You Get What You Pay For: Lesson Learned Through a (cheap) Floor Install

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The saying is so cliche but it is so true: you DO get what you pay for most of the time, but I gotta tell ya…when you’re on a tight budget with big dreams, you sometimes take a risk.

When we moved into our home about three years ago, we knew there a few things we’d like to update to make the place our own and create an updated look.  One of those things was the flooring, which at the time was a muddled mix of yellow wood, dingy tan tiles and carpet past its prime.  My husband has pretty bad allergies, so we knew, like in our previous home, all old carpet had to go!  We decided to create a very cohesive, all-over look by doing the same flooring throughout the entire home.  I prefer flooring to do as little stop/start as possible, so I knew we needed something that could work in a living room and a kitchen, a bedroom and a bathroom.  While budget didn’t include enough money for hardwoods at the time, I also wasn’t so sure I wanted gorgeous (and PRICEY!) hardwoods all over our home because of our four little ones being very much entrenched in the “little years”….and the messes that come with it. 😉

In the end, we chose a wood look porcelain tile to create that lived-in, hardwood appearance but at a fraction of the cost and with much more durability, especially in “wet” spaces like the kitchen and baths.  To read more about our specific flooring and how we were able to get for sooooo much cheaper than what was being sold at the big box stores, check out this Farmhouse Hacks series [HERE]!

I was entering my third trimester with our fourth baby, but we decided it would be easier to replace the floors while baby was INside rather than out 😉, so we went for it.  Keeping in mind our very small budget at the time, we decided to try and hunt up a deal on installation since we’d scored such inexpensive materials.  We thought we were on a budget ROLL, guys!!  After checking out a few companies, we went with the cheapest…and, I don’t know if we were just distracted with the swirliness of life, the coming baby or what, but we CERTAINLY did not do our homework on this crew.  Embarrassed to say that even I, an interior decorator by profession, just wanted a good deal…do your homework, ERIN!!  Sigh.

The construction team gave us a week and a half time frame based on size of job and crew, and for some reason, this did not set off any alarm bells at all.  Our home is around 2800 square feet, and every inch of old floor had to come out.  Then and only then could the new flooring be installed, and for some reason, we just nodded and smiled like shmucks when they quoted us that itty bitty week and a half time frame…. To prepare for the demo and install, we literally packed up our entire house into storage: OUR ENTIRE HOUSE.  It was like moving….again!!   We had moved into the home while I was big pregnant with Baby #3, and here we were “moving” again while big pregnant with Baby #4.  Again, we thought it would be good to get this over with while Baby was inside, but man….it was rough.

Our family of five stayed in a local hotel suite, and we hunkered down to have the best time we could on our pseudo-vacation.  It was actually kinda fun at first!  The hotel was very nice, they provided breakfast in the mornings, and the kids had access to a huge indoor pool in the middle of the chilly months of the year: score!!  Plus, we could handle anything for a week and a half, right….?

(Trying to find pics with our flooring in them is harder than I thought, ha!  Here’s a tiny glimpse at the same floor just in different lighting in the bedroom.)

At first things went smoothly, but then the bumps in the road began.  Crew members came down with the flu (understandable); tools came up missing and were presumed stolen from the site by crew members who never came back, and new tools that were essential to completing the job had to be ordered; tool delivery was “delayed” only to find out later the construction manager forgot to order them; more of the crew decided to quit mid-project, leaving two guys to do the work of six; not to mention, we’d stop by the house each day to take a peek at the progress, and usually we’d find the guys sitting outside smoking or jamming out to Nickelback while chilling on the floor….instead of INSTALLING the floor.  SIGH.  I’ll tell you something…you really don’t want to mess with a woman who is big pregnant and held hostage of sorts in a tiny hotel with her three stir-crazy and bubbly small children…..NO SIR!  I was not my most gracious at all times, let’s just say.  😬

Once all was said and done, we were stuck living in a hotel for a solid MONTH, you guys.  A month!!  There are worse things.  I know.  Trust me.  But….when you’ve got a baby-sized time bomb ticking away in your belly and three other children under 5 years old who have no real routine or place to be loud kids, things get….tense.  Things get angsty.  Things get emotional.  (And by “things” I mean PREGNANT ERIN!!!)  Nothing like having zero things set up in your home for the coming of a baby.  Nothing like being in your late third trimester and walking through your home to see it filled with nothing but construction dust and piles of shattered baseboards.  ‘Twas a special time, my friends.  😳

In the end, my husband was able to get the construction team to finish up in the nick of time (he even came over to help them many nights….another frustrating situation we hadn’t planned would happen), and they agreed to make things right as far as money was concerned.  This also meant they left us high and dry once things were about 90% finished, and so, with a wife about to pop, three little kiddos bouncing off the (thin) hotel walls, my tired and tireless hubby along with our sweet family rushed in to do a serious deep clean and reset the house with our belongings before baby came.  Bless them, because my body was WEARY after growing my fourth baby in five years, and I was to the point of only being able to point and call out directions from the couch (helpful, I’m sure…😏)

Can I tell you something weird?  The baseboards and door trim were all ripped out during install with plans for the crew to replace them.  Instead, they just piled all trim into the middle of the biggest room in what looked like an almost-bonfire of white baseboards, and, once finished installing, they just began grabbing and nailing up random shattered and splintered mis-matched trim pieces all over the house….?!?  What in the world?  We didn’t know this was happening at first, but once we realized what they were doing, they were LONG gone….and we were D.O.N.E.  Financially, things came out pretty even (meaning we got all new floors installed for almost nothing), but the headache from some of their choices left us with a bitter taste in our mouths.  And guess what?!  The weird thing is that three years later, we’ve only just begun to replace the baseboards and trim. Ha!!  It’s like we JUST COULD NOT deal with it at the time, then we suddenly had four daughters five years old and younger, a budding business for me, crazy hospital/military hours for him, and…..those dang baseboards just fell by the wayside (along with our bathtub.  They broke the surround during install and never ordered the replacement as promised, so a piece of lovely “designer” 😏 plywood cut to fit still acts as our very fancy tub surround.  SIGH.)

