see the adventures (and misadventures) because that is what makes it real, nothing turns out as you first thought there are always obsticals but thats what makes it so satisfying in the end :)

Rambling Renovators said...

Confrontation is tough, even when you're in the right, isn't it? So glad you spoke up and I hope the contractor is as good as his word and gets it fixed for you. Its noticeable and it would drive me batty if I had to live with it. You're paying good money so you get it done just how you want it!

Shruti said...

I needed to hear something like this. We just had our front door replaced with the hinges on the wrong end! The company agreed to fix it but we would have to wait 6 weeks for a new door.That was unacceptable since we are leaving on a long vacation shortly and our original door fails both in terms of privacy and security. So we sucked it up, but i did ask for a price reduction and got it.

Looks like your story is going to have a happy ending. All the best!

Leigh said...

I totally understand why you want the tiles fixed. I'll admit that I noticed it, and if I was you and just paid money for it to be done, I would want it to be done correctly.

Hopefully when he fixes it, it's correct this time and there are no more issues. Do you have to pay him a second time to fix it?

Jocelyne said...

When I purchased very similar tiles, I initially was going to install them myself (even purchasing all the equipment), then I started seeing photos online that highlighted uneven placement and knew it was a bigger task than I could manage as a first-time tiler. Luckily, the man I hired did a great job and I can only imagine one seam in the room--and I am pretty sure it's just my imagination.
Congrats for being assertive and demanding it fixed. It's too great a tile to not be installed properly!

LauraJane said...

This is the sort of thing that would happen to me. I would expect I, as an amateur, might do this on my own tile install... But a professional? No way.

I'm glad you spoke up. You paid for it to be installed, you expect your contractor to make sure it's done correctly.

I appreciate your honesty too. :)

emily said...

Oh no! I am sorry you have to deal with this! But you won't regret telling the contractor and having the tiling guys come back and fix it -- it was clearly installed wrong and they need to make it right!

Megan Lauriana said...


I'm so glad you posted. I wish that I could say something to make you feel better about that pressure, but I know there isn't a magic cure for it.

I know exactly how you feel. We hired a guy to paint our house and do our floors. Most of the floors were done before he bailed with 1000 of our hard earned dollars. I was enraged. I wrote emails, left messages, and finally I gave up. Because in the end, I was the bigger person. I didn't scream or say nasty things. I just let it go.

I am so happy that you posted this mishap, because it's how we all learn. And honestly, it made me feel better that it's not only me. I'm not the only person that has had an issue with house remodeling. It's comforting.

That said, that tile is amazing and stand your ground! Get it fixed and don't make apologies. This is something that the contractor should have noticed and fixed right away.

Can't wait to see the rest of it! :)

NK: Style-ING w/ Children said...

Janice, I totally would have killed him. I agree that it would be a constant thing that bugged me about the room. You must have it redone! Sorry, I'm not trying to make YOU feel worse, just the guy who did this!!! Oh, I can't imagine how you must have felt :(((

ok, my bathroom reno (and I'm going to go take a picture to post on my blog RIGHT NOW) has the power outlet flush against the top of the vanity. Because they installed the vanity 1 inch too tall - 34 inches vs. 33 inches. Bugs me EVERY SINGLE TIME I walk into the room.

I've let it go (or I pretend to). But still... you tile should be fixed.

Speaking of blogs and being perfect. I've made a pact with myself to keep this as a hobby, to not be competitive and to do this for me. I have to check back with myself to remind, once in a while that these are my priorities for the blog. It helps keep me sane and it helps keep blogging fun.

I hope you will not stress over the pressure to be perfect. I happen to like ppl who go through the same things as me :))

Hope you feel better

Nicole said...

Thank you for your honesty. I can imagine it's hard to put yourself out there but as someone that loves to read blogs it's the honesty that keeps me following.
Best of luck with the fix! And I can't wait for the big reveal (with any imperfections)!

LifeBegins@Thirty said...

Wowie. Thanks for all the replies everyone - nice to know that I'm not alone and that I'm not being nitpicky by insisting on a fix.

Gah. What a fiasco!

Centsational Girl said...

Hey Janice, what a great post! I love your honesty. We've run into mishaps with contractors before and had to have them come back and fix it. I feel your pain! Hope all will be well soon.

Katie said...

i agree with everyone else - you did the right thing, and i'm glad that they are willing to admit that they made a mistake. working as an architect, i often get in to arguments with contractors over the quality of work, and it's one my least favorite parts of my job. i also hate confrontation!

Britt said...

Well said my dear!! I know exactly what you mean about the perfection complex... I am sure more bloggers face this than you think. We just have to learn to be perfectly imperfect! ;)

I hate confrontation too, and I think that if I was in your situation I would have tried my hardest to avoid it, but in the end you did the right thing.

You paid a professional to perform a job and he did it incorrectly... would you accept something like this had it been something else? Like a half cooked chicken at restaurant... or the brakes being serviced on your car? No! So don't feel bad for requesting it be fixed. Just make sure you discuss your expectations and $$ before he starts again.

