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My Hovel, My Home: Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Installing the granite counters brings yet another challenge in a remodel already full of them.

“You’re sure this is the granite you still want?”  Our contractor asks.   “Yes, why?” I respond, unwavering.   With the kitchen cabinets installed, we are ready for our counter tops when the newest roadblock occurs.  It’s been so long since we chose the sample that the granite supplier doesn’t have enough in stock.

On the day it’s supposed to arrive, I head to Bible Study at 8:30am.  I plan to be home to check the slab prior to installation, but our contractor tells me it won’t arrive until at least 10am. The women in my group are surprised at how unenthused I am about the granite’s pending arrival.  I confess: “I can’t use the energy to get excited about something until I see it is actually happening.”  The thrill of anticipation faded away months ago when one promise after another was broken.  I just don’t have the emotional stamina to gear up only to be disappointed, again.  It’s easier to conserve my energy and remain dispassionate. 

I call my contractor hourly to monitor progress, pleased that he answers every time with an update. Thursday turns to Friday and the right piece of granite continues to elude us.  Our contractor is fully engaged in the search. He rules out a few samples that don’t match the original choice.  We’re surprised that he doesn’t try and talk us into them.  Even he wants to see the job done right, not just done. 

Friday evening he calls to report that they’ve found a good slab and the granite installers will arrive on Saturday morning.  He actually arrives first to prepare for them.  They take much longer getting to our house than anticipated and I get an ironic sense of amusement watching him wait anxiously for them- the position he’s put us in more times than we can count. 

Around noon, the granite crew arrives and begins work.  We have to shoo them out at 7pm in the dark so we can leave for another commitment.  They offer to come the next day, but we ask them to wait until Monday since we’ll be out all day.    We feel anxious being the ones holding up the progress.  They are motivated to finish the job and load our sinks and the remaining uncut granite into their rickety truck.  They’ll spend Sunday fabricating in their workshop and will return Monday to install.  It’s a little nerve wracking sending them off with our new sinks; we have no choice but to trust them if we want work to progress. 

Monday afternoon, our contractor and the granite crew arrive at 5pm (we learn this is yet another “side job” for the granite crew, just like all of our other subs).  At 7pm, the contractor gets antsy.  We both thought the installers would start earlier and now there is somewhere else he needs to be: "Sorry, I have to go now.  These guys will leave by 9:30" he assures me.   When we agreed to have them come on Monday, I imagined they would be working alongside our normal crew during the day and that the contractor would be there to oversee them.  Now, I find myself home with my kids and with three workers I don’t know at all.  My husband is out of town and I can’t go to bed while they’re working at the house.  We never would’ve agreed to this had we known how things would unfold.  I decide not to think about the uncomfortable situation I’m in and trust God that everything will be OK.  With work actually progressing, I don’t want to slow it down by telling them to leave. 

Because our home office has been dismantled and is in the process of getting new cupboards, I sit on a step stool in my son’s room checking email from his laptop.  Finally, he says:  “Mom, I’m so tired, can you work on that somewhere else?”  I cringe  “Sorry, buddy, there’s just no place for me to be right now.”  I turn out the light and end up working in the office on our desktop computer perched on our partially installed cabinets without a counter top.  My legs just fit between the new cabinets and our old desk, which sits in the middle of the room sandwiched between them.  It’s horribly uncomfortable, but the only option that works.  I have too much nervous energy to read, so I write furiously as I listen to them work.  I want the job finished more than they do; I don’t interrupt to ask when they’re leaving. 

At 11:40pm, with the strong smell of glue fumes wafting out of our kitchen, the granite installers finally leave.  The house is freezing with all of the windows open to let the strong smell dissipate.  The next morning, someone from the city offices arrives:  “Mrs. McCullum, one of your neighbors called to let us know construction took place well beyond the city approved hours last night.   Please remind your contractor of the approved hours and don’t let this happen again.”  Red-faced, I apologize profusely.  I am totally embarrassed thinking about the racket the granite saw made as they were using it on our back patio.   I was so fixated on getting the job done that I didn’t even think about how it was impacting those around me.

Sometimes people can be thoughtless or rude because they are focused on themselves or their own problems, not because they aim to be unpleasant to others.  I remind myself that no matter how bad things get, I need to avoid self-absorption or excusing my thoughtlessness because of something difficult I’m facing.  By the same token, I’m also reminded how important it is to extend grace to those who are insensitive or thoughtless to me.  So many times we filter others’ behavior through our own limited understanding.  We rarely know the whole story in someone else’s life.  I’m learning it’s best to give the benefit of the doubt rather than casting judgment or criticism.   I may not have a kitchen yet, but at least I’m learning something while I’m waiting.

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Christine September 26, 2012 at 09:11 PM
What a great attitude you have!! Thanks for sharing---I'm learning too, through your journey. It never occured to me that the granite guys would be disturbing others. All I could think of was you and your boys! Hang tough sister! ~mmuuuaahhh!!
Kelly McQueen September 27, 2012 at 03:27 PM
I'm so sorry MaryBeth that you have had to go through this crazy ordeal to get a remodel of your home. You are a very gifted writer and i have laughed and cried along with you. Though, as a wife of a respected contractor, it grieves me to think that people would expect and endure the unprofessionalism of your contractor and subs. I know people shop for the best price but you do get what you pay for and while his bid was probably better than others you interviewed, in the long run it probably will cost you way more in money and time than you expected. My husbands's crews show up promptly at 7 everyday! He gives you a binder at the beginning with the timetable of events. There is order and a projected end date. It runs like clockwork. I'm sure there is an occasional snafu, no ones perfect, however as a professional he and his crews will get it handled. He doesn't hire people for side jobs. That is asking for trouble. I know that you are a Godly woman and have been a wonderful example of grace and mercy to those around you and maybe that's the lesson here but it seems that it could have been averted if you went with a more respectable contractor. I feel sorry for him that he doesn't have the integrity to stand by his word. He makes the whole profession look bad. I pray that you will have peace and joy returned to your home very soon.

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