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One Problem in Remodeling, Many Causes

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One Problem in Remodeling, Many Causes

A single experience with poor workmanship shines a light on a deeper problem

By Erika Mosse December 11, 2023
Pro Remodeler Director of Content Erika Mosse
Pro Remodeler Director of Content Erika Mosse.
This article first appeared in the November/December 2023 issue of Pro Remodeler.

My brother, who’s in his 30s, just  bought his first house. The kitchen was badly in need of an update, but he couldn’t afford a full remodel, so he went with a company that specializes in refreshing older kitchens. It’s a large, well-known brand with locations across the country. (Five years ago, my brother probably would have invested in a more extensive renovation, but prices have gone up a lot faster than his income. For some great insights on lowering project costs, read Mark Richardson’s recent column.

My brother went through product selection, but at the last minute, changed his mind on the backsplash. This resulted in a delay of a few days due to the tile needing to be reordered. Rather than fall behind schedule, the company decided to paint the cabinetry first. They warned my brother that installing the backsplash may blemish the new paint, but assured him that they would touch up any areas that needed it. (The color he chose was a bold, dark green. To see how my brother was unknowingly participating in two different, emerging design trends, read Caroline Broderick’s excellent feature.)  

He called me a few days later asking for advice. As predicted, there was damage to the paint during the tile install, and the project manager fixed it himself rather than bring a trade partner back in. 

“The sales rep is asking for the last payment, but I’m uncomfortable,” my brother said. “I feel like the paint still doesn’t look right, but I’m not sure if I’m being too picky. Can I send you photos? I owe them $4,000.” 

I was surprised. My brother is an easygoing person who generally avoids conflict, and for him to consider withholding money was extreme. But then I saw the pictures. 

Two of the four touch-ups were on the sides of the cabinets and, while obvious, they might have been accepted by an understanding client. But the other two were centerstage on the cabinet doors and drawer fronts. They showed clear, and extremely sloppy, brushmarks. It was nowhere close to professional-level work, and I felt a wave of annoyance on behalf of my brother and embarrassment on behalf of the industry. 

Drawer Front


Cabinet Front

The PM must have known that this wasn’t up to his company’s standard, and yet he didn’t take ownership of his work. While I’m not sure exactly what created the disconnect, I do know that the root cause was a failure of leadership rather than a lack of painting skills. To see why, check out this insightful column from Laura Burnes about communicating with your team. 

My brother ended up talking with the PM who agreed to have the affected cabinets resprayed. After that, he was completely satisfied, but I’m sure the experience influenced his view of the company, and what he might say when reviewing or recommending them. And that is sad. 

What’s even sadder is that the leader of this business probably doesn’t even realize exactly what occurred and that it’s the symptom of a much bigger problem.

written by

Erika Mosse

Director of Content

Erika Mosse is the director of content for Professional Remodeler. Contact her at emosse@sgcmail.com or 972.369.9212.

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