-Kasey said...

When I saw that photo I immediately saw the problem and the first thing that popped into my mind was ‘Mike Holmes’… even before I read the part where you mentioned his name [I seriously am obsessed with his show].

But on the flip side im so happy to hear your contractor agreed that it was done incorrectly and he is going to fix it. :)

kpriss said...

This is great! This kind of honesty and straight talking is balm for my non - designer heart! Thank you! A Biiiig Thank you!

I started looking around the web for reo blogs because we're in the middle of one ourselves and we're far from being interior decorators so we honestly draw inspiration from the generously web - provided sources. I asked myself repeatedly if I would have the courage to start a parallel decorate'n'tell blog and the answer is still negative. Renovations are such a pain, really! When it's all up to you, it may prove to be a marvelous journey but when it's up to others... Well... you just told the story...

Either way, you know what they say - learn from your mistakes - I think I'm lucky - all of us are - to be able to learn from others mistakes! Again, thank you! :*

Tanja @ Postmodern Hostess said...

I'm completely with you on the (self-imposed) pressure to be perfect! I think sometimes the angst I'm feeling about finishing up a renovation project is just as much about wanting to be able to do the big AFTER post as it is about wanting to be done with the work and the mess.

As for the tile, that is clearly an unprofessional job, and you're right to have it fixed. As someone who was formerly intimidated by tiling, I have to say, it's *very* do-able as a DIY project (especially when you're laying tiles with mesh backing -- makes it so much easier!), and then you can make sure it's done exactly how you want it. And if you see at some point that it's not right, you fix it before the mortar dries and the grout goes on, so that redoing it isn't as big a deal either.

Still looking forward to seeing the finished product!

Kerry said...

You already know how I feel about the pressure of being perfect on the blog (my now defunct series of perfectly imperfect hahaha).

As for the reno... let me tell you about our basement bathroom tile incident. As you know... we DIY... and we often DIY with my Dad. I don't really want to get into it, but that beautiful herringbone tile in our basement bathroom was the biggest pain in the butt EVER! It's not level in many spots in that room... and it never got sealed fast enough (aka we're lazy) and now some parts have yellow stains from absorbing water etc. The whole thing was just a mess... but thankfully the worst of it is hidden underneath or behind fixtures.

Reno's never got perfectly... but I'm glad we can share this stuff on our blogs. It helps all of us remember that not everything is perfect... your bathroom will look fab when it's finished! :)

elizabeth@themustardceiling said...

Oh my goodness. First of all, I love your tile choice. Second of all, I can't believe that tiler made such a mess of your love tile and bathroom. You trust someone to know what they're doing when you hire them. Good luck getting it fixed. I know it will be gorgeous when you do.

Sarah said...

Good for you for demanding the tiles be layed correctly. Yes, you can see the problem (more so after you point them out). You paid a professional to do the job, so you should be professional results!

We also had a problem with our bathroom tile when it was installed. We found 3 cracked tiles (one under the sink, one in the doorway and one in the closet) that I didn't notice right away. Unfortunately, by the time I noticed the cracks (about a month later) my contractor had moved out of state and couldn't be reached. When we hired another contractor (to install tile in our second bathroom), this contractor explained that the problem was incorrect prep. I'm still ticked about it 2 years later.

Jessica @ Decor Adventures said...

Hi Janice,

Thanks so much for opening up about this. I too feel the pressure, in fact it causes me much thought on each project I take on. "Will this photograph well? Do I have enough light? Would it look like it belongs in a magazine? Oh no I can't choose that color, it's not trendy." Difficult for sure. But blogging is just that, a web log. I look at it as a chance to talk about the good and the needs-to-be-improved :-)

I'm really happy you spoke with the contractor about your tiles, awesome! I'm sure he will fix it right and it will look amazing. Great tiles by the way :-)

kerri said...

Your basement looks amazing, and I totally understand the feeling when work isn't 'up to snuff'... Funny how quickly it can get done, but how long it takes to get 're-done'. We're still waiting for our contractor to touch up the spots in our Oakville house ;-).
On Honesty: I'm relatively new to the blogging world, but I can tell you that the 'perfect' bloggers sometimes turn me off because I (being an eternal pessimist) am always wondering what their life is really like and also, I'd rather be reading someone I can realte to versus someone who makes me feel inferior or that I can't live up to. So keep up with the honesty - it keeps it real. Thats my 2 cents. Good luck with the renos - you're a brave woman.

christine, just bella said...

I have to tell you, you should be proud of sticking to your gut. You hired a professional and PAID them to do it right - they've got to fix it. Though that doesn't make it any less frustrating or any less hard to deal with it. I feel your pain girl, and remember it'll be worth it in the end!

Thanks for keeping it real :)

Melinda Ke said...