Anyway, all that to say even people who design for a living make mistakes, and, lesson learned….we got what we paid for!  Anyone else ever have an experience like this?  Honest, budget-saving intentions that end up with sour results?  Surely we are not the only ones!  Let me know in the comments your worst experience with home reno!

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  1. Sandee says:

    Wow. I thought we were the only ones! We’ve had many miss steps in home reno over 40 yrs.
    The worst one was an addition to the tiny first home hubby and I bought as a married couple. Our first home together.
    Our second child was well on the way and we had added two huge rooms to that house. Things were slowly rolling along and my husband what an opportunity to go on a 2 night camping trip. Off he went and the contractor decided to tear the entire back wall down and left it open. Mind you we sat quite high up so the back of my open house was visible to anyone! It was January and extremely cold. I was well into my 7th month pregnant and had a toddler. We had to sleep in our living room with a space heater. I was to afraid to sleep for fear someone would break in the back of the house.
    Needless to say my hub and was greeted with a lunatic of a wife when he got back. 😈😈😈 Good Times. 😂😂😂😂😂

  2. Dawn says:

    At the time, we were living out in Pennsylvania but had bought a home back in Illinois. It was a town we had lived in before and we knew many people there, so we feel confident and having a friend who was a contractor work on our home before we moved into it. Unfortunately, we paid him money upfront to tear out walls with wood paneling and wallpaper all over the bathroom walls and ceiling!! At one point I went in and was glad to see drywall had been replaced in the kitchen and since it was such a mess I decided to clean all of the cabinets. However, the very next day they decided to rip out more walls and all the work I had done was for nothing! At that point I sat on the floor and cried, being 5 1/2 months pregnant knowing that I was not going to be able to live in this house anytime soon. We ended up moving back to Illinois and living with a friend for two weeks until the house was in good Enough shape for us to move in. However, the contractor had used up all of the money so the rest of our upstairs was not finished and it took us several years to finally put the upstairs of the house in the order that we thought we had paid for to begin with!

  3. Lacey says:

    We moved into our new home 2 days before Christmas. During the painting stage we had a subcontractor spare key stolen. We set up game cameras all around to be safe. We checked them everyday and cleared the memory cards. We took the cards home one night and forgot to go back to the construction site to put them back in. Our contractor called us the next morning asking if we could come check the cameras. They had come in and stolen our contractors tools and new paint sprayer he bought for our house. Lesson learned for us, don’t leave a sub key on the electrical box and always put the memory cards back in the camera!

  4. Dena says:

    Yes, absolutely! This happens a lot I am sorry to say. I can only imagine how crazy that time was for you all! My hubby and I learned that lesson at 21 y/o on our first home! Since then we have completely renovated 4 homes (like gutted and removed walls and added additions) all DIY! We are notw37 y/o and just finished our new build all DIY! We bought 65 acres and build a barn with living quarters to live in while we build our dream home next year! We just moved in and after living in a hotel for months with two kids and then living 4 months in a camper on the job site….we are happy as can be to be living in our little cottage! AND we did ALL the work so we know it was done right! Not to mention we spent under 70k to build it and it appraised at 250k! YAY!!! My hubby is a mechanical engineer and I am a SAHM/ Cosmetologist…so if we can do it, anyone can do it!

  5. Becky says:

    We want waterproof flooring as well Erin and are planning the reno this summer. However I felt like tile would be too hard for the entire house. We were leaning towards Vinyl Planks…are you happy with your tile choice??

  6. Faith says:

    OMG – we had a similar experience when we got our floors installed. We did a Pergo wide wood planks and found a “bargain” installer. I had 2 littles at the time and we just wanted the floors done and this was the best/fastest deal. But it was NOT! We didn’t have floors for 3 months!!! We honestly lived on the subfloor in 50% of the house for months on end. I ended up on the phone with every higher up I could find and a team from their corporate office in TX (we live in PA) flew in to finish them finally. That was almost 8 years ago and I can still show you every place they messed up. We need to rip them up and get them done again, but I think we have a little PSTD from it still. LOL

  7. Elise says:

    My hubs is a general contractor and let me tell you, we get this ALL THE TIME!! people call and want him to start work next week, or they want him to lower his price. He always tells people: you never want to hire the guy available immediately (there’s a reason he has no work!) and you also never want to hire the cheapest guy! What a pain but your floors are dang beautiful and it makes for a funny (but very frustrating!) little story.

  8. Reading this makes me appreciate my hard working husband who is a contractor and he does not operate like any of the people you guys are describing. He hears it all the time from homeowners “you actually followed through, you came when you said you would, you even called back when you said you would!” So we have never had to hire out for home improvements (or mechanical work either, he fixes and maintains our vehicles and toys too) so after reading that I have to say I am pretty spoiled :-). Erin, I CAN NOT imagine this flooring ordeal being that far along, I would have been going crazy, literally!!

  9. Clif judy says:

    Age 78, single, developer of sorts, Justice came when a jerk banker type called me in a scathing voice to tell me he was foreclosing on 37 houses built on lots we owned. He was “Mister Jones”, I was just “Clif”, we were the same ages- 32. I thanked him and reminded him to foreclose only on 17 for they had never gotten mortgages on all the properties! He almost croaked. We got lt straight later but “Mr. Jones” never called me

  10. Maggie says:

    How do you like your floors now? Would you recommend the porcelain to others with small ones?

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