Never pay in full before work is done


July 06, 2008|By Tim Carter

My kitchen cabinet remodel job has turned into a disaster. I contracted the job through a national home-center chain, which demanded I pay in advance for the entire job. There are numerous issues, and the granite top is sagging in the middle of my sink. My complaints are going unanswered. The installer will not come back, and my calls to the home center are getting me nowhere. Is it time to call an attorney? Should I sue to get my money back? What went wrong, as I trusted the large national company?

My guess is that you did not know exactly what needed to be done on the job, so you wanted to go with a large brand-name company you thought would make your life easy. This, in my opinion, is a huge mistake. You always need to investigate what is involved, how things work, and how to spot a pro from the get-go. This way you protect your interests at all times.

The actual cause of death was you making the payment in full at the beginning of the job. It is unnecessary, and it puts you in grave financial risk.

It is reasonable to pay some money up front in rare situations. Your kitchen remodeling job is one of them. If the cabinets you ordered were custom ones that are not normally stocked by the home center, then it is reasonable for them to request a 50 percent deposit to order the cabinets. It is reasonable for them to ask for a similar 50 percent deposit for the granite top, as it will probably only fit in your kitchen. You should not, however, pay upfront for installation labor - ever. You only pay for labor once it is complete and satisfactory.

You said the home center demanded payment in full before the work began. I don't doubt they demanded that, but given how competitive the marketplace is, you might have negotiated special terms that allowed you to make staggered payments as the work progressed. As for calling an attorney, you can do that as a last resort. You will discover that you will have to pay the attorney's fees no matter what happens. You may spend thousands of dollars to get the same results as you would on your own by becoming the squeaky wheel that gets the grease.

Start by contacting your local Better Business Bureau to see if the national home center is obligated to enter into arbitration. Then contact the headquarters of the home center, fill out online complaint forms at their Web site, contact any local consumer reporters at local media outlets, and visit Web sites where consumer complaints are lodged. In other words, don't look like a doormat - otherwise you will become one.

Expert home builder and remodeling contractor Tim Carter has 20 years of hands-on experience in the home industry. If you have a question, go to and click on "Ask Tim."

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