I am so glad that you decided to post about this! This is a real problem that many people face when they hire out someone to do the work, and I have heard many horror stories that people have to threaten to take legal action just to get the problem fixed. People can learn a lot from your experience, so please continue to post the good, the bad, and even the ugly! :0) I hope your tile comes out beautifully the second time around!

Sheri said...

I haven't read all the comments so I don't know if this has been said yet but as an avid blog reader I can tell you that sharing I appreciate the sharing of the not-so-great decisions/renos/etc. Don't get me wrong, I love a good before and after shot but knowing that you and other bloggers make mistakes and run into problems makes me feel better when it happens in my house. Thanks for sharing and best of luck with your tile situation! I have a feeling that sticking up for yourself will work out in the long run.

Sharon@Sharon at Home said...

You want it as close to perfect as you can get it ... that is why you hired a professional and didn't do a diy. That floor is going to be with you for years ... I totally agree it has to be re-done.

If you hadn't addressed it with your contractor, he would have just left it ... it is way easier for him to try and have you accept it than having it re-done.

YEAH for standing your ground.

Jen said...

I hate confrontation too, but you did the right thing. Those tiles are beautiful and they cost you money and the tiler should have installed them correctly in the first place.

As for the blogging thing - I know just how you feel. The pressure to be perfect is intense. I combat it by NEVER being perfect. :) Bit of a spaz, really.

For the record, your blog is always beautiful and inspiring. I love it.

lealou said...

Ugh what a pain! One of our mishaps isn't too hard to fix but annoying anyway! Our house is all grey -- I wanted a neutral colour that wasn't beige. So when the painter was painting upstairs it looked blue. I said I can't have my whole house blue! So he did the bedrooms and then we got another grey for the hallway and the main floor. Then he painted the mudroom and he ended up cutting with the blue grey and painting with the new grey. So annoying - so now you can clearly see the differentiation in the greys. Hasn't been fixed yet but it will be! :)

Shannon @ What's Up Whimsy said...

Wow, I didn't realize how bad it was! I am so glad you said something. After paying all that money, you want it to look as it should be. What an idiot tiler! And I'm glad you blogged about it. I hate confrontation too and would probably have a hard time telling my contractor that something needed to be redone, so, really, this post has inspired me to do so....whenever that time comes, if ever!

Meg said...

Oh dear! The tile problem is noticeable. I think you are right to want it fixed. My husband is a contractor and I know he wouldn't accept that from his tiler either. I think you did the right thing in talking to your contractor.
The thing is, I know from experience that no reno goes perfectly and is without mistakes. Expecting that from your contractor - *or yourself* - just sets you up to feel bad.
I think the success of the reno should be judged by how your contractor deals with the mistake. In the end, your floor should look great and that's his responsibility. You shouldn't feel bad about it!

Jen said...

I am glad you are standing firm on this one. I work in commercial interior design and can not tell you how many times I have had issues with carpet tile installation, Ceramic tile installation, etc. It usually comes down to a subcontractor that may be great as his job (myabe not too, who knows) but is installing a material he has never worked with before. Installing penny tile is not the same as installing regular 4"x4" tile for example. That is supposed to line up next to each other. I am glad you called them out on it and are making them redo it. If they were not familiar with the material they should have done a google search like you did to see how it is installed or contacted the manufacturer. Hope the rest of the reno goes well.

Sharon@Sharon at Home said...

You want it as close to perfect as you can get it ... that is why you hired a professional and didn't do a diy. That floor is going to be with you for years ... I totally agree it has to be re-done.

If you hadn't addressed it with your contractor, he would have just left it ... it is way easier for him to try and have you accept it than having it re-done.

YEAH for standing your ground.

Sarah said...

Good for you for demanding the tiles be layed correctly. Yes, you can see the problem (more so after you point them out). You paid a professional to do the job, so you should be professional results!

We also had a problem with our bathroom tile when it was installed. We found 3 cracked tiles (one under the sink, one in the doorway and one in the closet) that I didn't notice right away. Unfortunately, by the time I noticed the cracks (about a month later) my contractor had moved out of state and couldn't be reached. When we hired another contractor (to install tile in our second bathroom), this contractor explained that the problem was incorrect prep. I'm still ticked about it 2 years later.

Life Begins at Thirty, Right? said...

Thanks Anne!

Dharma said...

Girl. I hear you. The pressure is on even more now that I've self-identified myself by going to blogging events etc. as a "design blogger". Do you feel that way too? I so get the reluctance to reveal, sometimes I don't post for a week or two because I am paralyzed by unblog-worthiness. Funny thing is, I know it's dumb. Anyhoooo...I'm still attended the Cdn Meetup this weekend and I'll glean inspiration and motivation I am sure. I'm off to try to redo a "cloffice" I have yet to reveal....like from 6 months ago.

As for the DIY-don'ts.....I too have had and made my share. Stick to your guns though, you paid for the work, it should be done to your standard (as in properly would have been nice)!

LifeBegins@Thirty said...

My Wife will really enjoy your blog. My Wife and I did our own bathroom renovation, so we kind of understand that one.